Login
Copyright

Representation in Political Science

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: The Difference Between Countries, Nations, States, and Governments

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 Direct vs.…
  • 1:31 Parliamentary Systems
  • 3:23 Presidential Systems
  • 4:30 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley
Given the size and complexity of a modern state, direct democracy is impractical, if not infeasible. In this lesson, you'll learn about representative democracy, its different forms, and how it differs from direct democracy.

Direct vs. Representative Democracy

Maria Hernandez is a United States Representative who is attending a State Dinner at the White House honoring the visit of the British Prime Minister. One of her dinner companions is Nigel White, a member of the House of Commons, which is the lower house of the British Parliament. Both Representative Hernandez and Member of Parliament (MP) White are elected representatives in a democratic government.

Two general types of democratic governments have existed in history. Direct democracy is a system of government in which citizens fully participate in the formation of government policy. In other words, citizens vote on all the laws and policies to be undertaken by the State. Direct democracies at the level of national government are very rare as they are pretty impractical in our modern world. Perhaps the most well-known direct democracy was the ancient city-state of Athens. One form of direct democracy that is sometimes exercised in the modern world is a ballot referendum, where citizens will vote on whether a specific law should be passed.

Representative democracy is the other major type of democratic system. Representative democracy is also called 'indirect democracy.' It is a system in which citizens democratically elect individuals to represent them in government. The elected representatives formulate and implement government policies. Nearly all democratic states today are representative democracies. Of course, not all indirect democracies are structured the same. Let's look at the two primary models.

Parliamentary Systems

The parliamentary system is one of the forms of representative government. In a parliamentary system, citizens vote for members of parliament, like Nigel. A parliament is a legislature. Parliament enacts the law, and there is no one who has veto power like the President of the United States.

The executive powers of the State are interconnected with the legislature in parliamentary systems. The executive power is found in the cabinet. Members of the cabinet are selected by parliament to implement laws and other executive functions. The cabinet members are selected by the parliament membership, which means that the party, or coalition of parties, with the most votes in parliament determines the cabinet. The head of state is often referred to as the prime minister or chancellor. Members of parliament maintain their seats in parliament even if selected for the cabinet. For example, Nigel is a Member of Parliament and holds a cabinet position.

The cabinet in a parliamentary system usually only serves as long as it has the confidence of parliament. In other words, the cabinet holds power only as long as it controls the majority of votes in parliament. If the cabinet's party loses the majority, or the coalition of parties forming a majority breaks up, the cabinet may suffer a vote of 'no confidence' and be removed from office with a new cabinet selected by the party, or coalition of parities, controlling the majority of votes in parliament.

The cabinet is usually not without some control over parliament. In most parliamentary systems, the cabinet can require a new parliamentary election by disbanding the sitting parliament. For example, if Nigel's party, which currently holds the majority of votes in parliament, thinks it's a good time for its party to have an election to secure its power and grow its majority, it may call for new elections before the time mandated by law.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher
What is your educational goal?
 Back

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 10 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 95 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Support