Democracy: what it is and how it is built

Since its inception, man has sought ways to organize himself to function in social groups or communities. When those communities are countries where there are large numbers of people, new ways of living together must be found. Thus allowing people with different needs, opinions and ways of seeing life to be organized.

Structuring the society successfully has not been easy in the history of mankind, so different models have been tried. According to the forms of government, these can be:

  • Monarchy or government of one.
  • Aristocracy or government of the best, or of a few.
  • Democracy or government of the multitude, or of many.

In a broad sense, democracy is a way of social coexistence in which its members are free and equal to participate. Since Plato and Aristotle, many have taken care to define it.

What is it?

From an etymological point of view, democracy comes from two Greek words “demos”, which means “people”; and “kratos”, which means “power.” So then, it means “power of the people.” That is, it is a way of governing according to the will of the people, which is where power resides.

In other words, it is a form of social organization that attributes power to citizens and defends their right to choose and control rulers.

It is also a way in which the State is organized, where decisions are made by the people, through participation mechanisms that confer legitimacy on their representatives. The election of the representatives of the people in a democracy is done through the vote, which makes this a fundamental part of the representative democratic process.

Forms of democracy

Like other forms of government, it has different ways of looking at its implementation. We show them below.

Indirect or representative

Indirect or representative democracy is a system of government where the power of the people is exercised through representatives. They are in charge of making the decisions that the country requires.

It is considered the most efficient, because decisions are made by a sufficient set of people who represent the people. The people elect their representatives, who can, in turn, select other representatives or members of the government, their power being restricted by a constitution.

Semi-direct or participatory

A semi-direct or participatory democracy is a system where greater power is granted to the inhabitants, who have a more active and direct role in the country’s decisions.

For its operation there are four mechanisms that allow citizens to participate by expressing their opinions:

  • Referendum: It is a legal mechanism that submits a government proposal or project to a vote and allows the ratification or rejection of the vote.
  • Plebiscite: It is a legal procedure that allows the people to consult their agreement or disagreement for the final approval of a government decision.
  • Popular initiative: It is a mechanism that allows a group of citizens to submit a repeal or sanction of a law to the government for consideration.
  • Recall: It is a procedure by which the people can remove an elected representative from his post before the end of his term.

In a semi-direct democracy, the participation of citizens is not limited to voting, but rather they are expected to assume a leading role in politics, be it community, regional or national.


It is the pure state of democracy, where citizens in assembly participate in decision-making. So Switzerland happens. There are no representatives, but delegates who become the spokespersons for what is decided in the citizens’ assemblies.


It is a kind of direct democracy, where each citizen has the possibility to vote on each decision of the parliament, as well as make proposals. In this sense, a citizen can give his vote to a representative. Of course, only for the cases in which you decide not to participate.

How is built?

Building democracy involves educating people to know the system they live in and how it works. It also implies knowing what your participation should be, for this form of government to really work.

Since it means “power of the people”, they have to be aware of the importance of their participation for the success of the democratic process. In other words, the best way to “build democracy” is with the participation of the people.

So a big important task is to make people become citizens, instead of just inhabitants of the country. And, therefore, it is necessary to encourage the participation of the people, fight against the apathy of the voters and turn them into citizens. Then we will be building democracy. Let’s see how in more detail:


People have a great responsibility for this system to grow and become stronger. And that can only be achieved if they are integrated into the democratic system. Participating is a way of integrating and it can be done through voting or running to be a representative of the people.

It is also important to achieve appropriate participation to ensure success that the following are done:

  • Stay informed of what happens in the country is essential. In particular, know about the decisions and actions of the elected representatives.
  • Express your opinion Through all the means that the democratic system places within your reach as part of the people.
  • Make your voice heard, when the representatives exceed their actions or decisions, because they are undemocratic or against human rights.
  • Exercise your right to vote whenever possible, because if you don’t participate, you can’t ask the representatives we elect for answers.

In short, there is no democracy without participation.

Voter apathy

In many democratic countries there is concern about the decline in citizen participation in elections. And a low number of voters could undermine the legitimacy of democratically elected representatives.

So, fighting voter apathy is one of the activities democracies work the hardest on. They aim to achieve this by encouraging participation in various ways. There are responsibilities that cannot be delegated to other people, and the most important of them is voting.

The right to vote it is essential to ensure that one of the fundamental democratic principles is fulfilled: equality. For this reason, they have fought for the right to vote for women and minorities who are also part of society. For these reasons, fighting voter apathy is essential, since voting has been the way to reach government systems that guarantee the well-being of the people.


A citizen is an individual who inhabits the city. He has to fulfill his duties by carrying out all the activities that allow the development of the community in which he lives. In other words, a citizen is an individual who exercises his obligations and rights as part of a society.

Therefore, being a citizen implies having a developed sense of identity and belonging to the place where you live. In addition to being able to function socially as an individual with responsibilities, rights and obligations. According to this, citizenship is the condition granted to an individual and that makes him part of the society in which he participates.

Citizenship confers political rights on citizens. Without them, they would not be able to participate in the decisions that the government requires to function. An essential requirement to exercise political rights is to have the nationality of the country of which one is a citizen.

Historically, neither women, children, nor servants had nationality, so they were not considered citizens and could not exercise the right to vote. It took millennia for women to have their rights recognized. In particular, political rights, which is why they were only allowed to vote in the early 20th century.

Once these gaps have been eliminated, today we all have the right to citizenship and with it, to the possibility of participating and exercising our rights as citizens. In societies, the actions of citizens cause changes that help to evolve and strengthen this system of government. Actively participating in the communities themselves, in social policies or in NGOs through volunteering also means exercising citizenship.

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