Direct democracy

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Direct democracy, classically termed pure democracy,[1] is a form of democracy and a theory of civics in which sovereignty is lodged in the assembly of all citizens who choose to participate. Depending on the particular system, this assembly might pass executive motions, make laws, elect or dismiss officials, and conduct trials. Direct democracy stands in contrast to representative democracy, where sovereignty is exercised by a subset of the people, usually on the basis of election. Deliberative democracy incorporates elements of both direct democracy and representative democracy.[2]

Many countries that are representative democracies allow for three forms of political action that provide limited direct democracy: initiative, referendum (plebiscite), and recall. Referendums can include the ability to hold a binding referendum on whether a given law should be rejected. This effectively grants the populace which holds suffrage a veto on government legislation. Initiatives, usually put forward by the populace, force the consideration of laws or amendments (usually by a subsequent referendum), without the consent of the elected officials, or even in opposition to the will of said officials. Recalls give people the right to remove elected officials from office before the end of their term, although this is very rare in modern democracies.

Contents

History

The earliest known direct democracy is said to be the Athenian democracy in the 5th century BC, although it may be argued that it was not a true democracy because women and slaves were excluded from it. The main bodies in the Athenian democracy were the assembly, composed by male citizens, the boule, composed by 500 citizens chosen annually by lot, and the law courts composed by a massive number of juries chosen by lot, with no judges. Out of the male population of 30,000, several thousand citizens were politically active every year and many of them quite regularly for years on end. The Athenian democracy was not only direct in the sense that decisions were made by the assembled people, but also in the sense that the people through the assembly, boule and law courts controlled the entire political process and a large proportion of citizens were involved constantly in the public business.[3] Modern democracies do not use institutions that resemble the Athenian system of rule.

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