Participatory vs Representative Democracy: Difference and Comparison

Democracy is the form of government that has been accepted widely across the globe due to its open and transparent running of the system.

They have got their differences in terms of governing and maintenance of the governing bodies. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Participatory democracy emphasizes the direct involvement of citizens in decision-making, while representative democracy relies on elected officials to make decisions on citizens’ behalf.
  2. Participatory democracy fosters greater civic engagement and responsibility but can be time-consuming and challenging to implement on a large scale.
  3. Representative democracy enables efficient governance of larger populations but may result in a disconnect between elected officials and their constituents.

Participatory Democracy vs Representative Democracy

Participatory democracy is a system of governance in which citizens actively participate in decision-making processes, it emphasizes direct citizen involvement. Representative democracy is a system of governance in which citizens elect representatives to make decisions on their behalf, it focuses on elected officials representing citizens’ interests.

Participatory Democracy vs Representative Democracy

It gains popularity in a nation with a limited area and a rather small population, as in such countries, the probability of disparities arising among people reduces. The name itself describes its designated role in the running of the country. 

Representative democracy is the most common form of democracy followed worldwide. Most countries prefer this form of democracy as it is hassle-free and provide an easier governing method.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonParticipatory DemocracyRepresentative Democracy  
Presence of ReferendumNoYes
Success RateVery lowUsually high
Direct Citizen ParticipationYesNo, through elected representatives  
Probability of All the People’s Demands Being HeardVery lessTo some extent, the demands will be heard
Is Present in the OtherIs seen in representative democracyNot commonly seen in participatory democracy

What is Participatory Democracy? 

Participatory democracies are more commonly referred to as direct democracies. 

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This name confers to the fact that all citizens of the nation are considered eligible to voice their opinions in matters of the national governing body. 

People must be willing to participate in the decision-making process irrespective of their gains and think about national prosperity. 

Due to the nature of participatory democracy, it can be said that such a democratic rule would be pretty difficult to maintain and manage the people’s interests. 

Participatory democracy gives the citizens a chance to decide on the issues persisting in individual areas and focus on them instead of having a single law followed by all. 

What is Representative Democracy? 

The common democratic face is a representative democracy. 

Here, the representatives are elected to power by the citizens of the country. 

The elected representatives talk and act based on their people’s interests, reducing confusion. 

This means that instead of the whole nation being in a position of power, the power of the people is given to a few individuals that the people choose.  

Each ward elects its representative, who is the face of the whole constituency through whom the interest of the people is expressed at higher levels of the governing body. 

Main Differences Between Participatory Democracy and Representative Democracy

  1. Participatory democracy leads to fewer chances of issues arising in communities as the people alone get to choose their way of running as a unit, but representative democracy has got a setback in this case as whatever the elected representatives decide is the final word, but the people can oppose it if they want to. 
  2. In a representative democracy, if the requests from people are widely promoted with strokes and rallies, the government is obliged to bend to their needs, but due to direct citizen participation in a participatory democracy, such needs don’t arise. 
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Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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