Difference Between Participatory Democracy and Representative Democracy

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

The most common form of democracy is participatory and representative democracies. They have got their differences in terms of governing and maintenance of the governing bodies. 

Participatory Democracy vs Representative Democracy

The main difference between participatory democracy and representative democracy is that while in a participatory form of government, all the people of the concerned nation who are eligible and are of age can participate in all decision-making processes that might affect the whole country. Representative democracy gets the people to vote for their representatives and lead the system for the people. 

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Participatory democracy is the least seen form of democratic government that is followed by countries. 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 provides an easier governing method. The interest of the people are considered and are taken into account during legislative assemblies. But there are plenty of delimitations in representative democracy as there might be chances of the representatives being bogus. 

Comparison Table Between Participatory Democracy and Representative Democracy 

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 usually seen in representative democracyNot commonly seen in participatory democracy

What is Participatory Democracy? 

Participatory democracies are more commonly referred to as direct democracy. 

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. 

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

It is a pretty common opinion among people to be not on board with participatory democracy. 

Usually, it is considered that such a democratic government can only excel in smaller countries having a really small population. 

This is because in bigger countries hosting a large number of people, taking into consideration all the options might turn into a mishap. 

The greater the number of people participating in government activities, the greater would be the debates between groups thinking alike and would reach no proper end. 

Due to this 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. 

To have all the people’s interests be heard would be a hard task as each individual might voice a new opinion. 

Such countries would need to be technologically advanced so that they could collect the opinions from all the individuals without leaving anyone out. 

Participatory democracy is sometimes seen in a representative democracy. 

But since it is within a larger unit, the region taken into consideration might be small hence reducing the number of people with their opinions. 

In many ways, participatory democracy is better than most governmental forms. 

Having all people get a say in the decision-making process, increases the probability of participation in the decision-making body. 

This will in turn bring about a positive change as such huge participation would lead to fewer damages to the country. 

People would feel involved and this could lead to a peaceful community where people learn to coordinate with one another. 

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

What is Representative Democracy? 

The common democratic face is the representative democracy. 

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

The elected representatives talk and act based on the interest of their people, therefore, reducing confusion. 

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

The elected representatives are voted to power based on a few factors. 

These factors include the candidate’s education, popularity among the mass, their ability to deal with pressure, etc. 

Those who voted to power could be government officials like members of Parliament, members of the Legislative Assembly, etc. 

Such a democratic form has a hierarchical selection process. This begins from the smallest to the highest power in the country. 

The lowest level of elections might start from the panchayats or municipality to the prime minister of the country or the president. 

The voting procedures are well divided and calculated. 

The whole country is divided into smaller divisions or wards wherefrom starts the electoral process. 

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. 

Voters can always call upon their representatives with their opinions and interests. The representatives are obliged to hear them out. 

A major advantage of representative democracy is that it allows referendums. It is a form of legislation that involves the people. 

The referendum works if the people get enough signatures to make sure their demands are accepted. 

Main Differences Between Participatory Democracy and Representative Democracy

  1. While in a participatory democracy all the citizen’s input is considered highly valuable but in the case of representative democracy, a citizen need only vote or voice their opinion if they want. 
  2. People believe participatory democracy to be a terrible way to run the country while representative democracy is a highly accepted government. 
  3. Representative democracy allows the voters to gain the right to a referendum if needed but in the case of participatory democracy, referendums are not needed. 
  4. 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. 
  5. 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. 


While both are an equal form of democracy, the most accepted is a representative democracy.

Democracy means for the people, by the people, and to the people. 

Any democratic government that is participatory or representative needs to follow that basic rule of democracy for it to last. 

Getting the people’s opinions heard through legislative assemblies and meetings encourages the citizens to give the same representatives another chance at governing. 

That is the success of representative democracy. The representatives need to go by the people’s interest for their longevity. 

Participatory democracy gives plenty of merits to the people as each area can follow a different rule according to the needs. 

The entire nation did not follow a single rule. This is because the people know what is needed where. 


  1. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s002679900074.pdf
  2. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=9iWxeJ9knnwC&oi=fnd&pg=PR3&dq=representative+democracy+&ots=BiTgq8pkTl&sig=TVvfkHiVetUWkFeIht3nU5m33sk
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