An electoral democracy, or a representative democracy, is a form of government in which citizens elect a group of representatives to administer the nation's powers of sovereignty.

 

According to Robert Dahl, a political theorist, as a nation's citizens gain access to public contestation and governmental participation, the nation gets closer to an electoral democracy, also called polyarchy.

 

The assumptions for the desirability of Democracy are both theoretical and realistic. Countries that move along the scale of inclusiveness and public contestation towards polyarchy afford citizens greater opportunities to protest unequal treatment in their regime. Greater representation and freedom to express and shape political thought within a nation is generally superior to a repressive regime in which a privileged minority is in complete control, which can lead to various forms of social, political, and economic oppression. 

Using Dahl's framework, it is easier to understand democracy as a spectrum, where true democracy in the theoretical sense is unattainable. For example, although long considered an electoral democracy, the US didn't confirm women's suffrage until 1920, or prohibit racial discrimination in voting until 1965.

 

Dahl's Dimensions of Democracy

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