Some representative and constitutional democracies have a presidential system of government, which is based on the separation and sharing of powers among three independent and coordinate branches of government: legislative, executive, and judicial.
Popular sovereignty is government based on the consent of the people. The government’s source of authority is the people, and its power is not legitimate if it disregards the will of the people. Government established by the free choice of the people is expected to serve the people, who have sovereignty, or supreme power.
A political party in a democracy is an independent and freely formed organization that nominates candidates for positions in government with the purpose of winning elections in order to form or control the government.
Pluralism in a democracy is the widespread distribution of political power and influence within the state and civil society. Individuals and groups can express different points of view freely, independently, and effectively in order to influence public opinion and the decisions of government.
Participation by citizens in their civil society and government is a necessary, if not sufficient, condition of democracy. Civic participation refers to the voluntary activities of citizens in forming and sustaining independent nongovernmental organizations that contribute to the well-being of the community.
Defining characteristics of the parliamentary system are the supremacy of the legislative branch within the three functions of government—executive, legislative, and judicial—and blurring or merging of the executive and legislative functions.
The essence of democracy is majority rule, the making of binding decisions by a vote of more than one-half of all persons who participate in an election. However, constitutional democracy in our time requires majority rule with minority rights.
A person who has liberty is free to make choices about what to do or what to say. A primary purpose of government in the United States and other constitutional democracies is to protect and promote the liberty of individuals.
Government is the institutional authority that rules a community of people. The primary purpose of government is to maintain order and stability so that people can live safely, productively, and happily.
Modern federalism is the division of governmental powers between a central national government and provincial or state governments within the country. Powers granted exclusively to the central government are supreme.
Equality in a constitutional democracy means equal justice under the law. No one is above or beyond the reach of the law, and no one is entitled to unfair advantages or subjected to unequal penalties based on the law.
A primary defining characteristic of democracy is the regular occurrence of free, fair, competitive elections in which practically all the people of a country can vote to select their representatives in government.
In a constitutional democracy, there is bound to be diversity among the people. It may be expressed as diversity in ideas and interests, diversity in social and political groups, diversity in religion, race, and ethnicity, and diversity in centers of power.
Democracy in the governments of countries today is representative, meaning that the people rule indirectly through their elected public officials. Democracy today is also constitutional, meaning that government by the people’s representatives is both limited and empowered to protect equally and justly the rights of everyone in the country.
Constitutionalism is a way of thinking about the relationship between the rulers and the ruled in a community. It combines two concepts, limited government and the rule of law, that permeate the constitution, a country’s framework for government.
A constitution is the basic law and general plan of government or a people within a country. The purposes, powers, and limitations of government are prescribed in the constitution. It thus sets forth the way people are governed or ruled.
Civil society is the network of voluntary associations, or non-governmental organizations, that are separate from the institutions of the government but subject to the rule of law. Apart from the government, civil society is a private domain that serves the public good.