Difference Between Democratic and Non-Democratic Government

Main Difference – Democratic vs Non-Democratic Government

There are various types of governance in the world. Democracy is a form of governance where the supreme power is vested in the people of the country. Non-democracy refers to governance systems other than democracy. These may include systems such as monarchies, oligarchies, and theocracies. Thus, the  main difference between democratic and non-democratic government is the power vested in the common people; power in a democratic system is vested in the people, but power in a non-democratic government is vested in the rulers.

This article explains,

1. What is a Democratic Government?
     – Definition, Types, Features, Characteristics

2. What is a Non-Democratic Government?
     – Definition, Types, Features, Characteristics

3. What is the difference between Democratic and Non-Democratic Government?Difference Between Democratic and Non-Democratic Government - Comparison Summary

What is a Democratic Government

A democratic government is a government that follows the political system of democracy. Democracy is a system of governance where the citizens of a country exercise power directly or through elected representatives who form a governing body.

There are four main elements in a democracy:

  • Political system where the government is selected and replaced through fair and free elections
  • Active participation of citizens in politics and civic life.
  • Law that applies equally to all citizens
  • Protection of the human rights of all citizens

There are several variations in democratic government. The two main variations are direct democracy and representative democracy.

Representative Democracy

Representative democracy is the commonest form of democracy in the modern world. This system involves common people electing officials to represent them. If the leader or the head of a state is also appointed by a democratic election, then that state is called a democratic republic.

Direct Democracy

Direct democracy is a governance system where the citizens can directly participate in the decision-making process. Direct democracy governments can be seen in Swiss cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden and Glarus. Electoral tools like referendums, recall elections and citizens’ initiatives are referred to as tools of direct democracy although these are mainly used in a representative democracy.

Difference Between Democratic and Non-Democratic Government

Power lies with the people

What is a Non-Democratic Government

A non-democratic government is a government that does not follow democracy. A non-democratic government can be a monarchy, oligarchy, aristocracy, anarchy, feudalism, theocracy or any other governance form. Let’s briefly look at some of these forms of governance in order to understand the characteristics of a non-democratic government.

Monarchy – A state where absolute power is actually or nominally lodged in a monarch (sovereign head of state, typically a king, queen, or emperor)

Oligarchy – A state where absolute power is with a small group of people

Aristocracy – A state where absolute power lies with a privileged group

Theocracy – A state where absolute power lies with religious authorities

Inequality is the main characteristics of a non-democratic government. The common people do not have equal rights as the privileged rulers. The people are controlled by the government and the people have no say in the formation of the government.

Given below are some basic features of a non-democratic government.

  • People cannot select or change leaders.
  • People do not have fundamental human rights. For example, they are not allowed to criticize, protest, or form opposing parties.
  • All people are not treated equally.
    Main Difference - Democratic vs Non-Democratic Government

    Power lies with the government or leaders

Difference Between Democratic and Non-Democratic Government


Democratic Government: The power lies with the people.

Non-Democratic Government: The power lies with the government.


Democratic Government: People choose what is right for them.

Non-Democratic Government: Government makes decisions for the people.

Equal Rights

Democratic Government: All people have equal rights regardless of their status and positions.

Non-Democratic Government: All people are not treated equally.


Democratic Government: Leaders or representatives are elected by the people.

Non-Democratic Government: People cannot select or change the leaders.


“What is Democracy”; Diamond, L. and Morlino, L., The quality of democracy (2016). In Diamond, L., In Search of Democracy. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-78128-2.

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About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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