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(a) Describe the main features of representative democracy in the UK today. (10 marks)
In a representative democracy, citizens vote for an individual to represent them in the making of laws and political decisions, this is because regular people cannot be entrusted to make frequent decisions on important issues they have little to no knowledge of. These representatives are elected through regular, free elections to give them authority and safeguard the legitimacy of the system. Most modern Western-style democracies are representative democracies.
In the UK, which is a representative democracy, these representatives are known as MPs, Members of Parliament, and are elected by the electorate of their respective constituency to serve in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the UK. These MPs are accountable to the citizens who voted for them and are expected to fulfil their demands. Representatives can account for everyone in society and protect the interests of minority groups better than most the population can when voting in a direct democracy. Similar to systems of direct democracy, a majority vote is required to reach a decision and there also exists a wide franchise.
In a representative democracy there are also a range of political parties with different interests and policies; representatives can put forward the demands of voters and make policy proposals that work best for everyone. Citizens of a representative democracy also have fundamental civil rights that cannot be revoked by the government, such as freedom of thought, right to free speech, freedom of religion and the right to protest. Pressure groups – an organisation of people who want the government to alter or enact new policies or legislation to fulfil a certain cause are – also a feature of representative democracy.