Difference Between Republic and Democracy

The main difference between republic and democracy is that the constitution sets the rules in a republic while the rules in a democracy are decided and set by the general public.

Both republic and democracy are forms of governments a state can adopt for its administration. These two forms stand prominently in the current world among other political systems in the current world. Even though these two forms seem similar in their administrative models and the legal standards, they still consist of several significant features that make them different.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is a Republic 
     – Definition, Governance, Characteristics 
2. What is a Democracy
    – Definition, Governance, Characteristics 
3. What is the Similarity Between Republic and Democracy 
    – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Republic and Democracy
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Administration, Democracy, Governments, Politics, Republic

Difference Between Republic and Democracy - Comparison Summary

What is a Republic 

Republic refers to the form of a government “where power is held by the people or the representatives that they elect”. Therefore, “supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law”. Moreover, republics have presidents who are elected, rather than kings or queens.

Therefore, the term republic may also be applied to any form of government in which the head of state is not a hereditary monarch.

This is a form of government where the state is ruled by representatives of the citizen body. However, only these elected representatives will set the laws to the constitution and thus govern the state. Therefore, the priority in a republic are the laws, which are set by a set of authorities.

Difference Between Republic and Democracy

In a republic, instead of voting directly about what they want to do, like in a democracy, people vote for people to represent them. Then those people decide what to do.

What is a Democracy

As Merriam Webster defines, democracy is a government from ‘in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.’ However, this government by the people is specially formed according to the rule of the majority.

The etymology of the word democracy dates back to ancient Greece; it was derived from the Greek word ‘dēmokratiā, meaning the rule of the people. In fact, Athens is considered as the birthplace of democracy. Democracy first started as a direct democracy (general public decides the laws for themselves) which later turned into an indirect or representative democracy as at present, where the people vote instead for those who can enact or create the laws and rules the general public desires.  Moreover, democracy is not only about voting; it considers everyone including those who hold the judicial, executive and the legislative power and the general public as equal. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure that law and order are exercised well to protect the public. In other words, the government should function according to the general will of the public.

Therefore, unlike in a republic, where the people elect their representatives to enforce the rules of the general public, in a democracy, the people vote for the rules they need to be enforced on behalf of them. In brief, it is the general public who decide the rules and regulations in a democracy. Thus, in a democracy, the people are the sovereign—they are the highest form of political authority. In other words, democracy means ‘the rule of the people’.

Moreover, since democracy is a government by the majority, there is still a restricted group of citizens in a democracy. However, this group rules directly and personally runs the state. 

Accordingly, four key elements can be identified in a democracy:

  • A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections.
  • The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life
  • Protection of the human rights of all citizens
  • The rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens

Similarity Between Republic and Democracy

  • Both are government forms where the general public vote for their representatives under a free electoral system.

Difference Between Republic and Democracy


Republic is a form of government in which a state is ruled by representatives of the citizen body. In contrast, democracy is a form of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.


In a republic, the people vote for the representatives who later decide the laws. However, in a democracy, the general public has the supreme power to decide and set the laws, they then vote for the representatives who can enact those laws and regulations.


Every citizen votes and elects their representatives in a republic while it is usually the majority of the state has the right to vote and elect the representatives in a democracy. Therefore, the disregarded minority may lead to violent terms with the majority who decide the laws of the state.

Rules or Laws

The rules in a republic are set by the law or the constitution whereas the general public decides the rules in a democracy. This is one main difference between republic and democracy.

Main Focus

The main focus in the republic is the constitution whereas the main focus in the democracy is the general will of the citizens.


Republic and democracy are two terms referring to government forms that are used interchangeably. However, there is a fine line that separates them. Unlike a democracy where the people decide the laws and thus vote for the laws that can be enacted by their representatives, in a republic, it is the constitution that set the laws, and the people vote for the representatives to rule the state. This is the difference between republic and democracy.


1. What Is Democracy?” Stanford University, 21 Jan. 2004, Available here.
2. Dahl, Robert A. “Democracy.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 25 May 2018, Available here.
3. Munro, André. “Republic.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 19 July 2018, Available here.
4. “Democracy.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 30 July 2018, Available here.
5. “Republic.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 30 July 2018, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Barnstar of Democracy” By User:Pedant, User:Wapcaplet, User:Antonu, User:Vanderlindenma, User:.js. – Composition of File:Barnstar of Diligence Hires.png + File:Voting hand.svg (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Upen

Upen, BA (Honours) in Languages and Linguistics, has academic experiences and knowledge on international relations and politics. Her academic interests are English language, European and Oriental Languages, Internal Affairs and International Politics, and Psychology.

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