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Democracy vs. Dictatorship — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Updated on November 1, 2023
Democracy is a system of government by the whole population, typically through elected representatives, whereas dictatorship is ruled by a single leader or party, often authoritarian.
Democracy vs. Dictatorship

Difference Between Democracy and Dictatorship

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Key Differences

Democracy is defined by collective decision-making, with citizens having equal say in the processes of government. Dictatorship is characterized by individual or small group control, with power often taken or maintained by force.
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Nov 01, 2023
In a democracy, leaders are elected by the people, aiming to represent the populace’s interests. A dictatorship, however, is led by a single ruler or a select few, where power is concentrated and dissent is often suppressed.
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Nov 01, 2023
Democratic governments are based on principles of freedom and equality, promoting participation in political processes. Dictatorships prioritize control and stability, sometimes at the cost of personal freedoms and social equality.
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Nov 01, 2023
The rule of law in a democracy is designed to be fair and impartial, upholding individual rights. In a dictatorship, the law is often manipulated to benefit the rulers and maintain their power.
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Nov 01, 2023
Democracies encourage open debate and the free exchange of ideas. Dictatorships may limit information flow and control media to protect their authority and narrative.
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Nov 01, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Power Source

The people, through voting
Single leader or small group
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Nov 01, 2023

Leadership Term

Fixed, through elections
Indefinite, often without elections
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Political Freedom

High, with open opposition
Low, with limited opposition
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Nov 01, 2023

Citizen Participation

Active and encouraged
Passive and often discouraged
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Rule of Law

Equal for all
Can be biased towards rulers
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Nov 01, 2023

Compare with Definitions

Democracy

A system where the majority rules.
The new policy was a product of democracy, reflecting the majority's will.
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Nov 01, 2023

Dictatorship

A government controlled by one person with total power.
The dictatorship did not tolerate any form of dissent.
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Nov 01, 2023

Democracy

A system of government by the whole population.
Switzerland’s direct democracy allows citizens to vote on laws.
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Nov 01, 2023

Dictatorship

A country ruled by a dictator.
People in the dictatorship faced severe restrictions on their freedoms.
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Nov 01, 2023

Democracy

A government with free and open elections.
Democracy ensured that leadership changed hands peacefully.
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Nov 01, 2023

Dictatorship

An autocratic form of government.
In the dictatorship, decisions were made swiftly by the ruling party.
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Nov 01, 2023

Democracy

A form of government where power lies with the people.
In their democracy, citizens enjoyed a wide array of freedoms.
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Nov 01, 2023

Dictatorship

A system where power is obtained or maintained by force.
The dictatorship came to power after a military coup.
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Nov 01, 2023

Democracy

A society characterized by equality of rights and privileges.
Democracy was thriving, as seen in the fair elections.
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Nov 01, 2023

Dictatorship

A dictatorship is a form of government characterized by a single leader or group of leaders and little or no toleration for political pluralism or independent media. According to other definitions, democracies are a form of government in which "those who govern are selected through periodically contested elections (in years)"; therefore, dictatorships are "not democracies,.".With the advent of the 19th and 20th centuries, dictatorships and constitutional democracies emerged as the world's two major forms of government, gradually eliminating monarchies with significant political power, the most widespread form of government in the pre-industrial era.
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Sep 23, 2021

Democracy

Democracy (Greek: δημοκρατία, dēmokratiā, from dēmos 'people' and kratos 'rule') refers to a form of government in which the people either have the authority to choose their governing legislators, or the authority to decide on legislation. Who is considered part of the people and how authority is shared among or delegated by the people has changed over time and at different speeds in different countries, but more and more of the inhabitants of countries have generally been included.
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Sep 23, 2021

Dictatorship

The office or tenure of a dictator.
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Sep 23, 2021

Democracy

Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.
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Dictatorship

A state or government under dictatorial rule.
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Democracy

A political or social unit that has such a government.
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Dictatorship

Absolute or despotic control or power.
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Sep 23, 2021

Democracy

The common people, considered as the primary source of political power.
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Sep 23, 2021

Dictatorship

A type of government where absolute sovereignty is allotted to an individual or a small clique.
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Sep 23, 2021

Democracy

Majority rule.
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Sep 23, 2021

Dictatorship

A government which exercises autocratic rule.
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Sep 23, 2021

Democracy

The principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community.
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Sep 23, 2021

Dictatorship

Any household, institution, or other organization that is run under such sovereignty or autocracy.
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Sep 23, 2021

Democracy

(uncountable) Rule by the people, especially as a form of government; either directly or through elected representatives (representative democracy).
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Sep 23, 2021

Dictatorship

The office, or the term of office, of a dictator; hence, absolute power.
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Sep 23, 2021

Democracy

A government under the direct or representative rule of the people of its jurisdiction.
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Sep 23, 2021

Dictatorship

A form of government in which the ruler is an absolute dictator (not restricted by a constitution or laws or opposition etc.)
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Sep 23, 2021

Democracy

(countable) A state with a democratic system of government.
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Sep 23, 2021

Dictatorship

A regime where political opposition is suppressed.
Under the dictatorship, opposition leaders were often imprisoned.
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Nov 01, 2023

Democracy

(uncountable) Belief in political freedom and equality; the "spirit of democracy".
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Sep 23, 2021

Democracy

Government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is retained and directly exercised by the people.
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Sep 23, 2021

Democracy

Government by popular representation; a form of government in which the supreme power is retained by the people, but is indirectly exercised through a system of representation and delegated authority periodically renewed; a constitutional representative government; a republic.
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Sep 23, 2021

Democracy

Collectively, the people, regarded as the source of government.
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Sep 23, 2021

Democracy

The principles and policy of the Democratic party, so called.
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Sep 23, 2021

Democracy

The political orientation of those who favor government by the people or by their elected representatives
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Sep 23, 2021

Democracy

A political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them
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Sep 23, 2021

Democracy

The doctrine that the numerical majority of an organized group can make decisions binding on the whole group
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Sep 23, 2021

Common Curiosities

Do democracies have checks and balances?

Yes, democracies often have systems of checks and balances to prevent any one branch from gaining too much power.
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Nov 01, 2023

Is voting a right in all democracies?

In a democracy, voting is typically a fundamental right, although the specifics can vary by country.
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Nov 01, 2023

Do dictatorships have constitutions?

Some dictatorships have constitutions, but they may not be adhered to or could be altered to fit the dictator’s needs.
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Nov 01, 2023

Can democracies become dictatorships?

Historically, there have been instances where democracies have transitioned into dictatorships, often through erosion of democratic norms.
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Nov 01, 2023

Are protests allowed in dictatorships?

Protests in dictatorships are often severely restricted and can lead to repression by the state.
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Nov 01, 2023

Can democracies have a strong leader?

Yes, democracies can have strong leaders, but their power is limited by the constitution and laws.
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Nov 01, 2023

Are all dictatorships military regimes?

No, not all dictatorships are military; some are controlled by civilians or a single political party.
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Nov 01, 2023

Can a dictatorship be stable?

A dictatorship can appear stable due to the suppression of dissent, but this does not always equate to genuine social stability.
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Nov 01, 2023

Do citizens have privacy rights in a democracy?

Democracies generally uphold individual privacy rights, though the extent can vary based on laws and technology.
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Nov 01, 2023

How do citizens express dissatisfaction in a dictatorship?

Dissatisfaction in a dictatorship is often expressed through clandestine or exiled opposition groups, as internal dissent is risky.
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Nov 01, 2023

A: Do dictatorships hold elections?

Some dictatorships hold elections, but these are often not free or fair, designed to legitimize the existing regime.
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Nov 01, 2023

Can international organizations influence dictatorships?

International organizations can exert pressure on dictatorships through sanctions or diplomacy, but with varying success.
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Nov 01, 2023

Do democracies have political parties?

Yes, multiple political parties are a common feature of democracies, offering different policies and viewpoints.
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Nov 01, 2023

Is education state-controlled in dictatorships?

In dictatorships, education is often state-controlled, with a curriculum that supports the regime's ideology.
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Nov 01, 2023

Are media outlets free in a democracy?

Media freedom is a hallmark of democracy, allowing for diverse and critical perspectives, although media bias can still be an issue.
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Nov 01, 2023

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at AskDifference.com, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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