Democracy is a system of government where decisions are taken based on a vote by the citizens. In a direct democracy, the whole electorate votes on every decision. Most modern democracies, however, are representative democracies, where the electorate chooses people to represent them and take decisions on their behalf.
In a democracy, the electorate is the set of citizens who are eligible to vote. In the first democracy in ancient Athens, this was limited to free men - a small subset of the total population. In modern democracies, there has been a gradual trend towards including more and more people in the electorate: first just men who met certain conditions of wealth or status; then all men over a certain age; and now (usually) all men and women over a certain age. Each person in the electorate gets one vote, and all votes are worth the same in any given election or poll.
Types of democracy
There are various systems of government that can be described as a democracy. The majority of modern democracies are republics; this includes the United States of America, France, Germany and Iran (although, in common with many other non-Western states, there are doubts about the legitimacy of Iran's democratic process). Other democracies including Sweden, Spain and the Netherlands are constitutional monarchies: their head of state is not elected, but in practice almost all decisions are taken by elected representatives. For example, in the United Kingdom, the monarch is the head of state and the main public representative of the country, but has little to no political power.