Strengths and Weaknesses of Procedural Democracy Compared to Deliberative Democracy

Procedural Democracy and Deliberative Democracy

Over the past century, the rapid spread of ideas on democracy has improved knowledge of democracy as a system of governance steep in pluralism and a rich tradition clustered around a set of values addressing key positions such as public participation, decision-making, and the rights of citizens. According to Connolly (1995), proponents of pluralism often underscore its focus on promoting diversity, tolerance and the significance of modern societies being a confluence of new ideas on governance. Today, procedural democracy and deliberative democracy represents two distinct schools of thought in democracy and characteristic of pluralism.  Each of these systems proposes its own unique model of governance, the setting up of mechanisms of governance, administrative intervention and practices of government.  It is, therefore, fundamental to explore procedural democracy and deliberative democracy, key strengths and weaknesses, and a discussion of my preferences.

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Procedural Democracy

A procedural democracy is a type of democracy known for its on focus processes such as citizen’s right to vote in free and fair elections held regularly as a necessary precondition for a legitimate government. However, the reality is that citizens have less influence on governance and the actual decision-making process in a procedural democracy. Elected representatives are tasked with presenting views, opinions, and concerns on their behalf which ultimately limits direct involvement in governance.

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A widely-held assumption by supporters of procedural democracy is the idea that an ideal governing authority can only be achieved through the electoral process. Its main aim is to uphold procedural virtues such as regular elections and a pluralistic political participation within the context of universal suffrage. The idea of having a procedural democracy as a system of governance is widely accepted today, especially in industrially advanced nations. This is mainly due to provisions that underpin its mode of operation and the fact that it fosters and fosters diversity in a rapidly-transforming society (Saffon & González-Bertomeu, 2017). Procedural democracy now functions as a confluence of democratic and liberal ideals as a solution to the political strife and tension that often grips nations confronting challenges associated with embracing diversity.

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Procedural democracy also strives to uphold citizen’s political rights by presenting the idea of a “protective democracy” where electing the right individuals in elective office safeguards the citizens from bad governance. These attitudes also embrace the multiculturalism as an idea that has come of age and a reality which should be readily embraced in modern-day societies. Furthermore, it is based on inferred social contract which guarantees that the rights of citizens are always upheld as one of the only reliable safeguards from a tyranny.

Procedural Democracy Strengths

            The foremost strength of procedural democracy is the fact that it measures popular views within a given nation state. It is generally assumed that elected representatives are a mirror of the wider population. Therefore, the views they espouse in legislative bodies such parliaments and the senate are taken a popular sentiments from the majority. Citizens under this form of political dispensation greatly benefit from government action and policies given that they are specifically tailored to address the needs of the majority. As a consequence, the prevailing sentiments within such a nation are those of satisfaction with the governing bodies since a considerable majority of popular concerns are addressed and recommendations from the public are routinely instituted.

            Procedural democracy facilitates regime change. This is mainly due to its focus on creating structures that allow an orderly transition from one government dispensation to the next while maintaining a sense of continuity.  At the heart of procedural democracy is its focus on creating and maintaining an electorally-legitimated government through universal suffrage and regular elections (Payne & Wellesley College, 2005). Furthermore, it also guarantees that governments and figures in such political structures will always change through the introduction of term limits for any government and the political outfit they represent. Citizens are now able to bank on new leaders with fresh ideas who are likely to identify the pitfalls of previous regimes and scenarios where the popular views were not acted upon with the aim of maintaining the fidelity of procedural democracy.

Procedural Democracy Weaknesses

            The ignorance of the electorate is a major pitfall of a procedural democracy. Typically this form of governance is grounded in the idea that popular views espoused by the public should always take precedence are associated polices routinely implemented. In this form of representative democracy, citizens have complete trust in their leaders in advancing the views and concerns at any given moment. However, a common loophole in this type of structure is that leaders may instead present their own individual interests and views at the expense of the wishes and aspirations of the general public. This is possible since a majority of elected representatives are aware of the ignorance of the archetypal voter and are, therefore, able to exploit this flaw to their own individual advantage.

            Emotional ploys have a strong and noteworthy impact on procedural democracy coupled with the likelihood of policies implemented to advance popular views at the expense of the minority. The external appearance of procedural democracy is a system that promotes free and fair elections, promotes the idea of universal suffrages, freedom of speech, and equality for all. Yet, procedural democracy is based on a governing structure where the majority’s opinions, views, concerns, and recommendations always take precedence over those expressed by the minority. Procedural standards of democracy are today blamed for the systematic exclusion of minority groups such as Jews and Roma in Bosnia and Herzegovina from elective representation (Saffon & González-Bertomeu, 2017). This may set the stage for human rights violations in the future and disproportionate inequality in society.

Deliberative Democracy

            Deliberative democracy is one of the most recent models of democracy which often aspires to provide a solution to the dominant aggregative perspective. Its aim is to advance a unique brand of normative rationality where a liberal democracy can thrive and liberal institutions defended.  According to Held (2006), deliberative democracy was first used By Joseph Bessette and has morphed into an approach whose primary concern is improving the quality of democracy. Some of the main concerns targeted by this model include the political participation of the public with the sole aim of creating an informed populace capable of advancing an impartial pursuit of truth.

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            Moreover, deliberative democracy acknowledges the deficits of other models with the intention of addressing these shortfalls while improving its quality in the long run. It essentially concedes that elective representation does not always guarantee participation in the decision-making process. Deliberative democracy, therefore, aspires to create useful frameworks for collective decision-making and a system of checks-and-balances for any such resolution. It also acknowledges the danger posed by a system of governance voted in by a simple majority; therefore, proposing a new inclusive approach which always guarantees equal participation to address various manifestations of conflict and policy complexity.

Deliberative Democracy Strengths

            Deliberative democracy raises awareness on the plight of the minority in democracies with the aim of advancing states’ commitment to promoting the fundamental individual rights of all citizens within a particular jurisdiction while upholding popular sovereignty. This is also coupled with its commitment to maintaining a reasonable political judgment where democracy and associated institutions are built around the public and decisions meant to improve their overall wellbeing (Held, 2006).  By so doing, it promotes the ignorance of voters and promotes a fact-regarding futuristic doctrine that is more inclusive and other-regarding. Deliberative democracy also promotes meaningful debates on the rationality and legitimacy of the majority’s preferences within the context of impartiality.

Moreover, deliberative democracy supports freedom and equality through civic education and open sharing of information necessary in identifying incidences of impartiality. It acknowledges the flaws of the decision-making process advanced by legitimate governing bodies and introduces the idea of always providing defensible reasons to defend a position taken by the government.  This also promotes public participation in discussing major concerns and an opportunity to propose a feasible course of action. The deliberative approach applied in this model of democracy is often credited with revelations of sectional interests in government policy and in causes advanced by a dominant political order (Lafont, 2019). This ultimately improves collective judgment in the long run and a political environment where dissenting views are considered and evaluated based on their merit.

Deliberative Democracy Weaknesses

            One of the most notable weaknesses of deliberative democracy is the fact that it is limited to a nation state at any given moment. It can, therefore, only succeed in identifying instances where sectional interests are advanced within their own nation and are highly unlikely to succeed in advancing greater formal equality beyond their borders. Furthermore, those who risk extending elements and ideas underpinned under their version of deliberative democracy risk being accused of attempting to meddle in the internal affairs of another country.

            Deliberative democracy is sometimes viewed as an instrument employed by the minority to block or undo policies based on poplar views. This is mainly due to the fact that the deliberative approach may succeed in identifying scenarios where sectional interests are advanced resulting in a reevaluation of such decisions (Mouffe, 2000). The subsequent success of deliberative democracy may inadvertently result in disinterest in governance among the majority while fuelling non-participation demonstrated by voter apathy.


            Procedural and deliberative democracies represent unique models of democracy today. Yet, I prefer deliberative democracy over procedural democracy. Deliberative democracy is more likely to be beneficial in the long run since it promotes equality by addressing risks posed by the dominant aggregative perspective. Its implementation will promote parity and impartiality through a framework that precludes sectional interests within a democratic state. Consequently, nations will enjoy greater unity among their populations if they opt for deliberative democracy since it promotes equity by advancing the cause of both the minority and majority in a given jurisdiction

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