According to Wikipedia, the United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy with a parliament. Basically meaning a monarchy that is restrained by constitution with a parliament that makes the rules, as representatives of the people. These are then signed or not by the monarchy.

Is this really a democracy or am I missing something?

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    It depends on power of monarch. if monarch has right to appoint some officiary or has enormous wealth from monarchy era (which can lead to hegemony by media), it is not democracy. In the case of UK there are argues.
    – user 1
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 5:50
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    I am voting to close this question as primarily opinion-based, because to answer the question "is the UK really a democracy" we first would need to define what "a democracy" actually is, and that's a topic we could debate about endlessly.
    – Philipp
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 11:30
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    @Philipp This is in no way an opinion question. It is the political equivalent of "I have a rock with these characteristics. Is it igneous?" If we cannot help people understand basic definitions, then we might as well close the wiki. Commented May 10, 2016 at 13:02
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    @ThePompitousofLove That allegory makes no sense because geology is a hard science and politics is a soft science. In soft sciences, certain definitions are a matter of opinion. In politics, the definition of democracy is a huge matter of debate. Just look at how many countries have "democratic" in their name and still have vastly different government systems.
    – Philipp
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 13:30
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    @ThePompitousofLove in science, definitions always reach an agreed-upon consensus. Not so much in politics. As such, we often ask people here to explain their definition of the term that pertains to their question...so we can at least answer a question based on their definition.
    – user1530
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 15:57

8 Answers 8


It seems that you are after a particular answer, but here's mine anyway.

Defining democracy is something that can be quite difficult to get people to agree on, depending on cultural persuasions and opinions. Because of that, I'm using the Oxford Dictionary definition:

NOUN 1.a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives: "a system of parliamentary democracy" synonyms: representative government · elective government

Using the above definition, does the UK count as a democracy?

Yes. The government is formed by elected representatives.

The reigning Monarch forms the head of that state, but the government itself is still formed with elected representatives.


The definition of a democracy is one where the government is chosen by some form of election. Not all constitutional monarchies are democracies, because not all constitutional monarchies' governments are chosen by the people.

The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy, because the monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II) is the head of state, while the head of government is the Prime Minister (David Cameron).

Jordan, on the other hand, is also a constitutional monarchy, because the King is limited by a constitution, but it is not a democracy, because the government is not completely elected.

Britain is not a republic, however, as one of the characteristics of a republic is the absence of a monarch. For this reason, when Australia held a vote on becoming a republic, the primary question at issue was abandoning the Queen as the head of state.

  • Then sure its a Monarchy where SOME of the decisions are made by elected representatives. The queen still has to sign some laws into being. She doesnt have to I dont believe. She can even shut Parliament down. Commented Jun 12, 2020 at 10:20

According to the Democracy Ranking 2015, constitutional monarchies are more democratic than other governing systems (republics) in average.

Here are the scores of most constitutional monarchies :

  • Australia : 9.01/10
  • Belgium : 7.93/10
  • Bhutan : 4.93/10
  • Cambodgia : 4.27/10
  • Canada : 9.08/10
  • Denmark : 9.11/10
  • Japan : 7.96/10
  • Luxemburg : 8.88/10
  • Malaysia : 6.43/10
  • Morocco : 4.66/10
  • The Nederlands : 8.92/10
  • New Zeland : 9.26/10
  • Norway : 9.93/10
  • Spain : 8.30/10
  • Sweden : 9.45/10
  • Thailand : 5.09/10
  • United Kingdom : 8.31/10

Some micro-countries like Monaco and Liechtenstein are missing. The scores varies greatly, however the average is high, in this particular case 7.73/10.

In comparison, the average democracy index of the world is 5.55. So, if you trust the Democracy Ranking 2015 as an indicator, the conclusion is that constitutional monarchies are, in average, more democratic than other governing systems.

Now, you could agrue that the Democracy Ranking is not a valid indicator, or that it makes no sense to average their ranking like I did, and I couldn't disagree. This question is not really "factually" answerable, but I tried my best to answer it "scientifically".

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    I'm going to argue that, exactly. This is an ordinal categorization, and being an 8 is not 4 times more democratic than being a 4. Therefore, averaging across categories, nominal categories at that, makes no sense. Commented May 10, 2016 at 20:14
  • Other governing systems includes absolute monarchies and dictatorships as well as failed states. Picking out the best-performing constitutional monarchies proves nothing.
    – Chieron
    Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 15:30
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    The best performing governments are constitutional monarchies prosperity.com/rankings - 8 out of top 10. Commented Nov 28, 2016 at 10:13

Yes, the UK is considered a democracy.

The Democracy Index is an index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, that measures the state of democracy in 167 countries, of which 166 are sovereign states and 165 are UN member states. The index is based on 60 indicators grouped in five different categories measuring pluralism, civil liberties, and political culture. In addition to a numeric score and a ranking, the index categorizes countries as one of four regime types full democracies, flawed democracies, hybrid regimes and authoritarian regimes.

The UK ranks in the top bracket, "Full democracies".

A 'constitutional monarchy' is essentially a monarchy that is heavily restricted by said constitution.

  • Wiki is not proof of the matter per se. It often contradicts itself. Commented May 10, 2016 at 3:51
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    @GaryCarlyleCook uh...what 'proof' are you looking for, exactly? These aren't controversial terms we're talking about here. There's plenty of citations on wikipedia if you wish to dig deeper. The citation for the link is The Economist which has a pretty solid reputation.
    – user1530
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 4:47
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    @GaryCarlyleCook while you may have an opinion about the Economist, said opinion likely doesn't trump the reputation it has built. As for a country being dishonest (?) about being a genuine democracy (whatever that means) I don't know how to address that. It appears you maybe are trying to validate a particular opinion.
    – user1530
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 5:33
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    @PointlessSpike see link regarding qualifications. The UK doesn't have a written constitution, but has what is considered an unwritten one that governs the powers of the monarchy.
    – user1530
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 7:42
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    @Philipp what are you talking about? I'm quoting wikipedia. There's no copyright infringement there. It's a fair use cited quote. And that 'basic explanation' is the answer. You don't have to agree with that answer, of course. I'm also not going to write a thesis on the meaning of democracy.
    – user1530
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 16:00

Is this really a democracy

Yes. It's really a democracy because it has universal adult suffrage and governments are regularly voted in and voted out in reasonably fair elections.

Let's put it this way, if the line dividing real democracies from not-real democracies is drawn such as not to allow the UK to qualify, then there are very few real democracies in the world. Certainly not the USA with its electoral college!

One can certainly defend a prescriptivist view of what constitutes proper democracy. The trouble is, everyone's prescription is different. Here is an incomplete list of types of countries claimed to fall short of being truly democratic on various grounds:

countries with a ceremonial monarchy, or with an electoral college, or without proportional representation, or with the wrong sort of proportional representation, or without proper constitutional safeguards for individual rights, or with constitutional safeguards for individual rights (after all, don't they temper the pure majoritarian glory of Athenian democracy?), or without a vigorous opposition press, or with a slanderous and irresponsible opposition press, or which have signed up to supranational bodies outside democratic control, or which have signed up to international treaties ditto, or which make use of protected seats for women or ethnic minorities, or where the if the prime minister is one ethnic group the president is conventionally always another, or where unlimited campaign donations are allowed, or disallowed, or where significant numbers question the legitimacy of the polity holding the vote, or where voting is compulsory, or where non-citizens cannot vote, or where they can, or where there is (or is not) a second chamber or supreme court that can block popular legislation…

Many items on that list have a far bigger practical effect than the ceremonial pretence that the person with a very uncomfortable-looking metal hat actually gives permission for anything to happen. Yet if we disallowed all those countries from being democracies we would have to think up some another word to mean "those countries in which, however imperfectly, the people are ultimately in charge."

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    The United States of America are a Federal Presidential Constitutional Republic Commented May 10, 2016 at 20:22
  • I would agree the democracy as a word is probably meaningless. We would be better served to define states as direct democracies or not. Commented Jun 12, 2020 at 10:18

It depends on your definition of democracy. For instance, elections are totally possible even under absolute monarchy, like Russian Empire 1905-1914 when the Duma was elected. If absolute monarch listens to the elected body, some may consider it a democracy.

I do not agree with this point of view. And the constitutional restrictions on the British monarchy are very weak. In a sense it is closer to absolute monarchy where the monarch chooses to keep their political views in secret and communicate with ministers and governors in private.


A constitutional monarchy essentially designates a separation between the head of government and the head of state, the latter being a monarch, usually hereditary, but sometimes elected for life, the former being governance by some other form, not necessarily democratic, but usually by public agreement. The head of government ensures that the state never degenerates to despotism or tyranny, while the head of state ensures a level of integrity and honesty.

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    I appreciate your input but I have seen no evidence to support, "the head of state ensures a level of integrity and honesty". Commented Dec 3, 2016 at 2:39
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    Because they are a hereditary head of state and therefore have no ambition, ambition being a cause of dishonesty and eventual corruption. See 'Platos Republic' for an overview of how the ambitious man makes nefarious friends in his rise to power. Commented May 7, 2017 at 12:39

Yes. A constitutional monarchy counts as a form of democracy.

Democracy is a system of government in which laws, policies, leadership, and major undertakings of a state or other polity are directly or indirectly decided by the “people,” a group historically constituted by only a minority of the population (e.g., all free adult males in ancient Athens or all sufficiently propertied adult males in 19th-century Britain) but generally understood since the mid-20th century to include all (or nearly all) adult citizens. -Encyclopedia Britannica

Many constitutional monarchies exist with some form of parliament or legislative bodies where people get to elect some of their representatives or even their monarch, which allows it to count as a democracy. As I found out by asking a question on this Stack Exchange, Samoa is also an example of a nation that is technically a elective constitutional monarchy, but the monarchs are elected by Parliament who is, in turn, elected by citizens over 21. So like the United Kingdom, Parliament existing as a branch of government that has representatives elected by the people allows the nation of Samoa to be both a monarchy and a democracy as long as the monarch doesn't have power that supersedes democratic institutions.

  • Democracy seems meaningless then. Commented Jun 12, 2020 at 10:17
  • @GaryCarlyleCook Not really. People still have a choice or some degree of a say when it comes to their government & in the case of Samoa, the citizens get to choose the representatives who chose the monarch. Democracy still has meaning in that it represents forms of government where the citizens have a say in their government, who is in charge, and what policies can be implemented, compared to more autocratic states where citizens have little to no direct say in how governance works.
    – Tyler Mc
    Commented Jun 12, 2020 at 14:02
  • Very good point. Although its seems too open to abuse to be that useful as a term then. Commented Jun 13, 2020 at 22:05

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