I am from Brazil. I hear very often that we have a democracy but we're obligated to vote anyway. Are those things connected? Is it true that democracy implies that the citizens are not obligated to vote? I've read a little about it but I've never found such implication. References are welcome.

  • 1
    Depends entirely on how you define "democracy". Typical definitions from classicl Greeks did NOT necessarily imply forced voting; but implied a civic obligation to vote. These days, entirely too many disjoint things can be called "democracy"
    – user4012
    Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 4:53
  • They are called as democracy, but are the accepted as democracies?
    – Red Banana
    Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 4:57
  • I think the fact you can vote makes it a form of democracy. Whether you are obligated to or not seems to be a separate issue.
    – user1530
    Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 5:39
  • That is also my belief, but I want to check if this is consensus on politics.
    – Red Banana
    Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 6:39
  • 2
    "consensus" on politics doesn't mean much. Either there's a formal definition, with references; or some study correllating a specific definition with voting mandation. Either way, it's impossible to answer until you define "democracy" more precisely
    – user4012
    Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 15:08

1 Answer 1


Most democracies don't have compulsory voting, but compulsory voting does not imply a nation isn't a democracy.

Democracy comes from the ancient Greek city-state of Athens.

The word "democracy" (Greek: δημοκρατία) combines the elements dêmos (δῆμος, which means "people") and krátos (κράτος, which means "force" or "power").

The etymology suggests that the people had the power to rule, and in-fact the Assembly (simply called the demos) was one of the three political bodies that governed Athens. Under classic democracy, voting wasn't mandatory.

The central events of the Athenian democracy were the meetings of the assembly (ἐκκλησία, ekklêsia). Unlike a parliament, the assembly's members were not elected, but attended by right when they chose. Greek democracy created at Athens was direct, rather than representative [...] The assembly had four main functions; it made executive pronouncements (decrees, such as deciding to go to war or granting citizenship to a foreigner); it elected some officials; it legislated; and it tried political crimes. As the system evolved these last two functions were shifted to the law courts. The standard format was that of skeakers making speeches for and against a position followed by a general vote (usually by show of hands) of yes or no.

Democracy today is defined as:

a form of government in which all eligible citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Democracy allows eligible citizens to participates equally - either directly or through elected representatives - in the proposal, development, and creation of laws.

Certain citizens (slaves, felons, women, youth, etc.) may be excluded, but this has been the case in virtually all democracies throughout ancient and modern times. This definition also includes representative democracies and is in contrast to monarchies, oligarchies, and dictatorships. Under this definition, voting is not compulsory, citizens just need to be allowed to participate equally. Neither definition implies that a citizen must vote, but neither definition excludes nations that do force their citizens to vote. What about democracy in practice though, is their some correlation between being a democracy and compulsory voting?

Wikipedia lists 23 countries that have compulsory voting:

  • Law Enforced - Argentina; Australia; Brazil; Congo; Ecuador; Luxembourg; Nauru; Peru; Singapore; Uruguay;

  • Not Enforced - Belgium; Bolivia; Costa Rica; Dominican Republic; Egypt; Greece; Honduras; Lebanon; Libya; Mexico; Panama; Paraguay; Thailand.

Wikipedia lists 78 countries as democracies, 25 which are considered Full democracies and the remaining 53 as flawed democracies. This list of democracies does not include 9 of the countries that have compulsory voting: Congo; Ecuador; Nauru; Singapore; Bolivia; Egypt; Honduras; Lebanon; Libya. Additionally there are 206 sovereign states, 190 which are undisputed.

It is false that D implies VV (this is a logical implication is sometimes written as, ¬D or VV), since it is simple to show that there exists a democracy with compulsory voting (there are 14). Yes a correlation exists between voluntary voting (VV) in a nation, and that nation being a democracy (D). Compulsory Voting (CV) is very unlikely in a nations that is a democracy.

  • Democracies with CV/All democracies ratio: (14/78) = 17.9%

  • (Democracies with VV/All democracies ratio: (78-14)/78 = 82.1%)

  • Non-democracy or democracy with VV/All nations ratio: (190-78)+(78-14)/190 = 176/190 = 92.6%

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