The Roman Republic: Oligarchy Or Democracy

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Roman Republic: Oligarchy or Democracy

While the system of government employed by the Roman Republic may appear to be democratic in theory, there is some debate as to whether one can consider the manner in which it functioned practically as being truly democratic. The main debate centres on the issue of whether the Roman Republic was a democracy or an oligarchy. Issues such as unequal distribution, a political structure that favours the elites, and the power of individuals, make an argument in favour of oligarchy, while the system of election by popular vote, the time limitation on holding office, and the sharing of power at every level of government, combine to make a case for democracy. All of these structures were exploited and manipulated
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These elections must be held on the basis of universal, equal and secret suffrage so that all voters can choose their representatives in conditions of equality, openness and transparency that stimulate political competition” (Inter-Parliamentary Council 1997). Therefore the first element of the political structure one must examine when seeking to determine to what extent the Roman Republic was a democracy is the voting system and how it was implemented both in theory and in practice. If a voting system was not utilised there would be no argument, but as it stands, the mere presence of a voting procedure is not quite sufficient evidence of true democracy. To ascertain the full extent of Rome’s democratic tendencies one must examine the voting system in somewhat greater…show more content…
Foremost among them was the practice of voting itself. Flawed and unequal the system may have been, but one can argue that such is true also of most modern-day democracies and besides, the practical flaws in the system do not change the fact that the system was a democratic one in theory. The introduction of the secret ballot in 139 B.C. and 130 B.C. (for elections and legislation respectively) was doubtless effective in lessening the influence of the elite over their clients (Yakobson 1995, 427) and was itself another aspect of democracy that was introduced in Rome -the Greek system they had adapted not including the anonymous vote - that is now so much considered core to the entire notion of a “free and fair election” that it is listed as the seventh point on the IPU’s list of Voting and Election Rights (Goodwin-Gill

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