Popular sovereignty is the basic premise of government that all power, particularly legislative and executive power, rests in the will of the people. The concept is fundamental to any people who claim to be self governing. The power may rest in the people through one of several means, such as direct representation or representative representation, and the way this is done may vary from one country to another, but the basic premise remains the same.
The people rein supreme under this philosophy because the individuals that make up the country have the ultimate power in deciding who the decision makers are. Even those who have elected representation still, in the end, have the power to hire or fire those that they think are not appropriately representing them. This means that all power rests in the hands of the voting majority.
Governmental systems that have operated under the concept of popular sovereignty go back many thousands of years. Greeks and Romans had representative republics that in many ways echoed the more important parts of the movement. At the same time, these governments also excluded a significant portion of the people, such as women, slaves, and others who were not deemed to be citizens with full rights.
If a country has a government in place under this philosophy, the government may experience big, sweeping changes from time to time. It can lead to a great deal of uncertainty and a lack of job security for those in at least some factions of the government. At the same time, those who make choices popular with the electorate often get re-elected multiple times. Even with the risk of uncertainty, popular sovereignty remains a common form of government, being used by many of the world’s countries in various forms.
In the United States, the representative republic is a type of popular sovereignty. Elections are held every two years for members of the U.S. Congress serving in the House of Representatives and every six years for those serving in the Senate. The United States president is elected to four-year terms. The election of the U.S. House every two years tends to give it the reputation of being a little more accountable and responsive to the people.
Great Britain also uses this type of system, but the actual practice is much different from the U.S. There, members of parliament elect the prime minister, assuring the majority party will always have the prime minister’s seat. It is still representative in the fact that the electorate chooses who will represent them in the House of Commons and, therefore, who will ultimately have the say on who the country’s chief executive is.