If you’ve read this link Representative Government? Democracy? Oligarchy? you’ll understand that oligarchy is government by the few, while democracy is government by the many.
As it also pointed out in that post, oligarchy does not arise through some secret or malicious intent, but instead through complacency.
A good example of this has surfaced in the aftermath of the 2016 Irish General Election.
In the constituency of Dublin Bay South, the Fianna Fail candidate, Jim O’Callaghan was elected to the 32nd Dail.
Jim O’Callaghan is the brother of one of Ireland’s most influential media personalities, Miriam O’Callaghan, who anchors several current affairs programmes on RTE, who previously had her own talk show and who chaired the final televised leaders debate in the run up to the election.
Jim O’Callaghan is also a Senior Counsel (a barrister), and has represented both GMC Sierra (who install our water meters under contract from Irish Water) and Denis O’Brien, owner of Ireland largest media group, Independent News and Media.
There is no suggestion that any of these people have used their influence to the benefit of any of the others, or that any have executed their public and professional duties in anything other than a legal and impartial way.
However, what this type of relationship does point to is the exclusivity of effective power, and the impregnability of the barriers that exist between ordinary people and the institutions of government.
Democracy is not something than can exist in theory only. For it have legitimacy, it must exist in practice. The use of elections cannot be relied on for this, as evidenced above.