In […] a democracy, the ordinary citizen is effectively a king, but a king in a constitutional democracy, a king whose powers are merely formal, whose function is to sign measures proposed by the executive. The problem of democratic legitimacy is homologous to the problem of constitutional democracy: how to protect the dignity of the king? How to make it seem that the king effectively decides, when we all know this is not true? What we call the ‘crisis of democracy’ isn’t something that happens when people stop believing in their own power but, on the contrary, when they stop trusting the elites, when they perceive that the throne is empty, that the decision is now theirs. ‘Free elections’ involve a minimal show of politeness when those in power pretend they do not really hold the power and ask us to decide freely if we want to grant it to them.
Slavoj Žižek, “Berlusconi in Tehran”, London Review of Books, 23 July 2009