The nature of democracy in the Roman Republic was very limited. Itwas an oligarchy. All Roman citizens had the right to vote.However, the voting system of the most important popular assembly(the Assembly of the Soldiers) was stack heavily in favour of therich. The senate was an advisory body. Yet, it was the mostpowerful political body. It advised on policy and usually theconsuls (the two annually elected heads of the Republic, heeded itsadvice. It had the power to issue decrees in certain circumstances.It also supervised the treasury and the governors of the provinces(the conquered territories) were chosen from among the senators. Itwas not an elected body. It was composed of aristocrats and formerofficers of state. The latter were picked from among the members ofthe aristocracy and the rich entrepreneurial class. It defended theinterests of the aristocracy and resisted attempts at reforms whichwould help the poor. The poor had their own assembly, the PlebeianCouncil, headed by the plebeian tribunes. However, this was theresult of their own struggle, instead of a desire by the rich togive a voice to the poor. The plebeian Council could issue laws,but when these clashed with the interests of the aristocracy, thesewere fiercely resisted by the senate, sometimes even with the useof violence.
Despite all of the above, it has to be said that political matterswere usually freely debated in public during the period of theRoman Republic.