The Definition of Liberal Democracy to the History of Liberal Democracy in Indonesia

Definition of liberal democracy – From 1949 to 1959, Indonesia had adopted a liberal democratic system. This concept is implemented in order to create a free democracy. The reason is, this model does not limit each individual to have an opinion. even so, liberal democracy in the country is not going well because of the views and aspirations of so many Indonesian people.

With this in mind, in the end it led to various chaos in the government and political systems that were less than optimal.

It is important for us to know the history of the implementation of liberal democracy that has been embraced and has been part of Indonesia’s journey, because it would be unwise for the next generation to not recognize one of these stages.

Let’s find out with Gramedia, through this article!

Definition of Liberal Democracy

Liberal democracy means a political system with many parties. Meanwhile, political power is held by civilian politicians who are centered in parliament. This is as revealed by the Big Indonesian Dictionary (KBBI).

This concept of democracy is basically a model in which the position of the legislature is higher than the executive body. The prime minister leads as the head of government, while the head of state in a parliamentary democracy is held by the president.

Liberal democracy upholds people’s freedom, politics, or individualism. The reason is, this model seeks to reduce economic inequality and all people have the same degree and rights.

It can be interpreted that liberal democracy is a system based on individual rights. Every citizen is considered to be a party in power regardless of ethnicity, religion, or race of origin of the individual.

Robert Dahl, a political scientist from America said, there are two important concepts in liberal democracy. Both, namely contestation and participation. Contestation, such as objection or debate, can be realized by having the right to freedom of the press and forming parties.

With the freedom to form parties, it is possible for individual aspirations which often differ from one another to be properly accommodated. This accommodation of different political views is one of the triggers for the contestation.

The culture of contestation in a liberal democracy in Indonesia is very strong. It is not surprising that cabinet changes seem very dynamic because there were 7 cabinets that came to power in just 9 years of liberal democracy.

Meanwhile, Dahl mentioned the concept of participation, meaning that participation can be realized with elections. The election must also be fair and can be followed by all citizens who have the right to vote.

Returning to liberal democracy, this is a form of government that tends to be characterized by tolerance and pluralism; radically different social and political views, even those seen as extreme, are allowed to coexist and compete for political power on the basis of democracy.

Generally, a liberal democracy can take the form of a constitutional monarchy or a constitutional republic.

Characteristics of Liberal Democracy

After understanding the meaning of liberal democracy, it is also important to know the characteristics of this concept. Here are some features that we should pay attention to:

Facilitated Individual Freedom

As shown indirectly in the sense of liberal democracy, one of the values ​​of liberalism is individual freedom. If there is no individual freedom, then a system is not very suitable if it is labeled or the word liberal. One of the ways to channel this freedom is by implementing it for certain political affiliations.

For this reason, there are so many parties that were founded in the era of liberal democracy. Not only that, more than 3 parties based on Islam have been established, such as Nahdlatul Ulama, Masyumi, the Indonesian Tarbiyah Movement, and the Indonesian Islamic Syarikat Party.

This can happen because individual freedom really must be facilitated in a liberal democracy.

Limited Power of Government

Friends, do you know why the power of government must be limited in the characteristics of a liberal democracy?

One of the reasons is that the government is not only controlled by one particular group. This is considered important in a liberal democracy so that there is a check and balance mechanism in place in the government.

All Society can Participate in Politics

Every individual in a liberal democratic system can participate in political activities regardless of religion, race, or ethnic origin. The variety of parties that took part in the 1955 election as the first general election in Indonesia reflected the participation of various groups or groups of people.

The reason is, the participants in the election at that time were really diverse. In fact, there are also election participants who are individuals, not just parties. At that time, there were also various parties such as the Indonesian Socialist Party (PSI). The Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), the Young Comunis Force (Acoma), Murba, to R. Soedjono Prawirosoedarso who participated in enlivening the 1955 election.

The Existence of Elections as Secret Voting in a Certain Period
Another feature of liberal democracy is secret elections that are held within a certain period. In this concept of democracy, this is important because it acts as a path that must be taken by political participants to occupy seats in government.

As per Majority Vote in Parliament, Government can Form Laws

The government is headed by the prime minister in a guided democratic government system. These prime ministers generally come from the party that won the majority of votes or won the election.

During the liberal democracy era, there were many policy changes, one of which was reflected in the intensity of cabinet changes during the 9 years of liberal democracy, namely 7 times.

History of Liberal Democracy in Indonesia

Liberal democratic governments do not necessarily have to follow the political ideology of liberalism just by using the term “liberal” in the democratic system. The term is basically just a reference to the fact that modern liberal democracies have their initial framework created during the philosophers who advocated freedom during the Age of Enlightenment.

The reason is, they really emphasize individual immunity from arbitrary use of authority as a right. At this time, there were many different political ideologies, which also supported liberal democracy. For example, Christian Democracy, conservatism, social democracy, to several forms of socialism.

Democracy literally means government by the people. It has taken various forms historically. In ancient Athens, for example, democracy meant direct government by free citizens, especially male citizens. In the 21st century, democracy is generally understood to mean indirect government, that is, through elected representatives.

Liberal democracy stems from certain philosophical doctrines and constitutional developments, which arose mainly in Britain and the United States. The adjective liberal itself refers to a set of philosophical doctrines emphasizing human equality developed in the early modern period, more or less the 17th century.

The English philosopher John Locke (1632-1704) argued that legitimate government only arises from consent and the right to consent, which basically comes from a natural fact: human equality.

In Indonesia

As a country that has implemented the concept of liberal democracy, this system also has its own history in our country, namely in 1949-1959. In short, the concept of democracy is not going well because there are too many aspirations and views from the Indonesian people.

The existence of various political parties in the 1955 election was a sign of the development of a liberal democratic system in Indonesia. In total, there were 172 political parties competing at that time, but only 4 parties ended up having the most votes:

  • Indonesian National Party (PNI) with 22.3 percent
  • Masyumi with 20.9 percent
  • Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) with 18.4 percent
  • Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) with 15.4 percent

The unfortunate thing happened, the government’s program did not run smoothly because of this liberal democracy. This resulted in political chaos because greater power was in the hands of the parliament.

In 1959, the era of liberal democracy ended, namely when the Constituent Assembly was dissolved by President Soekarno through a Presidential Decree on July 5, 1959. This occurred as a result of conflicts between groups and the basis of the state which had not been established.

Types of Liberal Democracy

In general, there are three types of liberal democracy. What are they? Let’s see together!

De facto Liberal Democracy

Liberal democracy is sometimes the de facto form of government, while other forms are technically so. For example, the Canadian monarchy is actually ruled by a democratically elected Parliament.

In Great Britain, sovereignty is hereditary monarchy, but de facto (legislative) sovereignty is the people, i.e. through their elected representatives in Parliament, which is why it is called a democracy.

Proportional Representation and Plurality

A plurality voting system awards seats according to a regional majority. If an individual candidate or political party has the most votes. is the winner of the seat representing the region.

There are also other democratic electoral systems such as various forms of proportional representation in which seats are awarded in proportion to the individual votes a particular party gets in a given territory or nationally.

Presidential and Parliamentary Systems

A republican system of government when the executive and legislative branches are elected separately, is referred to as a presidential system. The difference with a parliamentary system is that the system depends on direct or indirect support from the parliament.

Advantages and disadvantages

Do you know more about and are familiar with liberal democracy through its understanding, characteristics, history, and types? So, it’s time for us to study the advantages and disadvantages of this concept of democracy.


At the grassroots level, there are different views that can be accommodated because everyone can form their own party.
Limited and easy government power can be supervised.


The political climate is not always in good condition because there are too many parties.
The party becomes more busy maintaining power so it doesn’t focus on making policies. This reflects from the liberal democracy in Indonesia. However, stability is important.

The failure to draft laws was due to differences in political ideology that emerged during the liberal democracy era.

Governing Cabinet

Indonesia was led by several cabinets after the 1998 reform. Unlike the names of these cabinets, the cabinet of the Indonesian government during the liberal democracy era used the name of the prime minister.

The following is an explanation from each ruling cabinet:

Natsir Cabinet (6 September 1950–21 March 1951)

This cabinet was the first to rule during the liberal democracy era. This cabinet must end its term after receiving a vote of no confidence. Natsir from the Masyumi Party issued several policies while leading the cabinet.

Indonesia registered itself as a member of the United Nations during his leadership period. Not only that, an economic policy called the Benteng Program was also published.

This program is implemented so that local entrepreneurs emerge. At that time, this cabinet was also trying to hold elections.

Sukiman Cabinet (27 April 195-3 April 1952)

It was noted that Masyumi succeeded in occupying the highest seat in the parliament and forming a cabinet three times. The Sukiman Cabinet became the second to lead Indonesia in the era of liberal democracy.

The Sukiman Cabinet initiated several policies, such as standardizing the minimum wage, religious holiday allowance (THR), and establishing labor union regulations.

Wilopo Cabinet (3 April 1952–3 June 1953)

Indonesia is led by the Indonesian National Party (PNI) after being led by Masyumi twice. The Wilopo Cabinet is also preparing for the election. Unfortunately, this cabinet also failed to carry out elections because it had previously resigned due to a vote of no confidence.

Cabinet of Ali Sastroamidjojo I (31 July 1953–12 August 1955)

Our homeland was again led by the PNI under the government of Ali Sastroamidjojo. Indonesia hosted the first Asian-African Conference (KAA) during his leadership, in Bandung to be precise.

Not only that, the Ali Baba Economic System was also initiated by this cabinet. This program has the goal of creating local entrepreneurs through training, granting credit, and holding import permits.

Burhanuddin Harahap Cabinet (12 August 1955 –3 March 1956)

Masyumi returned to lead through the Burhanuddin Harahap Cabinet which succeeded in carrying out elections with powers that had to be handed over to the winner. Meanwhile, this election was won by the PNI, which made the Burhanuddin Harahap Cabinet the only one that did not disband due to a vote of no confidence.

Cabinet of Ali Sastroamidjojo II (20 March 1956–4 March 1957)

The PNI has the right to form a cabinet to run the wheels of government because it was this party that won the election. thus, Ali Sastroamidjojo returned to the prime minister’s seat.

During his second leadership era, Ali canceled the contents of the Round Table Conference (KMB) as a form of protest against the Netherlands. Meanwhile, although elected through elections, this cabinet again stepped down due to a vote of no confidence, like its predecessor cabinet.

Djuanda Cabinet (9 April 1957 – 5 July 1959)

Friend, do you often see IDR 50,000 denominations? There, the figure of Ir. Juanda Kartawidjaja. Based on President Soekarno’s mandate, the Djuanda Cabinet took office and one of its achievements was the Djuanda Declaration.

In order to determine the territorial boundaries of the seas in Indonesia, the declaration was issued. Finally, the Djuanda Cabinet ended when President Soekarno issued a presidential decree.


Those are various explanations related to liberal democracy , especially in Indonesia. Starting from the definition of liberal democracy, its characteristics, history, types, advantages and disadvantages, to the cabinet that once served as government in Indonesia in the era of the implementation of liberal democracy.

Apparently, the explanation regarding one of the concepts of democracy is not so narrow that of course further intention and consistency are needed if you want to study it. Fortunately, in this modern era, we have access to many public or paid facilities that can make learning easier, such as going to the library, accessing online journals from home, to reading very well-written books.

There is no reason for us to stop learning, moreover, to stop studying our own country. Don’t worry, you can learn about Indonesia starting from the basics. Keep in mind, grow the desire and interest in learning before forcing yourself.