The characteristics of Liberal Democracy to the Strengths & Weaknesses

Characteristics of a Liberal Democracy – Liberal democracy is the political system used by most modern European countries. Before becoming the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia as it is today, you need to know that the Indonesian state has also used a liberal democratic political system.

Based on historical records, it turns out that the Indonesian state was once led not by a president as it is now. In a country, we often recognize the terms head of government and head of state. However, of course you have also heard of the term Prime Minister, right?

In the early period of independence until entering guided democracy or more precisely in 1950 to 1959, the Indonesian state adopted a system of government known as liberal democracy.

So, in this article, we will present a discussion of liberal democracy, starting from the characteristics of liberal democracy, its meaning, strengths and weaknesses, and its cabinet. Let’s see more!

The difference between the Head of Government and the Head of State

Before entering into a discussion of the characteristics of liberal democracy. We need to know that the term for head of government and head of state in Indonesia is currently held by a President.

The head of state is basically a figure who is a representative of a country for interests at the domestic and international levels. In addition, a head of state also has a very important role because he is a representative of a country being led.

However, in many other countries, the position of head of state is not only occupied by a president. For example, in several countries that adopt a monarchy or royal system (Saudi Arabia, England), the head of state will be occupied by a king.

In contrast to the head of state, the head of government is a position that has the responsibility to lead the running of a country’s government. In a country that adheres to a parliamentary system, the head of government is held by a person called the prime minister.

In Indonesia itself, the head of government during the liberal democracy era was led by a prime minister. So, as part of learning the history of citizenship education, it is certainly important for the younger generation to know what happened in the past.

What Is Liberal Democracy?

Liberal democracy basically means democracy that departs from individual rights. This means that every citizen or individual becomes the ruling party in this democratic system. Those in power have the same rights regardless of their ethnic origin or religion.

Meanwhile, another understanding says that liberal democracy is a political system that protects individual rights from government power in a constitutional way. This makes the decision of the majority to determine the determination of government policies that are subject to restrictions.

According to Robert Dahl, liberal democracy has two important concepts that need to be known. The two concepts include contestation and participation. Contestation itself means a debate or objection that can be realized with the right to form parties and freedom of the press.

Freedom of the Press as a Result of Liberal Democracy

As previously stated, freedom in a liberal democracy has resulted in many parties being formed. This freedom is also an opportunity for each party to accommodate aspirations that are often different from one individual to another. The existence of differences in political views that are accommodated is one of the triggers for the emergence of contestation.

When the Indonesian state embraced liberal democracy, the culture of contestation seemed very strong. This is very visible when there is a fairly dynamic cabinet change. Within 9 years of liberal democracy, there have been 7 cabinets that have ruled.

Robert Dahl himself understands the concept of participation can be realized through general elections. The general election itself must be held in a fair and equitable manner so that all citizens who have voting rights can participate. There were around 172 parties that competed in the 1955 election.

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Characteristics of Liberal Democracy

After knowing the meaning and history of liberal democracy, the next discussion is the characteristics of liberal democracy. The following are certain characteristics possessed by a liberal democratic system, including:

1. Political participation that can be followed by all levels of society

The liberal democratic system provides freedom for all individuals to be able to participate in politics without discriminating against race, religion, or ethnic origin. The emergence of various groups or groups of people who took part is an illustration of the various parties that competed in the 1955 election (Indonesia’s first election).

The first general election ever held by Indonesia was attended by various participants. In fact, not only parties participate, there are those who participate in elections as individuals. The 1995 election itself was followed by parties, such as the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), Indonesian Socialist Party (PSI), Murba, Young Communist Forces (Acoma), to R. Soedjono Prawirosoedarso.

2. Voting through elections in a certain period in secret

The next feature of liberal democracy is voting in elections which are carried out in a certain period in secret. In a liberal democracy, voting is something that is very important because elections are the path that must be taken by political participants to win seats in government.

3. Facilitation of individual freedom

One of the values ​​that must exist in liberalism is individual freedom. Therefore, a liberal system cannot be embedded if individual freedom is eliminated. One way that is commonly used to implement individual freedom is by channeling thoughts through affiliation with certain politics.

In the implementation of liberal democracy, it is possible to have political parties with a large number. The history of Indonesia itself has recorded that there were several parties based on the religion of Islam, including Masyumi, Nahdlatul Ulama, the Indonesian Islamic Syarikat Party, and the Indonesian Tarbiyah Movement. There are 4 parties for the Muslim community, of course it is proof that one of the values ​​that must exist in a liberal democracy is that individual freedom must be facilitated.

4. A government that can form laws in accordance with a majority vote in parliament

When Indonesia adopted a guided democracy system of government, the head of government was held by a prime minister. The prime minister here is a representative of the party winning the majority of votes or it can be said the party winning the election. Meanwhile, when entering the liberal democracy era, there were many policy changes.

Some of the policy changes that have taken place are understandable. This can be seen from the frequent changes of cabinet during that era. Within 9 years of liberal democracy, there have been 7 cabinet changes.

5. Limited government power

One of the most visible characteristics of a liberal democracy is the limited powers of the government. One of the reasons for the government’s power to be limited is as an effort to prevent a government that is only controlled by one particular group. This is important in a liberal democracy so that the check and balance mechanism remains in effect in a government in power.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Liberal Democracy

Of all the existing government systems, it must be recognized that no system is perfect. Each system has its own advantages, as well as the disadvantages of the government system adopted. This applies to the liberal democratic government system that is widely adopted by various countries. The following are some of the advantages and disadvantages of a liberal democratic system that you need to know, including:

1. Advantages of Liberal Democracy

  • Liberal democracy accommodates various different views that occur at the grassroots level, for example all citizens can form their own parties.
  • The power of a liberal democratic government has limitations so that it is easier to supervise.

2. Lack of Liberal Democracy

  • The political climate of a liberal democracy is not always good when there are too many parties.
  • In accordance with what happened when the Indonesian state used a liberal democratic system, political parties were more focused on maintaining power than thinking about a policy that had a good impact on the nation and state. A country must always maintain its stability. However, there are often ideological differences that arise in many political parties, which hinder policy making, such as laws and so on.

The Governing Cabinet In Times Of Liberal Democracy

After learning about the definition and characteristics of liberal democracy, in the following, we will continue with a discussion of the cabinet that ruled during the liberal democracy era.

It should be noted that when entering the post-1998 reform era, Indonesia was led by several cabinets, namely the Gotong Royong Cabinet and the United Indonesia Cabinet. The use of the name of the post-reform cabinet is different from that during the liberal democracy. Several cabinets that ruled Indonesia during a liberal democracy used the name of the Prime Minister as the name of their cabinet.

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1. The Natsir Cabinet (6 September 1950 – 21 March 1951)

The first cabinet to rule in the era of liberal democracy was the Natsir cabinet. The cabinet that has been in power for less than a year must end its term after being granted a vote of no confidence.

During his cabinet leadership, Natsir, who came from the Masyumi Party, made one of the most well-known policies in history, namely that Indonesia registered itself to become a member of the United Nations. Not only that, Natsir also issued an economic policy called the Benteng Program. The Benteng program itself is aimed at local entrepreneurs so they can be more advanced.

Apart from that, Natsir’s cabinet was the first party to try to hold general elections. Even though in the end his leadership period had to end before the election could take place.

2. Sukiman Cabinet (27 April 1951- 3 April 1952)

In the history of liberal democracy in Indonesia, the Masyumi party has occupied the highest seat in parliament three times and formed a cabinet. This cabinet that has been in power for almost a full year is the second cabinet that has succeeded in leading Indonesia in the era of liberal democracy.

Each cabinet has its own focus in issuing policies. In the Sukiman cabinet, several policies were born, such as standardization of minimum wages, establishment of labor union regulations, and holiday allowances (THR).

3. Wilopo Cabinet (3 April 1952 – 3 June 1953)

After the Masyumi party came to power twice in a row, the Wilopo Cabinet, which came from the Indonesian National Party, finally won the lead so that it is entitled to occupy the highest seat in the parliament.

This cabinet, which has been in power for two months longer than the Sukiman Cabinet, issued the same policy as the previous cabinet, namely efforts to prepare for Indonesia’s first general election. However, his fate was no different from that of his predecessor cabinet, which failed to hold elections because it had to end first through a vote of no confidence.

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

After the failure of the Wilopo Cabinet, the Indonesian National Party again managed to lead a cabinet with a new name, namely the Ali Sastroamidjojo Cabinet. During Ali Sastroamidjojo’s leadership, Indonesia successfully hosted the first Asian-African Conference (KAA) which was located in Bandung.

It didn’t stop there, Ali Sastroamidjojo’s cabinet also issued a policy known as the Ali Baba Economic System. This program that focuses on the economy has the goal of creating local entrepreneurs through organizing training to granting credit and import permits.

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

The cabinet that ruled during the next liberal democracy was the Burhanuddin Harahap Cabinet. This cabinet, which came from Masyumi, was the only cabinet that was not disbanded due to a vote of no confidence by the existing party factions.

One of the great achievements ever made by the Burhanuddin Harahap Cabinet was the successful holding of elections and handing over the reins of power to the winner of the election. In the first 1955 elections in Indonesia, the Indonesian National Party won.

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

As the party that won the 1955 election, the Indonesian National Party has the right to form a cabinet to run its government. Ali Sastroamidjojo returned to represent the PNI as Prime Minister. In this second term of leadership, Ali Sastro did something that could be said to be brave. The Ali Sastro Cabinet decided to cancel the contents of the Round Table Conference (KMB) as a form of protest against the Dutch.

Although elected through a general election mechanism, this second Ali Sastro cabinet eventually had to end its term of office like its predecessor cabinet. The Ali Sastroamidjojo cabinet, which has been in power for more than a year, again faced a motion of no confidence.

7. Djuanda Cabinet (9 April 1957 – 5 July 1959)

Djuanda’s cabinet became the last cabinet in the liberal democracy era. Djuanda himself served on the basis of obtaining a mandate from President Soekarno. The cabinet that has been in power for the longest time during this liberal democracy has had several extraordinary achievements, including the issuance of the Djuanda Declaration.

The Djuanda Declaration itself was issued as a form of establishing the territorial boundaries of Indonesia’s seas. The end of Djuanda’s cabinet leadership came when President Soekarno issued a presidential decree. This decree also marked the end of liberal democracy in Indonesia.


The era of liberal democracy has long passed, many of the figures who filled it have long preceded us. As the younger generation who will continue the baton of their predecessors, of course we must recognize an important chapter in the history of our country.

Those are some discussions of liberal democracy, such as the definition of liberal democracy, the characteristics of liberal democracy, the advantages and disadvantages of liberal democracy. Hopefully all the discussion above can add insight as well as be useful for Sinaumed’s.

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