Liberal Democracy

Liberal Democracy

Liberal democracy is a liberal political ideology and a form of government in which representative democracy operates under the principles of classical liberalism. Also called Western democracy, it is characterised by elections between multiple distinct political parties, a separation of powers into different branches of government, the rule of law in everyday life as part of an open society, a market economy with private property, and the equal protection of human rights, civil rights, civil liberties and political freedoms for all people.

To define the system in practice, liberal democracies often draw upon a constitution, either formally written or uncodified, to delineate the powers of government and enshrine the social contract. After a period of sustained expansion throughout the 20th century, liberal democracy became the predominant political system in the world.

Liberal democracy is a form of government in which representative democracy operates under the principles of liberalism, i.e. protecting the rights of the individual, which are generally enshrined in law.

A liberal democracy may take various constitutional forms: it may be a constitutional monarchy (Australia, Belgium, Canada, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the United Kingdom) or a republic (France, India, Italy, Ireland, the United States). It may have a parliamentary system (Australia, Canada, India, Israel, Ireland, Italy, the United Kingdom), a presidential system (Indonesia, the United States) or a semi-presidential system (France, Romania).

Liberal democracies usually have universal suffrage, granting all adult citizens the right to vote regardless of race, gender or property ownership. However, historically some countries regarded as liberal democracies have had a more limited franchise, and some do not have secret ballots. There may also be qualifications such as voters being required to register before being allowed to vote. The decisions made through elections are made not by all of the citizens but rather by those who are eligible and who choose to participate by voting.

Features of Liberal Democracy

  • A liberal democracy usually practices a bi-party or multi-party system which allows the parties to operate without any fear of repercussions or reprisals from any quarter.
  • Power is not left in the hands of a few people. It is distributed. Liberal democracies operate on such principles as separation of powers, checks and balances, rule of law, and so on.
  • Liberal democracy operates under the principle of majority rule. In the taking of major national decisions, the will of the majority is obtained though a free and fair elections or referendums.
  • Interests of the minority are respected and attempts are made to protect those interests.
  • A liberal democracy upholds the freedom of the press and media.
  • Pressure groups are also allowed to freely operate without any fear of being victimized.
  • The constitution recognizes and protects rights of individuals, such as the freedom of association, the right to life, right to own property, and so on.
  • A liberal democracy also allows for an impartial judiciary to ensure that the rights of citizens are not trampled upon.

[Attributions and Licenses]


This is a lesson from the tutorial, Structure and Systems of Government and you are encouraged to log in or register, so that you can track your progress.

Log In

Share Thoughts