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Liberalism worldwide

This article gives information on liberalism in diverse countries around the world. It is an overview of parties that adhere more or less (explicitly) to the ideas of political liberalism and is therefore a list of liberal parties around the world.

Introduction

One can argue what a liberal party is. In the list below, a liberal party is defined as a political party that adheres to the basic principles of political liberalism. This is a broad political current, that includes both right of center (or free market) liberals and left of center liberals. All liberal parties emphasize individual rights, but they differ in their opinion on an active role for the state.

After liberals have gained power and realized their first reforms, one often sees a divergence within their ranks:

  • Some are satisfied and rest apart with these reforms, developing into liberal conservatives or simply becoming conservatives, mostly still adhering to free market policies. An example is the Liberal Democratic Party (Japan). These parties are not included in the overview.
  • The mainstream of liberalism continues on the path of gradual reforms, embraces electoral democracy as a basic liberal position and organizes itself in the form of the traditional liberal parties. These parties are included in the overview.
    • Part of this mainstream is more right-wing, emphasizing classical liberal issues and concentrating on economic liberalism. This is, for example, the origin of libertarianism. Many people consider this a separate political theory/current. Others argue that these parties are still liberal parties. Therefore they are included in the overview.
    • Another part of the mainstream is more left-wing. It embraces and emphasizes democratic reforms and often strives for social reforms. These parties sometimes prefer to name themselves radical or progressive liberal and are generally quite positive about the role of the state in the economy, by advocating Keynesianism for example, while continuing to support a market economy. United States liberalism developed out of this tradition. Progressive liberals tend to use labels such as Radical, Progressive, Free-minded or simply Democratic instead of Liberal. These parties are included in the overview.
      • For some liberals this doesn’t go far enough: they joined social democratic parties. They are not included in the list.
  • Next to these development one sees the rise of new centrist or pragmatic parties that share liberal values and develop into liberal or similar parties. These parties are included in the overview too.
  • Finally one sees liberals joining parties with a broader political range. This happens especially in countries where the electoral system favors a two-party system.

Note: In some cases the liberal current has steered into a populist direction (e.g. the Freedom Party of Austria), while in other cases populist parties have adopted the word "liberal" in their names (e.g. the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and the Lithuanian Liberal Democratic Party. These parties have only a tenuous connection - if any - to liberalism.

Many liberal or similar parties are members of the Liberal International and/or of its regional partners, like the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party and the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats. Generally, membership in these international organizations is an indication that a party is indeed liberal. Therefore, all members are listed. However, some of them are quite centrist parties whose liberal character is disputed by some.

International organizations of parties

Parliamentary parties and other parties with substantial support

This list includes also parties which were represented in the last previous legislature and still exists as well as some banned or exiles parties (Burma, Cuba). Liberals might be active in other parties, but that is no reason to include a party.
See the remarks above about the criteria. Minor parties are listed below

Africa

Liberalism is a relatively new current for Africa. Traditionally it only existed more or less in Egypt, Senegal and especially South Africa.

The Americas

In many Latin American countries, liberalism and radicalism have been associated with generally left-of-center political movements such as Colombia's Liberal Party, historically concerned mostly with effecting government decentralization and regional autonomy (liberals were influential in the total dissolution of at least two defunct countries, the United Provinces of Central America and Gran Colombia) and separation of church and state. At times, ironically enough, the anti-clerical and secularist stances promoted by Latin American liberals have resulted in limitations on the civil rights of clergy or others associated with the Church (as in Mexico, where law still prohibits priests from public office). Liberalism in North America has a different background.

Asia

Liberalism has or had some tradition in some countries. Nowadays it is a growing current in East Asia, but in many of these countries liberals tend not to use the label liberal.
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Georgia, Russia, and Turkey are listed under Europe.

Europe

In general, liberalism in Europe is a political movement that supports a broad tradition of individual liberties and constitutionally-limited and democratically accountable government. This usually encompasses the belief that government should act to alleviate poverty and other social problems, but not through radical changes to the structure of society. European liberals are divided on the degree of government intervention in economy, but generally they favor limited intervention.

In Northern European countries, it refers to somebody who emphasizes individual liberty in economical, social, cultural and ethical topics and a free market policy with some degree of government intervention. It generally does not have the particular connotations of radicalism that the word carries in the United States, though it does not exclude them either.

In France and in Southern Europe, the word is used either to refer to the traditional liberal anti-clericalism or to economic liberalism. However, in recent years in France, the word is being increasingly used by proponents of laissez-faire capitalism and minarchists to describe themselves; in reaction, ultra-libéral is a pejorative term aimed by a large section of the French left-wing against those whom they regard as having extreme capitalist views. The more moderate form of political liberalism in France was long associated more with the Radical Party, leading to the use of the term radicals to refer to political liberals. The French Radicals tend to be more statist than most European liberals, but share the liberal values on other issues.

In France and in Southern Europe, the word liberal does not always include the suggestion of general support for individual rights that it carries in Northern Europe. More, in those countries liberalism is associated with the right-wing, as it is also in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and Switzerland, while it is more closely associated with the left-wing in the United Kingdom, which has a political history in some ways similar with that of the United States, and in some Scandinavian countries. Anyway it is to remember that, before the rise of democratic socialism and of social democracy, liberals were the left-wing opposed to the right-wing conservatives. In many countries liberals were replaced by social-democrats or pulled towards the centre or the right-wing. Liberal ideas were absorbed by the conservatives concerning the economy and the individualist vision of men and society, especially in those countries in which liberals disappeard as an independent political force.

In general European liberals are divided between conservative liberals, social liberals and liberals combing both elements of conservative liberalism (especially on economic issues) and social liberalism (especially on moral issues). In European countries, liberals tend to label themselves either as liberals, or as radicals, centrists or democrats (though some would dispute the liberal character of the Northern European centrist parties). The European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party (ELDR) is a mixture of all these brands of liberalism.

Oceania

Liberalism has a strong tradition in both Australia and New Zealand.

  • In Australia, the Liberal Party is a party considered to be of the centre-right. Within the Liberal Party of Australia, conservatism and monetarist economics are both are in a position of dominance. Many would argue that this party is indeed a liberal party, simply a classical liberal party and that it is the perception of what liberalism is that has changed, not the Liberal Party (which promotes the free market approach that liberals worldwide used to promote before the 20th century). Other would stress conservatism as its ideology. The term small-l liberal generally refers to someone who champions civil liberties and progressive causes such as Australian republicanism and reconciliation with Indigenous Australians, as in parties such as the Australian Democrats, which began its life as a fusion of social-liberals disaffected with the Liberal Party. Small-l liberals are becoming less and less visible members of the Liberal Party. (Main article: Australia).
  • In New Zealand, Liberalism is not organized anymore. Liberalism nowadays refers to a support for individual liberties and limited government. The term is generally used with a reference to a particular policy area, e.g. "market liberalism" or "social liberalism". Unqualified liberalism is less common; in its extreme form it is known by the American term libertarianism. The left of centre New Zealand Democratic Party takes a more or less progressive liberal position in the spectrum, but lost popular support. ACT New Zealand is a classical liberal or libertarian party. (Main article: Liberalism in New Zealand).
  • In the Solomon Islands, the Solomon Islands Liberal Party considers itself a liberal party.

Non-parliamentary liberal parties

External links

See also

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