Concepts of Government- Legitimacy

Government Studies on OldNaija

Definition of Legitimacy

The word legitimacy is coined from the Latin word “legitimus” which means according to law. Therefore, legitimacy can be defined as the recognition and acceptance which the citizens give their leaders to rule them. For a government to rule successfully in a state, it must enjoy the full support and popular acceptance of the electorates or citizens. This is the reason why legitimacy/ political legitimacy remain an important features of a government. A legitimate government comes to power through the consent of the people by voting it in. Many people believe that legitimacy cannot be found in a coercive government (military government). However, the military can enjoy legitimacy by making popular government policies. In a legitimate government, obedience is not based on fear of sanctions but on loyalty to the ruler and the state.

Factors That Determines Legitimacy

The following factors show the way by which a government can be a legitimate one.

1. Free and fair election– Election is the most common way of installing a government in power in a democratic state. If a government is installed with a free and fair election, such government will have the people’s mandate to govern them.

2. Good governance– If the administration of the state is run by the government efficiently, effectively and constitutionally, such government will be recognized by the people. In other words, people tend to recognize a government that provides the basic needs of the people such as good roads, water, security and so on.

3. Good Leadership– A leader that posses good qualities and character will be supported and recognised by his people.

4. Economic Development– If the economic development of a state is on a high scale, people will accept and support the government.

5. Mass or Popular Participation– The more the citizens participates in the affairs of a state, the more the government earn recognition and support.

6. Customs and Tradition– Respect for the customs and traditions of the society can earn a government legitimacy.


* C. C. Dibie; Essential Government For Senior Secondary Schools; 3rd edition; 2008; Ado Ekiti; Tonad Publishers


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