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Unit 1

1.8 and 1.9 Political Legitimacy and Sustaining It

3 min readdecember 26, 2020

kelly-cotton

Kelly Cotton


AP Comparative Government 🗳️

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These topics once again go hand in hand so we will study them together. You will have 2️⃣ tasks: define legitimacy and describe the source of legitimacy, and then describe how governments maintain legitimacy.

Legitimacy

Legitimacy is when a government's constituents believe their government has the right to use power in the way it does. Legitimacy is important in both authoritarian 👑regimes and democratic 🙋🏾‍♀️regimes!

Sources of Legitimacy

Now that we have a definition, we need to understand where this legitimacy comes from. Sources of legitimacy for both authoritarian 👑and democratic 🙋🏾‍♀️regimes can come from popular elections, tradition, economic success, religion, constitutions, and/or the dominant political party's endorsement. Let's explore the current sources of legitimacy for each of our countries of study.
  • The UK 🇬🇧—Tradition and stability. Keep calm and carry on
  • Russia🇷🇺—Tradition and nationalism. Pre-dates Russia's constitution and enormous pride in political and economic advances, especially since the end of the Cold War.
  • China🇨🇳—Revolution and economic growth. Mao and the second largest GDP in the world give legitimacy.
  • Iran🇮🇷—Revolution and religion. The 1979 religious revolution can be traced back to this revolution and the traditions of Shia Islam.
  • Mexico🇲🇽—Revolution and constitution. First social revolution of the 20th century, and a great deal of pride in the creation of the constitution as a result of the revolution.
  • Nigeria🇳🇬—Independence and constitution. Big role in the development of Africa and their arrival at independence from British rule. Very proud of 1999 constitution and the expansion of political freedoms.

Maintaining Legitimacy

Even from the list above we can see that these are sources of legitimacy for current/modern regimes. This indicates that legitimacy must be maintained, and this can be done in a variety of ways from strong economic growth, political efficacy (participation of citizens in government), charismatic leadership, as well as expansion of rule of law. Let me give you an example.
When you think of Russia 🇷🇺, you probably think immediately of their leader Vladimir Putin riding shirtless on horses. He is charismatic 😍 You may think this is silly, but he embodies a strong sense of pride in Russian nationalism and he legitimizes his power through his charisma and ability to defend Russia against western influence.
Think about legitimacy. If you can maintain legitimacy, then it can be lost. Let's talk about what can cause a regime to lose legitimacy.
Regime can lose legitimacy because of corruption, lack of free and fair elections, one party domination, an economic depression, or a major social strife (for example, an ethnic clash). Once again, because this is a course of application, let us look at some examples in our course countries.
  • Russia 🇷🇺—mass protests against electoral fraud in the 2011 elections, leading to mass arrests of opposition party members.
  • The UK 🇬🇧—Brexit has caused much political and economic strife in the UK and caused the Conservative Party to lose legitimacy as they struggled with how to accomplish the Brexit vote.
  • China 🇨🇳—99.3% conviction rate has been used by President Xi Jinping to increase punishment of activists who have been protesting slowing economic growth.

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👑Unit 1: Political Systems, Regimes, and Governments
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