Legitimacy as a Necessary Condition to Govern a Country

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 2047 |

Page: 1|

11 min read

Published: Mar 1, 2019

Words: 2047|Page: 1|11 min read

Published: Mar 1, 2019

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Significance of Legitimacy
  3. Political Legitimacy in the Case of Botswana
  4. Conclusion
  5. Bibliography


According to Max Weber (1968), legitimacy is power in which its acquisition and exercise conforms to established law, power which interprets legal rules and is rational. As such it emphasizes rule of law, constitutionalism and democracy. It is arguably easier to say that legitimacy has brought international recognition in the sense that the United Nations recognizes such states for issues of international trade, political stability, peace and so forth. In the past, most African countries faced a crisis of political legitimacy. This crisis was a manifest in loss of faith among African citizens because of the elites; people in power were abusing power engaging in corruption which led to the perception that those in the political office were living the high life whilst the latter ordinary people suffered. It is with no doubt that in a government setting, political legitimacy is the key to a democratic state that ought to drive and control the use of government resources efficiently. It is a tool that is necessary to safe guard that the rights of citizens are not stepped on and ensure power is not abused by those in authority.

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This paper will be arguing the necessity of political legitimacy in governing a country. To pave way forward to this writing, it is of greater importance to decode the significance of legitimacy in governing a country with examples of legitimate governed states. Political legitimacy is considered a basic condition for governing, without which a government will suffer legislative deadlocks and collapse.

Significance of Legitimacy

Political legitimacy has contributed so much to increased levels of international recognition and relations in terms of economic investments. Essentially, where there is legitimacy there is political stability consequently economic growth through international trade, no country would want to invest in a nation where there is political instability. A legitimate country earns a certain reputation in the world; it is safe, by the book and peaceful. As such, it is very easy to have investments all over the world to enhance developments in the country for the better. Taking an example of Botswana’s beef and diamonds exports to other countries; these are Botswana’s major economic sources and they are doing relatively well because of how stable the government is unlike in countries such as Liberia, Syria and Somalia and Zimbabwe.

It has also led to division of labor or rather power. The political legitimacy of a civil government derives the three arms of government namely the legislative, judicial, executive. These were combined to serve for the national common good. Botswana is governed by the constitution which has stipulated all the duties of the three arms of government to ensure maximum efficiency and also to hold the government accountability if something is to go wrong. Section 95 of the Constitution talks about duties of the arms and also checks and balances to ensure that power is used accordingly in the legal framework to serve the best interests of the people.

It promotes democracy in the form of civil legitimacy. In a democracy, government is by the people for the people, this is why the elected government abides by democratic principles in governing, and thus is legally accountable to its people. More so that democracy preaches a government of the people by the people for the people. It is thereby of importance to lead a democratic nation where rights are protected and nation’s resources. Democracy is seen through the existence of free and fair elections to all citizens. (Patberg, 2013)

Civil legitimacy can be granted through different measures for accountability than voting, such as financial transparency and stake-holder accountability. In the international system another method for measuring civil legitimacy is through accountability to international human rights norms. (Aristotle, 2002)

Political legitimacy also instills trust in the people in authority by its citizens. As such, if the people are so trusting on the government it is easier to maintain peace and order. It is easier for moral grounds of cooperation and obedience from subordinates. Legitimacy binds the citizens and its government together to be one united country. It acts as a form of unifying the people in a country in essence encouraging peace and stability. In a setting where power is used accordingly and there is fair distribution of resources in the country, people are not forced to start political riots as a form of begging the country to do things the right way. Taking a situation of Zimbabwe where the citizens were fed up with Robert Mugabe’s ruling and started going all out to get rid of him and eventually succeeded. The erosion of political legitimacy built to crisis proportions because authorization regimes did not provide procedures for citizens to peacefully express such grievance especially to turn unpopular leaders out of office. The power of an angry mob of citizens is more powerful than anything and the government needs to do the right thing by the law and not ill-treat its people. This is why a legitimate government is of necessity to properly govern a country to avoid situations of political unrests and so on.

Legitimacy exists to promote rule of law through constitutionalism. The modern political concept of constitutionalism establishes the law as supreme over the private will, by integrating nationalism, democracy, and limited government. The political legitimacy of constitutionalism derives from popular belief and acceptance that the actions of the government are legitimate because they abide by the law ordered in the constitution. According to the political scientist Carl Joachim Friedrich, dividing political power among the organs of government, constitutional law effectively restrains the actions of the government. That is to say, it has opened a platform for checks and balances where organs can keep track in making sure that power is not abused in office but rather used efficiently and effectively. (Friedrich, 1901)

Political Legitimacy in the Case of Botswana

In the era that we are living in, every nation wants to adapt a culture of efficiency and effectiveness through democracy, involving its citizens in the decision making process of issues that may affect them as a whole. Botswana as one of the profoundly developing countries has adopted this culture of legitimacy.

Botswana has been seen as one of the most legitimate nations amongst a lot of countries in Africa and world-wide. It has profoundly developed in the direction in which it has reached good governance. Though the ideas of adopting such regimes of democracy, rule of law and civil legitimacy have been great ideas, there has been a shortfall to a certain extent. It has constitution which governs the country, it acts as a form of rule of law, and nobody can claim to be above the law and cannot break the law under any circumstances. As such, this constitution is there to control and direct the powers of the three arms of government. It states their functions and limitations. This way it serves civil legitimacy because everything is done by the book accordingly in fairness and equality. No individual’s rights are to be stepped on for as long as there is the constitution.

In Botswana there are free elections to all, this clearly shows that every individual has been given utter most privilege to vote a certain individual they would like in authority or rather who they feel can deliver better. The elections are fair, legitimate. So we can say that democracy truly is being exercised in Botswana. In essence that is why unlike other countries Botswana has not yet experienced civil war or political instability because it is a fair and right nation.

Legitimacy is a necessary condition to govern a country accordingly because it promotes good governance which ensures that powers are not abused and public resources are used efficiently and effectively with even distribution all over the country. This is why in promoting legitimacy, public participation also be encouraged because the only way the government can properly govern is when they know people’s needs, agrivience and so on.

Transversely in different literature scholars hold a collective interpretation that participation results in better decision making. Kandil (2017) argues that Public participation contribute positively to decision making process because the Government has expurgated information – in the form of facts, values, and perspectives obtained through public contribution – to bring to bear on the decision process. The population of Botswana is comprised of people with spectrum cultures and beliefs. Therefore making the public a cornerstone of decision making process reduces chances of inefficient and ineffective decision making process. This argument is anchored on the fact that the ordinary citizens know their needs and priorities better than the elites. Furthermore (Kandil, 2017) also raised a point that public participation encourages sustainable and implementable decisions. In the 21st century countries are faced with challenges of scarce resources to accommodate growing population and able to compete with other countries. Involvement of citizen’s priorities in decision making can be seen as savior or the messiah to scarce resources. Only priorities and aspirations brought to table by citizens represent realities on the ground, hence making implementation of decision realistic. To make implementable decisions the Government should engage other stakeholders in order to avoid making frivolous and vexatious.

Put forward that effective public participation encourages transparency. Transparency and participation complement each other. Transparency paves a way for efficient and effective public participation. Transparency, participation and accountability are ingredients of democracy. Lack of transparency in government processes does not only weaken the rule of law and democracy in Botswana but also brings about corruption. Frail transparency cuts the umbilical cord between the citizens and the Government hence encouraging looting of nation’s resources by the state. And this is common in Botswana.

Botswana as a democratic state seeks to involve different stakeholders in public plans or democratizing government. Citizen Participatory in Botswana did not bring results as they were anticipated. As far as statistics show, there is lack of participation in Botswana in a lot of government plans such as budget processes. Botlhale, (2013, page7) Stated that one of the participants of Budget Pitsos in 2010 complained that they were given little time to air their views. Limited debate time, lack of technical skills by the members of the parliament and lack of interest in public affairs are some of the problems that participatory is faced with. It is not too early for Botswana to give up on democratizing its nation. Benchmarking from other countries is necessary to really try being a practical legitimate nation rather than legitimacy being fluid or theoretical.

In addition, through the contribution of citizens in the preparation of policies and decisions that may affect them such as the public budget, this ought to have a degree of enhancement in the citizen’s role as active, critical, demanding and responsible members of society. It shows citizen accountability to their responsibilities. They can hold the administrator and politicians accountable by monitoring how the decisions taken jointly are implemented and have been rightfully implemented. Similarly, public participation in the formulation of a state budget tends to lead budget priorities being revised. By revising the budget, this can impact positively on the state and its citizens as the resulting outcome reflects an improvement in the quality of how resources are being distributed in the country.

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Political legitimacy is a reform that has attracted attention from countries. The main forte of it lies on the concept that a united decision making is efficient and effective. Involving various stakeholders completely in public planning, a country may have a successful harvest from it. In addition, benchmarking from other countries is necessary to really try being a practical legitimate nation rather than legitimacy being fluid or theoretical.


  • Bratton M &Walle N., 1997. Democratic Experiments In Africa. United Kingdom: Cambridge university press
  • Brexton, A., 2007. The Economics of Transparency in Politics.. Hampshire: Ashgate Publishing,Ltd.
  • Botlhale, E., 2013. Extending Budgetary Participation beyond Budget. Development Policy Review,, pp. 717-735.
  • Kandil, S., 2017. Public Participation Guide: Introduction to Public Participation, Washington: United States Environmental Protection Agency
  • Lawinski, M., Participation and Sustainable development in Europe. [Online] Available at:
  • Mughan A & Patterson S.,1992. Political Leadership In Democratic Societies. United States of America: Nelson-Hall publishers
  • Sedibe, S.J., 2010. Governance in the 21st Century: A guide for developing Countries. London: SAGE Publication
  • Shapiro, V. R. a. I., 2012. Guide to transparency in Government Reports. Why are budget reports important and what should they include, pp. 14-24.
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Benefits of transparency in government. (2023, January 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 22, 2024, from
“Benefits of transparency in government.” GradesFixer, 12 Jan. 2023,
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