In ordinary language, legitimacy can be defined as the approval of the authority.

In government, legitimacy refers to the acceptance and recognition of the ruler's right and authority by the people of a country.

Citizens typically view a government that was elected lawfully and democratically as being legitimate.

Several factors determine the legitimacy of a government including, popular support, respect for rule of law, good governance, adherence to the constitution, and popular participation.

1. Popular support: The legitimacy of a government is highly dependent on the popular support of its citizens.

The legitimacy of the government may be questioned if the people stop supporting it.

2. Popular participation: Citizens and different interest groups must be permitted to take part in political activities for a government to be considered legitimate

If citizens are not allowed to participate in political activities like elections, the government of the day may become illegitimacy.

3. Good government: Good government will always be accorded legitimacy while the bad government will eventually lose their legitimacy.

4. International recognition: The legitimacy of a government is also affected by whether or not other countries recognized it.

If other countries do not recognize it as being legitimate, the government may find it hard to take part in international trade and other international activities.

The foreign policies adopted by a government determines the international recognition it gets from other government.

5. Respect for fundamental human rights: This is another major determinant of a country's legitimacy.

If a government has utter disregard for fundamental human rights, it may lose its widespread support and legitimacy.

6. Sovereignty of the state: No individual or group of individuals can unilaterally declare themselves to be the government a state that is ruled by another state.

In a state that is not sovereign, no legitimate government can exist. It is impossible for a legitimate government to form in a region that is still governed by a state.

Hence, for legitimacy, all governments must rule over a sovereign state.

7. Adherence to the provisions of the constitution: All governments must abide by the rules set forth in the state's constitution of the state to remain legitimate.

If a government violates the provisions of the constitution, it may become illegitimate.

For instance, if the constitution only permits a person to serve two terms in office, the government will automatically lose its legitimacy if its decide to rule for a third term unless the constitution is amended.


8. Means of acquisition of power: The means through which a government acquires power will determine its legitimacy.

If a government acquires power through a free and fair election, then there is no doubt that the government is legitimate.

However, if the government acquires power through coercion, it will be considered illegitimate. 

This explains why the most military takeover of government is usually regarded as illegitimate.

To summarize, the 8 factors determining the legitimacy of a government are popular support, popular participation, good government, international recognition, respect for fundamental human right, sovereignty of the state, adherence to the provisions constitution of a state, and the means of power acquisition.

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