Creating Political Legitimacy: Electoral Democracy versus Quality of Government
It is often held that the establishment of electoral democracy is key to the creation of political legitimacy. This article challenges this idea and presents an alternative. A large number of empirical studies reveals that electoral democracy has no necessary implications for the establishment of legitimacy. Even in the successful and stable Nordic democracies, there is scant evidence that legitimacy is created on the input side of the political system. For example political legitimacy in the former Yugoslavia broke down not because ethnic groups realized they would become permanent minorities, but because the new Croatian state violated citizens’ rights to the exercise of power. Legitimacy turns out to be created, maintained and destroyed not at the input but at the output side of the political system. Hence political legitimacy depends at least as much on the quality of government than on the capacity of electoral systems to create effective representation.
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