Update > Political Parties and Legitimacy

Political Parties and Legitimacy


Political parties are representative institutions that can promote the legitimacy of a political system. They articulate social, economic, and political interests in the form of coherent ideologies. They provide leadership at all levels of governance. They provide citizens with opportunities for participation and upwards social and political mobility. These functions have a major influence on politics and the way in which parties carry them out has an important effect on how legitimate a government appears to its citizens.

Ultimately, political parties compete to gain power to exercise control over the personnel and resources of the state. This function means that the legitimacy of political parties is interconnected with the legitimacy of the state. On the one hand, the legitimacy of a party transfers to the legitimacy of the state once/if they get into government. This is particularly true if parties’ internal structures are democratic, and candidates genuinely represent the interests and concerns of their constituents. On the other hand, parties that emerge successful in free and fair elections gain legitimacy through receiving a clear mandate to govern from the electorate.

As a result, political parties are important actors in the justification of political authority, selection of political leaders and the regulation of government power. Political parties also promote the legitimacy of the government through their role as an intermediary between policy makers and the interests and concerns of citizens. This role allows them to effectively channel the needs and aspirations of their constituents into government policy. Thus, ensuring that government policy is responsive and based on a legitimate mandate from the electorate. (Matlosa 2007:21)