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Determinants of Democratic Legitimacy in South Asia: Politics, Integrity or Effectiveness of Governance?

Asia
Democracy
Elections
Governance
Government
Corruption
Policy Implementation
Akram Hossain
Universitetet i Bergen
Akram Hossain
Universitetet i Bergen
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Abstract

In this paper, I measure the responsiveness of government to public concerns based on three normative criteria- input, throughput, and output. A democratic political system draws its legitimacy by being responsive to citizens’ needs and aspirations. The input includes democratic rights and political participation, the output is concerned with political decisions or policies that ensure service delivery, and the throughput denotes the governance process that includes transparency, fairness, and accountability. Public preference shifts from input towards output, indicating higher importance of service delivery and effectiveness of governance. This paper aims to explain the legitimacy of democratic governance with relative importance among the three modes of responsiveness. How do people perceive the legitimacy of a democratic political system? Do they only consider electoral democracy, i.e. input politics? Are they concerned about misgovernance, i.e. integrity? Are they satisfied if they are well-served, i.e. government effectiveness? A synergic relationship is evident in the interaction between input and output, where one increases the legitimacy of the other. More precisely, a better quality of outputs compensates for the deficit in input and the vice-versa. However, the problems in the throughput process (e.g., corruption, inequality) curtails the legitimacy of the governance system as a whole. This study sheds light on the democratic legitimacy from this three-dimensional system theory perspective using data from the Citizen Trust survey that covers three flawed democracies in South Asia: Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.