Term limit

A term limit is a legal restriction that limits the number of terms an officeholder may serve in a particular elected office. When term limits are found in presidential and semi-presidential systems they act as a method of curbing the potential for monopoly, where a leader effectively becomes "president for life". This is intended to protect a democracy from becoming a de facto dictatorship. Sometimes, there is an absolute or lifetime limit on the number of terms an officeholder may serve; sometimes, the restrictions are merely on the number of consecutive terms he or she may serve.

History

Ancient

Term limits have a long history. Ancient Athens and Ancient Rome, two early classic republics, had term limits imposed on their elected offices as did the city-state of Venice.[1]

In ancient Athenian democracy, only offices selected by sortition were subject to term limits (one term of one year for each office, except members of the council of 500 (boule), where it was possible to serve two one-year terms, non-consecutively). Elected offices were all subject to possible re-election, although they were minoritarian, these positions were more prestigious and those requiring the most experience, such as military generals and the superintendent of springs.

In the Roman Republic, a law was passed imposing a limit of a single term on the office of censor. The annual magistratestribune of the plebs, aedile, quaestor, praetor, and consul—were forbidden reelection until a number of years had passed.[2] (see cursus honorum, Constitution of the Roman Republic). Also there was a term limit of 6 months for a dictator.

Modern

Many modern presidential republics employ term limits for their highest offices. The United States placed a limit of two terms on its presidency by means of the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution in 1951. There are no term limits for Vice Presidency, Representatives and Senators, although there have been calls for term limits for those offices. Under various state laws, some state governors and state legislators have term limits. Formal limits in America date back to the 1682 Pennsylvania Charter of Liberties, and the colonial frame of government of the same year, authored by William Penn and providing for triennial rotation of the Provincial Council, the upper house of the colonial legislature.[3] (See also term limits in the United States).

The Russian Federation has a rule for the head of state that allows the President of Russia to serve more than two terms if not consecutive (as in the case of Vladimir Putin). For governors of federal subjects, the same two-term limit existed until 2004, but now there are no term limits for governors.

Term limits are also common in Latin America, where most countries are also presidential republics. Early in the last century, the Mexican revolutionary Francisco Madero popularized the slogan Sufragio Efectivo, no Reelección (effective suffrage, no reelection). In keeping with that principle, members of the Congress of Mexico (the Chamber of Deputies and Senate) cannot be reelected for the next immediate term under article 50 and 59 of the Constitution of Mexico, adopted in 1917. Likewise, the President of Mexico is limited to a single six-year term, called the Sexenio. This makes every presidential election in Mexico a non-incumbent election.

Countries that operate a parliamentary system of government are less likely to employ term limits on their leaders. This is because such leaders rarely have a set "term" at all: rather, they serve as long as they have the confidence of the parliament, a period which could potentially last for life. Many parliaments can be dissolved for snap elections which means some parliaments can last for mere months while others can continue until their expiration dates. Nevertheless, such countries may impose term limits on the holders of other offices—in republics, for example, a ceremonial presidency may have a term limit, especially if the office holds reserve powers.

Types

Term limits may be divided into two broad categories: consecutive and lifetime. With consecutive term limits, an officeholder is limited to serving a particular number of terms in that particular office. Upon hitting the limit in one office, an officeholder may not run for the same office again (though he/she may run for any other elective office). After a set period of time (usually one term), the clock resets on the limit, and the officeholder may run for election to his/her original office and serve up to the limit again.

With lifetime limits, once an officeholder has served up to the limit, he/she may never again run for election to that office. Lifetime limits are much more restrictive than consecutive limits.

Notable examples

Relaxed term limits

Names indexed by surnamesImageCountries and localitiesOfficial positionsEarlier term limitsLater term limits
Bloomberg, MichaelUnited States; New York CityMayor (2002–13)2 terms of 4 years3 terms of 4 years from 2008 to 2010; 2 terms of 4 years since 2010
Cardoso, Fernando HenriqueBrazilPresident of Brazil (1995–2003)1 term of 5 years2 terms of 4 years since 1997
Chávez, HugoVenezuelaPresident of Venezuela (1999–2013)2 terms of 6 yearsUnlimited terms of 6 years since the 2009 amendment of the 1999 Venezuelan constitution
Clinton, BillUnited States; ArkansasGovernor of Arkansas (1979–81, 1983–92)2 consecutive terms of 2 years2 consecutive terms of 2 years until 1986, then 2 consecutive terms of 4 years
Chiang Kai-shekChina, Republic of (Mainland and Taiwan Eras)President (1948–49, 1950–75)2 terms of 6 yearsUnlimited terms of 6 years since 1960[4]
Lukashenko, AlexanderBelarusPresident (1994–present)2 terms of 5 yearsUnlimited terms of 5 years since 2004
Menem, CarlosArgentinaPresident of Argentina (1989–99)1 term of 6 years, re-eligible after 6 years2 terms of 4 years, re-eligible after 4 years; Menem was banned to reelection in 1999 because his first term was counted as one of 4
Museveni, YoweriUgandaPresident of Uganda (1986–present)2 terms of 5 yearsServed 2 terms of 5 years before 1995 constitution imposed 2-term limit. Served 2 additional terms of 5 years; constitution was revised in 2005, removing term limits
Park Chung-heeSouth KoreaPresident of South Korea (1962-1979)2 terms of 4 years3 terms of 4 years from 1969 to 1972; unlimited terms of 6 years since 1972
Patton, Paul E.United States; KentuckyGovernor of Kentucky (1995–2003)1 term of 4 years2 terms of 4 years
Perón, Juan DomingoArgentinaPresident of Argentina (1946–55, 1973–74)1 term of 6 years, re-eligible after 6 yearsUnlimited terms of 6 years. In 1973 he was elected to 1 term of 4 years.
Putin, VladimirRussiaPresident of Russia (1999–2008, 2012–present)2 terms of 4 years2 terms of 6 years since 2008
Rahmon, EmomaliTajikistanPresident of Tajikistan (1994–present)1 terms of 5 years1 term of 7 years since 1999, 2 terms of 7 years since 2003, term count reset in 2006, all term limits removed in 2016.[5][6]
Rhee SyngmanSouth KoreaPresident of South Korea (1948-1960)2 terms of 4 yearsUnlimited terms of 4 years since 1954
Sharif, NawazPakistanPrime Minister of Pakistan (1990–93, 1997–99, 2013–2017)2 terms of 5 yearsUnlimited terms of 5 years since 2011
Uribe, ÁlvaroColombiaPresident (2002–10)1 term of 4 years2 terms of 4 years since 2004
Xi JinpingChina; Communist PartyPresident (2013–present)2 terms of 5 yearsUnlimited terms of 5 years since 2018[7]
Yuan ShikaiChina, Republic of (Beiyang Government)President (1912–15, 1916)2 terms of 5 years[8]Unlimited terms of 10 years since 1914[9]

Tightened term limits

Names indexed by surnamesImageCountries and localitiesOfficial positionsEarlier term limitsLater term limits
Brown, JerryUnited States; CaliforniaGovernor (1975–83) (2011–2019)No term limit2 terms of 4 years
Castro, RaúlCuba; Communist PartyPresident of the Council of State (2008–2018)No term limit2 consecutive terms of 5 years since 2013
dos Santos, José EduardoAngolaPresident of Angola (1979–2017)No term limit2 terms of 5 years since 2010
Mugabe, RobertZimbabwePresident of Zimbabwe (1987–2017)No term limit2 terms of 5 years since 2013
Sall, MackySenegalPresident of Senegal (2012–present)2 terms of 7 years2 terms of 5 years since 2016
Santos, Juan ManuelColombiaPresident of Colombia (2010–2018)2 terms of 4 years1 term of 4 years since 2018

People who would have run afoul of modern term limits

Names indexed by surnamesImageCountries and localitiesOfficial positionsEarlier term limitsLater term limits
Ben-Zvi, YitzhakIsraelPresident of Israel (1952–63)No term limit2 consecutive terms of 5 years from 1964 to 1998; 1 term of 7 years since 1998
Carmona, ÓscarPortugalPresident of Portugal (1926–51)No term limit2 consecutive terms of 5 years since 1976
Kekkonen, UrhoFinlandPresident of Finland (1956–82)No term limit2 consecutive terms of 6 years since 1991
Mitterrand, FrançoisFrancePresident of France (1981–95)No term limit2 terms of 5 years since 2008
Roosevelt, Franklin DelanoUnited StatesPresident of the United States (1933–45)No term limitGenerally 2 terms of 4 years since 1951, but see Twenty-second Amendment to the United States Constitution for details of even greater restriction.
SuhartoIndonesiaPresident of Indonesia (1968–98)No term limit2 terms of 5 years since 1999
Tomás, AméricoPortugalPresident of Portugal (1958–74)No term limit2 consecutive terms of 5 years since 1976

See also

References

  1. O'Keefe, Eric (2008). "Term Limits". In Hamowy, Ronald (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism. The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE; Cato Institute. pp. 504–06. doi:10.4135/9781412965811.n308. ISBN 978-1-4129-6580-4. LCCN 2008009151. OCLC 750831024. ... Political scientist Mark Petracca has outlined the importance of rotation in the ancient Republics of Athens, Rome, Venice, and Florence. The Renaissance city-state of Venice [also] required rotation....
  2. Robert Struble Jr., Treatise on Twelve Lights, chapter six, part II, "Rotation in History." Archived 11 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  3. Francis N. Thorpe, ed., The Federal and State Constitutions, Colonial Charters, and other Organic Laws..., 7 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1909) 5:3048, 3055–56, 3065.
  4. Based on the amended Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion until it was abolished in 1991.
  5. Konstantin Parshin (23 April 2013). "Tajikistan: Can Rahmon Keep Running?". Eurasianet. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  6. Peter Leonard (23 May 2016). "Tajikistan Vote Allows President to Rule Indefinitely". ABC News. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  7. Liangyu, ed. (25 February 2018). "CPC proposes change on Chinese president's term in Constitution". Xinhuanet. Archived from the original on 25 October 2018. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
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