Presidential/leaders terms

Why does America have a two term limit on the president?

Does any other country limit the term of the leader?

America limits its presidents to two terms because it’s in the Constitution. The 22nd Amendment and all that.

Term limits for American politicians have been debated a lot in GD.

Originally it was a voluntary limit; the tradition having started when George Washington declined to run for a third term. Franklin Roosevelt broke with tradition and was elected four consecutive times. After he died, people decided (for a variety of reasons) that presidential term limits might be a good idea, so the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution was passed by Congress in 1947, and was ratified by the necessary two thirds of state legislatures in 1951. No other elected position in the federal government has term limits. Thus FDR was the only person to ever server more than two terms.

Probably. Though if we’re talking about countries other than the US we need to differentiate between heads of state and heads of government.

Almost every Latin American country limits the term of its president. See here for a summary.

Term limits are less common in parliamentary systems. In Japan the Liberal Democratic Party places a term limit on its parliamentary leader. Since the LDP leader has been Prime Minister most of the time since World War II, this has amounted to a de facto term limit for the Prime Minister. I don’t know whether any country combines parliamentary government with a formal, constitutional ministerial term limit.

Concerning the United States, in the aftermath of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s four election victories and 12 years in office, a coalition of Republicans and southern Democrats felt that his protracted tenure had contributed to the presidency growing too powerful, and they had sufficient strength in Congress and state legislatures at that time to amend the Constitution.

Thank you :slight_smile:

I believe that in Mexico, the President is limited to a single 6-year term in office.

If it had still been around, the Confederate States of America limited its president to one, 6-year term.

Not that the CSA lasted 6 years.

In Australia the *head of government * is the Prime Minister, who is the leader of the political party which commands a majority in the lower house of the Commonwealth Parliament, the House of Representatives. I don’t think there are any formal or statutory limitations on how long a Prime Minister may remain in office. There are some practical ones though:

  • at each general election he must win his own seat in the House of Representatives;
  • after each general election his party must continue to command a majority in the House of Representatives; and
  • the other members of his party must be happy for him to continue as leader.

Australia’s longest serving Prime Minister has been Sir Robert Menzies, whose second term as PM ran continuously from 19 December 1949 until 26 January 1966, a period of just over 16 years.

The *head of state * is Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia. Barring a move by Australia to become a republic, she will hold that position until her death or her abdication.

I understand that several former US presidents have suggested such a system.

Until President Featherstone and his goons had the constitution changed.

V’hamayvin Yavin (and those who understand, understand).

Zev Steinhardt

Iran is the only nation I personally know of that uses the exact same limit as the U.S., two four-year terms.

Of course, the Iranian presidency has become a rather unimportant position. The Supreme Leader holds the real power. He is unelected and rules for life.

The Canadian parliamentary system works much the same as the Australian one, as described by Cunctator. One point to bear in mind is that in the parliamentary system, the Prime Minister does not have a fixed term of office. The PM serves from the time the Crown appoints him/her, until the PM dies, resigns, or is dismissed by the Crown.

On Cunctator’s third point, that the Prime Minister must retain the confidence of his party, I think that all of the Canadian parties now have provisions in their internal constitutions requiring a leadership review at the party convention following a general election. That became a major issue a few years ago, where the Minister of Finance, Paul Martin, was challenging the Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien, for the leadership of the Liberal Party. Chrétien was considering running for a fourth term in office, but Martin had gradually built up a lot of support within the party rank and file, and it looked like there was a real chance Chrétien would lose the review. Eventually, he resigned towards the end of 2003, and Martin became Leader of the Liberals and automatically Prime Minister of Canada.

Margaret Thatcher ran into a similar situation in the U.K. at the end of her time in office. She didn’t lose a general election; rather, her policies lead to a caucus revolt. The caucus voted to let her go, and John Major took over as Conservative leader and PM.

The tenure of a Prime Minister in a parliamentary system tends to vary with the strength of the party system. Strong party discipline, such as Canada’s, tend to produce longer tenure in office; where the party discipline is looser, the prime ministers tend to have shorter terms.

Canada has had 21 Prime Ministers in the 137 years since Confederation in 1867, giving an average tenure of office of 6.5 years. The longest serving was Mackenzie King, who had a total time in office of 21 years, 5 months and 1 day. The shortest tenure was Prime Minister Tupper, who served a total of 2 months and 7 days.

The parliamentary system also tends to allow second chances to defeated prime ministers. It’s not uncommon in a parliamentary system for a prime minister to be defeated at the polls, serve some time as Leader of the Opposition, and then lead the party back into power. For that to happen, the defeated PM normally has to have considerable personal popularity, as well as strong support within the party. Winston Churchill was a good example - defeated in the 1945 general elections, he came back to power in the 1951 election.

Similarly in Canada, of our 21 Prime Ministers, four have been able to come back to power after a defeat: Macdonald; Meighen; Mackenzie King; and Trudeau.

This is quite different from the American system, where only Grover Cleveland was able to mount a come-back.

In Ireland the President (directly elected by the people) is limited to two seven-year terms.

The Taoiseach (prime minister, elected by parliament) has no formal term limit. He has to be re-elected by parliament following every parliamentary election (which are held at intervals of not more than five years, but usually more frequently). Parliament can vote him out of office at any time but, so long as he maintains the confidence of parliament, there is no limit to how long he can remain in office. Eamon de Valera was prime minister for sixteen years continously from 1932 to 1948, for three years from 1951 to 1954 and for further eight years from 1957 to 1965.

In general, for obvious reasons, the more difficult it is to remove a leader from office, the more likely that law or strong political convention will impose term limits. In a parliamentary system, the prime minister can be removed at any time if his policies do not command the confidence of parliament, whereas the President of the US can only be removed at four-year intervals, unless he commits “high crimes and misdemeanors” and is impeached. He cannot be impeached simply because congress doesn’t like his policies.

The danger of the presidency turning into a sort of populist elective monarchy is obvious, and the two-term limit is a good idea. FDR was the only president ever to breach the limit. Was this not very controversial at the time? Did his party, and commentators in general, not think this was very unwise? Did Roosevelt have to defend his decision to seek a third election in 1940 and, if so, what reason did he give?

The reason he gave for running for a third term is the war over in Europe. He said it would be unwise to change leaders at such a point as that. Whether that’s true, who knows?

His party was okay with it, but the Republicans weren’t so pleased. His challenger, Wendell L Wilkie, really only ran on the platform that a third presidential term was bad for the country. The other critique of FDR was his stance on WWII. Republicans wanted to keep American troops out of Europe, and so tried attacking FDR as he cozied up to Britain more and more. But eventually FDR vowed to keep our troops out of the war, and so Wilkie lost that argument against the Pres.
I’m doing this all from memory, so if something’s wrong, I’m sure someone’ll fill in the cracks.