When it was erroneously reported that Chairman Xi had changed the constitution to permit him to be “President for Life”, not only was this reporting half-truths, but it ignored an extremely important question, that of the effectiveness, and indeed usefulness of term limits.
This has obviously come up again, this time in the context of President Putin, and his desire to run in the next Presidential campaign, essentially by either giving him a “pass”, or simply removing term limits altogether.
I want go into intense details about all of this, but there are certainly a few interesting tidbits here, such as his brief role as Prime-Minister to break up his consecutive term, and his previous statement that he did not want to go back to Soviet era long term leaders. He has since corrected this statement with the opinion that now there is democracy, it is not the same as Soviet times. In many respects the similar can be said of China, with the current system nothing like Maoist times, and democratic centralism generally working quite well.
Of course the understandable argument for term-limits is that they restrict the potential for dictatorial regimes, or “dominant party systems”, many of which are a huge factor in less successful African countries, but like anything there is a flip side to this, with countries such as Singapore, Japan, and even Germany showing the benefits of longstanding stable governments.
Then we have the numerous, and extremely strong arguments against term-limits. The most important job in any country, and indeed most important person is the head of state (presidential), or head of government (non-presidential), so why on earth would you limit a potentially the best person for the job simply because of the imaginary threat of authoritarianism? There is simply no industry in the world where the best on their field are given time-limits. Age limits, perhaps, but term-limits simply do not make sense.
Let’s take the self-styled leader of the free world, and bastion of democracy that is the USA, which formalized term-limits shortly after the end of World War 2. We could look back over much of the 75 years since then, but we really do not need to go back that far. Trump one the election from Obama, a man generally considered one of the countries greatest, and most popular Presidents. We now know that exactly what followed. The Democratic Party put up a far inferior candidate in Hilary Clinton, and the world has since been treated to one of the most absurd Presidencies in history, namely that of Donald Trump. Does anyone seriously believe that Trump would have beaten Obama? He quite simply would not have.
And there’s the whole effectiveness of governance, China has been allowed the ability to grow into a financial powerhouse because it has had that stability, whilst in the USA the Democrats tried for 8 years trying to put Obamacare, AKA affordable healthcare into law, only to have Trump and the Republicans come in and rip up this amongst other policies. Without stability you will always have waring factions, and an inability to innovate and plan for the future, and this puts you at a disadvantage to your competitors and enemies.
The 21st century will be judged by results, and the early signs are that it will not be the USA that leads the way…..