A term limit
is a legal restriction that limits
the number of terms
a person may
serve in a particular elected office. Term limits are found usually
and semi-presidential systems
method to curb the potential for dictatorships, where a leader
effectively becomes "president for
". There are different types of term limits. Sometimes,
there is an absolute limit on the number of terms a person can
serve, while, in other cases, the restrictions are merely on the
number of consecutive
terms a person can serve.
Use of term limits
Term limits have a long history. Ancient
and Ancient Rome
, two early
civilizations which had elected offices
both imposed limits on some positions. In ancient Athenian democracy
, no citizen could
serve on the council of 500, or boule,
for two consecutive
annual terms, nor for more than two terms in his lifetime, nor be
head of the boule
more than once. In the Roman Republic
, a law was passed imposing a
limit of a single term on the office of censor
. The annual magistrates—tribune of the plebs
, and consul
forbidden reelection until a number of years had passed. (see
, Constitution of the Roman
Many modern presidential
employ term limits for their highest offices.
States placed a limit of two terms on its presidency by means of the
Amendment to the Constitution in 1951.
There are no term limits for Vice Presidency
members of Congress
, although there have
been calls for term limits for those offices. Under various
some state governors
and state legislators
term limits. Formal limits in America date back to the 1682
, and the colonial frame of government
the same year, authored by William Penn
and providing for triennial rotation of the provincial council, the
upper house of the colonial
. (See also term limits in the United
Russian Federation has a common rule for head of state which allows
the President of Russia to serve
more than two terms if they're not consecutive.
governors of federal
, the same two-term limit existed in the 1990s, but
since 2004 there have been no term limits for governors.
Term limits are also common in Latin
, where most countries are also presidential republics.
Early in the last century, the Mexican revolutionary Francisco
Madero popularized the slogan Sufragio Efectivo, no
(effective suffrage, no reelection). In keeping
with that principle, members of the Congress of Mexico
(the Chamber of Deputies
) 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
is limited to a single six-year term. This makes every
presidential election in Mexico a non-incumbent election.
Countries which 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. 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
Term limits may be divided into two broad categories: consecutive
and lifetime. With consecutive term limits, a legislator is limited
to serving a particular number of years in that particular office.
Upon hitting the limit in one office or chamber, a legislator may
run for election to the other chamber or leave the legislature.
After a set period of time (usually two years), the clock resets on
the limit, and the legislator may run for election to his/her
original seat and serve up to the limit again.
With lifetime limits, on the other hand, once a legislator has
served up to the limit, she/he may never again run for election to
that office. Lifetime limits are much more restrictive than
Offices of local government, such as a mayoralty
, may also have term limits. Examples include
Philadelphia, PA, New York City and Los Angeles, California.
- Robert Struble, Jr., Treatise on
Twelve Lights, chapter six, part II, "Rotation in History."
- 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,