Some countries have fixed terms, where the election is set to be held a certain time after the last election, whereas some (like the UK) have the election date set at the convenience of the current prime minister, with some fixed (albeit loosely) maximum term. In addition to this, we have term limits in some countries (USA) and not in others (UK), meaning that George Bush can’t stand again, but Tony Blair can.
What do you think of these systems? Myself, I favour fixed terms, and limited terms (so only 2 terms per PM, and fixed duration). I think it’s good to be forced to get ‘fresh blood’ into the top job at least every 8-9 years, and I think being able to fix the election date gives too much of an advantage to the currently ruling party, as they can basically keep an eye on the polls, and the economy, and pick the best moment.
I know some of you are from the US, what do you think of the fact that Bush can’t stand again, and that Clinton couldn’t stand again? Is it dangerous to be ruled by a leader who knows full well he need not care about re-election?
It seems we all want to the kind of government we haven’t got. I prefer loose terms, with a maximum of perhaps 6, perhaps 8 years, and a legislature determined by proportional representation rather than first-to-the-goalpost. While this makes for a more volatile government and a need for consensus, our current US government is run by a pair of fatcat parties rife with corruption and privilege. Such at least is my take on it.
Interestingly enough, among the adjustments made to the US electoral federal system in the Confederate Congress (and I’m not from, nor living in, the US South) was a single 6 year term for the president. The limit to 8 years, 2 terms, wasn’t even present before the late 1940s, when it employed after Roosevelt’s 4th term concluded with death in office.
Yes I agree that proportional representation is a must, and quite possibly some limit to campaign spending, as the barrier to entry for new parties is way too high in the US. Basically, only a billionaire could start a new party now.
Curiously enough, Iowa governor Tom Vilsack just dropped out of the Democratic race for the presidential candidacy on his side of the aisle, and for exactly that reason: cost. You can read about it here.
As for campaign limits, pack control, Congressional junketmongering, etc, I’m all for reforms. Unfortunately, as soon as the Democrats got through a bunch of reforms after retaking the Congress this past November, the legislators and packs simply adjusted their behaviors to find new loopholes. Which leads me to wonder whether its simply worth it to ban all packs from Congress, and to limit terms among senators to 1 (currently 6 years), and among congresspeople to 2 (currently 2 years).
One thing that concerns me about elections isn’t so much term limits as proportional election.
We have what’s called the Electoral College, and with it, even if one person wins the popular vote, another person gains the White House, because of the amount of electors who voted for him.
having said that, I tend to think term limits are a good thing. Rooseveldt was there when the country needed him, but, that doesn’t make long term presidency a good thing for the country.
as for PAC’s I’m not sure they should be eliminated so much as heavily controlled. all PAC means is Political Action Committee, and there are a few good ones, even though there are many many more bad ones. Personally, I think there should be some form of campaign finance coffer used equally by all candidates so that they don’t end up on any payroll but the nation’s.
an interesting tidbit; Hillary Clinton was on the board of directors for Wal-Mart for a while. Makes one wonder where her intrests really lay. I’m sure they’re doing their part to fund her campaign.
Both first past the post and proportional rep have failings, you either get a parliament representative of the people but crippled with ideological divisions or a strong decisive one dominated by a couple of major parties with strong discipline.
I personally like the Australian system with single seat electorates in the lower house and proportional representation in a pretty strong senate giving a voice to the minor parties. The rest of Australia’s constitution is pretty much useless but I like that bit
As for fixed term lengths, I think it’s a great idea, Australia’s the same as UK with the ruling party picking and choosing the date with some famous examples of governments calling early elections during a surge of popularity.
Instinctively I think that term limits are a bit of an odd idea to start with, if the electorate wants new blood they’ll have it at the election, if not and the government has the faith of the people then why shouldn’t they continue to govern.
Although this is the standard way of viewing these two approaches to democracy, I think the matter is far more complex when placed in a cultural context. After all, the Netherlands uses the first system you describe, with multiple parties, yet manages to arrive at strong consensus governments that make decisive policies. On the other hand, the Italians have essentially 2 strong voting blocs (regardless of how the smaller parties fall out), and they always seem to be on the verge of paralysis when they aren’t actually moribund.
For myself, I favor a proportional system with direct elections (no electoral college, such as we USians unfortunately possess), the upper chamber to serve for one 6-year term, the lower limited to 3 2–year terms. Currently, senators serve for 6 years and representatives for 2, but they can be (and often are) reelected forever. The president should serve 6 years with no reelection.
I would also like to see a standardized procedure across all states for recalls, instead of the current mess that changes for each of the 50. Connecticut voters, for example, reelected a senator this last November based in large part on his statements that he had changed his mind and was totally committed to opposing the war, despite have been (for 6 years before that) the single Democrat in the Senate who was voted most often with Bush. As soon as he was reelected, Lieberman turned around again and reaffirmed his desire (which he has trumpeted ever since on talk shows) that we continue with Bush’s Iraq policy. It seems to logical to assume that as Connecticut voters were played, they should in turn be able to reconsider when the person they elected lied repeatedly through their teeth; but the state laws make this virtually impossible.
I like the fixed terms, but am opposed to term limits. We in America got stuck with the notion that 2 terms is best because of our first president. In all honesty, George Washington didn’t step down after two terms because he thought that should be the limit of a president’s term. He did it because he saw problems on the horizon for the nation and didn’t want to be associated with the problems.
Other presidents stepped down after 8 years, in part due to tradition and in part because 8 years of doing the job is a long time. When FDR stayed in office for so long, the American people complained that he was abusing our system by staying in office. Yet, they could have easily forced him to leave office at any election and chose not to do so.
Despite our tradition, I do believe that in a liberal democracy the most important thing is allowing the electorate choose the people they want representing them. Our republican form of government demands that people be able to select the best candidate for office. By placing term limits on officials, we are artificially limiting the electorate by telling they cannot vote for a person that they want in office.
It is rare that a president would be in position to win a third election. In American election forecasting, we use numerical representations to the show difficulty for one party winning the presidency more than two elections in a row. With the electorate getting tired of one party, it goes without saying that they would tire of one person. Since World War II only the Republican Party has been able to win three consecutive presidential elections with Reagan twice and George H.W. Bush. Reagan could have been reelected in 1988 and Clinton probably could have won in 2000. Other than these two examples, no candidate has been in position for it to matter. I don’t know that we should have prevented the electorate from being able to reelect these Presidents if they wanted to do so.
both the UK and Australia have recently had leaders serving more than 2 terms. It has to be said that although he kept winning elections in the UK, Tony Blair was increasingly unpopular with a large section of the country, and possibly divided the country quite badly.
In a country with tens or even hundreds of millions of people, it always amazes me how the electorate want to keep picking the same person, or even worse, the wife or son of a previous leader. Surely there is more choice than this?