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Checking this list, I have noticed that the vast majority of countries do not limit mayors terms count. However, the president is usually limited to two terms of 4-5 years.

To narrow the question scope, I will take the particular example of my native country, Romania: ex-communist country, parliamentary democracy within the European Union. However, I think the following reasoning can be applied to many other developing countries as well:

  • relatively high corruption levels (source) clearly helps mayors to maintain their power, as they (directly or not) control much of the economy within the town they lead

  • parliamentary or presidential elections disruption - mayors of medium and small towns or villages can easily influence voting by using local resources to promote friendly candidates. In the country side this done through relations with some other public figures such as priests or medical doctors.

  • one round-system for voting for mayors as opposed to Two-round one (might be Romania specific) clearly favored existing mayors. This has practically rendered mayor election useless (most of existing mayors have won an extra term)

The bias towards having the same mayors is so big that some mayors were in jail when they were elected.

Question: considering all above, why can mayors be elected for more than the typically two terms? (while presidents can not)

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    This is just a theory, but in smaller communities you might run out of mayors when you have term limits. In my hometown (which isn't even that small with 75k inhabitants) the current mayor ran unopposed in the last election. Not because he somehow suppresses the opposition (it's Germany. Elected politicians are rather nonviolent here) but simply because nobody else wanted the job. – Philipp Jan 15 '17 at 11:07
  • @Philipp - your argument is plausible. However, Germany is an advanced democracy where corruption level is low (place 13 within the provided link). (also, just a theory) I think that "getting elected" appetite is lower within developed countries. – Alexei Jan 15 '17 at 11:33
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    @Alexei Being the mayor of a small town doesn't tend to have a lot of upward mobility politically, so you won't have many aspiring politicians trying to gain fame by taking the position (compare that to the mayor of e.g. Bucharest, whose policies probably at least get some media attention). Taking away the option to remain mayor as a career may reduce the number of candidates further. – IllusiveBrian Jan 15 '17 at 17:24
  • *cough* Bloomberg *cough* NYC *cough* – user4012 Jan 15 '17 at 20:08
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    In many countries there are no limits on the terms of the head of the executive. – James K Jan 15 '17 at 21:24
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One important factor is that while there are many large municipalities in the world, the vast majority of municipalities in every country have low populations (often under 5,000) and even more so in less developed countries than in highly developed countries, the supply of people who have the skill set necessary to be a top manager of a governmental organization (that will often be the largest single employer in its boundaries) is pretty small. So, when people find someone who does a good job they don't want to arbitrarily remove them, especially if no one else is seriously interested in contesting the post in a small community.

Also, in municipalities, and especially small ones, it is far hard to suppress information about how well the local government is being managed. People can see whether the municipality is running well or not with their own eyes. It is hard to hide incompetence.

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  • That's a good explanation. However, regarding the last paragraph: in my native country (Romania), in many villages or even small towns, some mayors had more than 4 terms and are far from being competent. Everybody knows that they decide almost everything important there (usually through approvals required from the Town Hall). Some of them even missed the first days of their terms, because they were in jail. Of course, this is corruption related and maybe the limitation would make sense in such a context. – Alexei Jan 30 '17 at 20:10
  • Why does no one run against or defeat the compromised incumbent? Are the elections themselves corrupt? Are people promised favors if they vote for the incumbent? Are there threats against challengers? Are there no higher authorities that can prosecute corruption? Corruption is usually a symptom of something else that is broken more than it is a true cause of a political outcome by itself. – ohwilleke Jan 30 '17 at 20:37
  • There are candidates, but incumbents usually rely on various tricks: offer small gifts to the people, use local important figures like priests and medical doctors to promote them etc. Corruption is prosecuted, but the process is rather slow and has lots of opponents. Electoral fraud exists (some dead people voted from time to tome) and the main opposition party leader was convicted for it, but it is considered too small to influence the final result. – Alexei Jan 30 '17 at 21:57
  • Why would term limits change anything? Presumably the old mayor could find someone to be a front man for him if he is that powerful. – ohwilleke Jan 30 '17 at 22:01

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