In some countries, the elected leader can only run for 2 mandates (terms) in a row.

I'm curious about the reason behind that.

Any ideas?

  • Not all countries have term limits, for instance in Germany Otto Von Bismack was Chancellor for 19 years, and Angela Merkel for 11 years but she's presenting herself to continue 4 more years, if she does that she'll do 16 years.
    – Bregalad
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 9:17

6 Answers 6


You might be interested in this list of political term limits across the world at this Wikipedia link. However there are still 54 Presidential and Prime Minister offices in the world that do not impose strict term limits. The balance is split fairly evenly between Africa, Latin America, Europe and Middle East.

As you rightly identify, the rest of the world using a democratic system of Government imposes some form of term limits on leaders and elected representatives.


A term limit is a legal restriction that limits the number of terms an officeholder may serve in a particular elected office.


When term limits are found in presidential and semi-presidential systems they act as a method to curb the potential for monopoly, where a leader effectively becomes "president for life". This is intended to protect a democracy from becoming a de facto dictatorship. Sometimes, there is an absolute limit on the number of terms an officeholder can serve, while, in other cases, the restrictions are merely on the number of consecutive terms.

Both Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome had term limits in their respective democracies and republics. The mercantile city-state, Venice, also had term limits.

Types of Term Limits


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, 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 consecutive limits.

Modern Examples of Politicians and Term Limits

3 famous politicians either circumvented term limits, went against the cultural norm or served prior to term limits.

They include;

  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt who served 3 full terms and was elected for a fourth from 1933 to 1945 in the United States of America, which was against US custom at the time, but not against the law.
  • Suharto who served 30 years of the President of Indonesia.
  • Francois Mitterrand who served 14 years as the President of France from 1981-1994.
  • Edited to reflect. Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 13:28
  • 4
    Mitterrand only served two terms. 14 years longer is than what's allowed today but not because of the new term limit (which he wouldn't have exceeded would it have been in place at the time) but because of the shorter duration of the term itself (5 years since 2000).
    – Relaxed
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 13:46
  • 5
    @Venture, regarding Mitterand, the term limit was already in place. He doesn't belong in this list.
    – SdaliM
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 14:26
  • 6
    @Venture2099 - It might be a good idea to clarify that FDR did not circumvent the term limit - it might be self-evident to you, but I didn't know that until an Amendment two-term limit in US presidency was just a custom, not a law. It might also explain the limit in other countries, which modeled that on US example. I know for a fact in Poland that was the case and it was publicly stated that US history shows it is a good idea. Other than that: +1. Downvoters stuff it.
    – user10424
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 9:51
  • 1
    @matt_black: With the exception of Harry Truman, who, being the incumbent President at the time the 22nd Amendment was ratified, would have been permitted to be elected to a third term in 1952, per the Amendment's grandfather clause. However, after losing the New Hampshire primary, Truman withdrew from the race, making that clause moot.
    – dan04
    Commented Jul 25, 2020 at 7:46

The logic of term limits is best exemplified by China (which has recently abolished them again). But the original intent, implemented by Mao's successors, was to prevent another popular leader arising who could commit as many damaging and harmful policies as he had.

Mao was effectively able do implement any policy he wanted as his position as leader was unchallengeable as he had led the revolution and led the country for so long. The result was a series of catastrophic policies (like the cultural revolution) that caused great harm (from purges of opponents, economic dislocation and famine). Tens of millions died but despite this he was unchallengeable in power because of his revolutionary legacy.

To prevent anyone else going the same lock hold on permanent power that might tempt a successor to stay too long and use their position to create a personality cult that would make them similarly unchallengeable even if they pursued dangerous and damaging policies, term limits were put in the constitution. The logic of US term limits is similar (though in this case Congress were not worried so much about obviously dangerous ideas just about ideas that a popular president could enact despite congressional opposition).

There is some evidence that leaders who stay in office for too long become insulated from the normal pressures that prevent bad ideas being stopped and corruption spreading. In democracies (and other systems with limits) new leaders bring new thinking and new ideas and can reverse the stale ideas of their predecessors. Political systems where a potential leader for life voluntarily stands down (eg Mandela in South Africa and Washington in the USA) seem to have a better track record of success and tyranny avoidance than those where the leaders stay on exploiting their popularity.


Some of the other answers give interesting examples but (in my view) fail to explain the broader reasoning behind term limits.

The main reasons I can think of are the following:

  • Without term limits, a leader can gradually consolidate power and manipulate the very institutions that are supposed to guarantee fair elections
  • An incumbent leader almost always has a significantly bigger media platform than their challenger(s), which translates into an electoral advantage. Forcing the incumbent to step away is the easiest way to resolve this imbalance
  • The risk of corruption increases significantly if the same person is expected to stay in office for a very long time
  • A perhaps unexpected implication of term limits is that towards the end of their last term, a leader can enact possibly unpopular policies without worrying about the impact at the next election
  • If a leader is suspected of having committed a crime, the end of the term usually also ends their immunity from prosecution (the reasons why immunity is granted in the first place are themselves complex)
  1. Autocracy: think of Robert Mugabe. Could he be able to rule Zimbabwe for 40 years if Zimbabwe had had a stipulation in the term?
  2. Family rule: think of Bangladesh. Both of the two major political parties are led by two families one is Sheikh family, another is Zia family. There is no chance, even in the next several decades, of seeing a leader in those two parties outside those two families. India is also suffering from the same problem as one of the major political parties, Congress, is headed by Gandhi family. Pakistan is also suffering from Bhutto family and Sharif family.
  3. Corruption: think of Shinawatra family of Thailand. Thai people could not get rid of them by election.
  4. Maladministration: think of George W Bush. That guy would have made the USA bankrupt by the end of his 3rd term. Think of Uzbek president Islam Karimov. That guy was a ghost of USSR.


This is not a complete answer. But, while the question refers to both Presidents and Prime Ministers, there are only two countries in the world that have term limits for Prime Ministers or equivalent positions with another name: China and Vietnam.

Those countries are notable because, as Communist states, in China and Vietnam the Prime Minister's power is subordinate to the power of leaders within the Communist Party. Real power and policy decision making in China and Vietnam reside mostly in the Communist party and then the parliament, whose members are all members of the Communist party, rubber stamp the party's decisions. In the case of China and Vietnam, the real purpose is "window dressing" to create the appearance of a good formal system in an institution that is really meaningless.

So, the question is really limited to Presidents, and keep in mind that in most countries that have a President, the power of the post is closer to that of a constitutional monarch (i.e. mostly symbolic) rather than a post closer to the U.S. President, who does have real independent power.


Term limit on consecutive election for a president or a prime minister is just made for a simple reason - To stop too much power falling into hands of a single person. And there are two types kinds of term limits here -

  1. A person holding the position of President/Prime minister cannot hold the position for more than 2 terms .Like in case of USA where POTUS cannot hold his office for more than 2 terms.

  2. A person holding the position of President/Prime minister cannot hold the position for more than 2 consecutive terms . But this provision has loop hole as in case of Russia because of the "consecutive" word - where Dmitry Medvedev was considered mostly to be a dummy president was replaced by President Putin the next election. Soo you can hold position of President/Prime minister for two terms , place a dummy president for the third term and then again go on to be elected for the next two terms. But of course This is highly undemocratic.

This check ✔simply assured that no president/Prime minister gains too much power to undermine democracy as not putting any term limits have caused disastrous affects as seen in past through multiple examples , but not putting any term limits also hasn't caused any major problem in many countries such as India -the world 's largest democracy.

  • Yeltsin was before Putin, you're thinking of Dmitry Medvedev.
    – richardb
    Commented Mar 18, 2018 at 15:45
  • On sorry , I will edit that
    – user17709
    Commented Mar 18, 2018 at 16:07

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