The USA and many other countries have term limits for the office of the President. On the other hand, some heads of government in (European) parliamentary systems have remained in power for a long time: For example, Angela Merkel was Chancellor of Germany from 2005 to 2021 (16 years) Ruud Lubbers was Prime Minister of The Netherlands for 12 years, and Margaret Thatcher had this position in the UK for 11 years.

Are term limits unique to presidential systems, or are there any parliamentary systems with term limits, too? That may either mean limits for the prime minister, or for individual members of parliament. Imposed either by constitution, by law, or by parliamentary rules. For the purposes of this question, I don't count individual party rules on term limits.

  • I don't think I have ever heard of limitations on the number of terms a member of a parliament can serve. If such a limitation were implemented, wouldn't it effectively kill the desire of young people to run for parliament. That's a full time job, and you deny chances for alternative careers. Granted, in many places ex-MPs are connected well enough, and can find other well paying jobs, if they are not re-elected :-/ Mar 13, 2018 at 14:17
  • The current French government wants to implement term limits for members of the parliament (among other things). This hasn't been implemented (yet?) though.
    – user5097
    Apr 23, 2018 at 13:15

3 Answers 3


Wikipedia has a fairly extensive list of countries with term limits at various levels of government. All of these seem to be presidential or semi-presidential to at least some extent, but the closest to the spirit of your question appears to be the office of the Prime Minister of Vietnam, who is the head of government and is limited to two five year terms.


Botswana and South Africa combine a parliamentary system (ie. head of the executive selected by parliament and accountable to it) with two-term limited executive presidencies (in the case of Botswana this is formally “an aggregate period not exceeding 10 years”, art. 34.1, Constitution as amended in 1997).


There is a reason why prime ministers and chancellors do not face term limits, unlike presidents:

The prime minister is to some extent an informal position. (The term "prime minister" did not appear in UK law until 1917.) They are simply "first among equals". The only qualification is commanding a majority in the relevant legislature. If you place a term limit on the prime minister, then that can easily be circumvented by passing the title onto someone else and still retaining the de facto influence of prime minister. Note that this does not apply to constitutionally-prescribed executive presidents -- it's much harder to have a de facto president.

The alternative is to term-limit membership of the legislature. However, the problem is that someone might becomes prime minister after a long time in the legislature. Then a term limit might force them out after only one term.

  • Of course, you'd also need an explicit law that the prime minister has to be a member of the legislature...
    – origimbo
    Nov 25, 2018 at 22:56
  • 2
    it's much harder to have a de facto president Putin/Medvedev/Putin?
    – gerrit
    Nov 25, 2018 at 23:22
  • @gerrit the reason Putin remained in power is his occupancy as the very powerful Russian Prime Minister position in the Russian government when he was not president.
    – Viktor
    Nov 26, 2018 at 0:04
  • 1
    @Viktor Indeed, so they did circumvent term limits through this trick, and arguably Putin was de facto President during this time.
    – gerrit
    Nov 26, 2018 at 9:39
  • Many countries have constitutions which specify the existence and role of a Prime Minister (e.g. France), the UK is very much an exception.
    – Stuart F
    Feb 11, 2022 at 0:06

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