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Terms limit is defined by Wikipedia as:

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

In many countries, the prime ministers are only allowed to serve two terms. This is to prevent the "power monopoly". Then there are countries that allow unlimited terms like Germany or the UK.

Why do they let this happen?

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    "when the playing field is leveled and the process is fair and open, it turns out we have term limits. They're called elections." --- Jed Bartlet – Jontia Oct 17 '18 at 9:39
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There are lots of articles giving reasons against term limits, e.g. Brookings institute.

An argument against term limits is that experience makes people better at their jobs. If someone is a successful and talented leader, why force them to quit? Why not let voters decide? Depending on your political beliefs, Franklin Roosevelt was arguably one of the most successful US Presidents (from the New Deal reforms to successes in World War Two), Konrad Adenauer was highly regarded in Germany, and Margaret Thatcher had many followers in the UK even after 11 years. The US has term limits on presidents but not senators, who often remain in Congress for decades and become highly knowledgeable in specific areas.

Term limits are arguably more necessary if the culture is corrupt and there are fewer checks on the leader. In such cases, they act as a kind of backstop to limit the damage someone can do (e.g. if the leader can control the media and jail potential opponents, they may never lose an election - and even term limits didn't stop Putin). But the UK and post-war Germany haven't had much problem with political corruption ("not endemic in the UK"; Transparency International), which may be another reason why they have never introduced term limits. (The US didn't introduce Presidential term limits due to corruption - it was a convention virtually since the founding of the US - but it took them a long time to codify it presumably because there was no pressing need.) Arguably, a well-functioning democracy shouldn't need term limits because the electorate will decide who is best for the job.

(The case is slightly different with things like the US Supreme Court and UK House of Lords, but the question asks about political leaders.)

  • Margaret Thatcher was stabbed in the back by her own party, not removed either by the electorate or any law limiting the number of terms she could serve. – Peregrine Oct 18 '18 at 10:39
  • In addition to what you say there may be more reason for term limits for roles which have a lot of power residing with one person. The US president has a lot of power to act unilaterally and in cases where they need support is seems that to a large extent they can rely on party support for whatever they want without needing to build consensus. In the UK and Germany there seems to be a far greater requirement for leaders to build consensus within their own party as well as across parties. This leads to their term being limited by the electorate, as indicated by the Jed Bartlet quote above. – Eric Nolan Mar 29 at 11:34
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It's less of a question of why they allow it, and more of a question of why they didn't create term limits.

In the UK it appears that there was simply never much call for term limits or political will to implement them. The UK hasn't had problems with Prime Minsters overstaying their welcome.

  • Overstaying a welcome isn't what term limits prevent. Term limits prevent popular and liked politicians from serving the will of the voters. – David Rice Oct 17 '18 at 14:56
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    @DavidRice Term limits prevent both. They are a safeguard against tyranny. – TylerH Oct 17 '18 at 16:11
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    @TylerH if a politician is unpopular, their opponent will be voted in instead. If they are voted in, they aren't unpopular. All term limits do is prevent the will of the voters from being realized. If a person's term ends only because of limits, then it stands to reason voters would've voted them in. If a person's term ends due to unpopularity, then it stands to reason term limits weren't necessary to end their term. – David Rice Oct 17 '18 at 18:02
  • @DavidRice If the will of the voters is to keep electing a specific person, then they would simply vote to end term limits using your logic. Also, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the 2016 POTUS election by quite a wide margin, but did not win the Presidency, so that invalidates your theory about popular people getting voted in per the will of the people. – TylerH Oct 17 '18 at 19:13
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    @user: some regard that as a feature, not a bug. :-) Specifically, the PM is not elected by the people (at least, not directly), and a change of PM does not (usually) change which party is in power. – Steve Melnikoff Oct 18 '18 at 9:05
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To add to the other answers, if term limits are regarded as an additional check on the power of a prime minister, it may be relevant to point out that parliamentary systems have a check that presidential systems don't: that the PM needs to retain the support of their party, and if they fail to do so, they can be removed very swiftly.1

This assumes that the continuity and principles of the party are valued more than any particular leader. Clearly, any party that is created by, and coalesces around, a specific person is less likely to remove that person as leader.

Incidentally, countries with Westminster systems of government have two other, lesser used, ways of removing a PM: impeachment (last attempted, unsuccessfully, in the UK in 1848), and dismissal by the monarch or her representative (most recently, in Australia in 1975).


(1) 4 of the last 6 Australian PMs have been removed in this way - and all in the last 8 years.

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