Democracy Rising

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable" ~ President John F. Kennedy

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Third-Term Presidents

I never fail to be amazed at how foolish dictators can be. The issue of term limits seems to mean nothing to many African and Central Asian leaders. The nation's constitutional limits are either ignored or altered to guarantee that (insert despot name here) stays in power for life/until a military coup. The clumsy efforts by Presidents who must have dozens of political advisers, to get a 'third term' beggar belief. Can they not think of a clever way of staying in power?

Despite being a Tyrant at least Meles Zenawi gave himself an air of Democractic accountability. Rather than the highest state position of President (who is actually a figurehead), he made himself Prime Minister. His position is therefore not guaranteed as, theoretically, the Prime Minister in a Parliamentary system can be forced out by a motion of no confidence. Additionally P.M's rarely have term limits, meaning he could stay in power for decades (provided he found a 'safe seat' where there was genuine support for his leadership). Look at Thatcher or Felipe Gonza¡lez who kept office for over a decade. They did so through Democractic means. There is a lot to be said for Parliamentary government. It looks good in the eyes of Western Democracies as opposed to strong-man Presidency's.

Sloppy constitutional amendments such as the one currently being engineered by Olusegun Obasanjo fool no respected power. They only appear to donors as Democratic back-tracking. I can't think of a single Head of State, anywhere in the world, who dismantled term limits and left office peacefully. If Obasanjo has his way the future for Nigeria will become bleak. That is something that should seriously be concerning Washington and Brussels given the uncomfortable ethnic/religious tensions that exist within one of Africa's largest Republics.

President Bush, P.M Blair, and others, need to make it clear to Nigeria that such moves cannot be supported. If the west is serious about Democracy it must stand aggressively opposed to term limit removal's. It is one clear plank of Democracy that government must be kept accountable. This is even more relevant in scenario's where a powerful Presidency exists. It's time for Africa, and the world, to move on from leaders that can't let go.


A link to the contradictions of Ethiopia's constitution and it's political leaders.

Here's some proper analysis of the Nigerian situation vis-a-vi constitutional amendments.


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