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 of curbing the potential for monopoly, where a leader effectively becomes "president for life". This is intended to protect a republic from becoming a de facto dictatorship. Sometimes, there is an absolute or lifetime limit on the number of terms an officeholder may serve; sometimes, the restrictions are merely on the number of ''consecutive'' terms he or she may serve.



Term limits have a long history. Ancient Athens and Ancient Rome, two early classic republics, had term limits imposed on their elected offices as did the city-state of Venice. In ancient Athenian democracy, only offices selected by sortition were subject to term limits (one term of one year for each office, except members of the council of 500 (boule), where it was possible to serve two one-year terms, non-consecutively). Elected offices were all subject to possible re-election, although they were minoritarian, these positions were more prestigious and those requiring the most experience, such as military generals and the superintendent of springs. In the Roman Republic, a law was passed imposing a limit of a single term on the office of censor. The annual magistratestribune of the plebs, aedile, quaestor, praetor, and consul—were forbidden reelection until a number of years had passed. (see ''cursus honorum'', Constitution of the Roman Republic). Additionally, there was a term limit of 6 months for a dictator.


Many modern presidential republics employ term limits for their highest offices. The United States placed a limit of two terms on its presidency by means of the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution in 1951. There are no term limits for Vice Presidency, Representatives and Senators, although there have been calls for term limits for those offices. Under various state laws, some state governors and state legislators have term limits. Formal limits in America date back to the 1682 Pennsylvania Charter of Liberties, and the colonial frame of government of the same year, authored by William Penn and providing for triennial rotation of the Provincial Council, the upper house of the colonial legislature. (See also term limits in the United States). The Russian Federation has a rule for the head of state that allows the President of Russia to serve more than two terms if not consecutive (as in the case of Vladimir Putin). For governors of federal subjects, the same two-term limit existed until 2004, but now there are no term limits for governors. Term limits are also common in Latin America, where most countries are also presidential republics. Early in the last century, the Mexican revolutionary Francisco Madero popularized the slogan ''Sufragio Efectivo, no Reelección'' (effective suffrage, no reelection). In keeping with that principle, members of the Congress of Mexico (the Chamber of Deputies and Senate) cannot be reelected for the next immediate term under article 50 and 59 of the Constitution of Mexico, adopted in 1917. Likewise, the President of Mexico is limited to a single six-year term, called the Sexenio. This makes every presidential election in Mexico a non-incumbent election. Countries that operate a parliamentary system of government are less likely to employ term limits on their leaders. This is because such leaders rarely have a set "term" at all: rather, they serve as long as they have the confidence of the parliament, a period which could potentially last for life. Many parliaments can be dissolved for snap elections which means some parliaments can last for mere months while others can continue until their expiration dates. Nevertheless, such countries may impose term limits on the holders of other offices—in republics, for example, a ceremonial presidency may have a term limit, especially if the office holds reserve powers. Between 1982 and 2018, the Constitution of China stipulated that the president, vice president, premier, vice premiers could not serve more than two consecutive terms, though there was no term limit for the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, who usually represented the Paramount leader of China. In March 2018, China's party-controlled National People's Congress passed a set of constitutional amendments including removal of term limits for the president and vice president, as well as enhancing the central role of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).


Term limits may be divided into two broad categories: consecutive and lifetime. With consecutive term limits, an officeholder is limited to serving a particular number of terms in that particular office. Upon hitting the limit in one office, an officeholder may not run for the same office again (though he/she may run for any other elective office). After a set period of time (usually one term), the clock resets on the limit, and the officeholder may run for election to his/her original office and serve up to the limit again. With lifetime limits, once an officeholder has served up to the limit, he/she may never again run for election to that office. Lifetime limits are much more restrictive than consecutive limits.

Notable examples

Relaxed/reset term limits

Tightened term limits

People who would have run afoul of modern term limits


Research shows that legislative term limits increase legislative polarization, reduce the legislative skills of politicians, reduce the legislative productivity of politicians, weaken legislatures vis-a-vis the executive, and reduce voter turnout. Parties respond to the implementation of term limits by recruiting candidates for office on more partisan lines. Term limits have not reduced campaign spending, nor have they reduced the gender gap in political representation, nor have they increased the diversity of law-makers, and they have also not increased the constituent service activities of law-makers. Many presidents did try to overstay over the term limit by various methods.The Law and Politics of Presidential Term Limit Evasion
Columbia Law Review, 2020

See also

* Term limits in the United States * Term of office * List of political term limits * Reelection


External links

Real Term Limits: Now More Than Ever
an article by Doug Bandow in favor of term limits * , term limits information from the National Conference of State Legislatures {{Authority control Category:Electoral restrictions Category:Term of office *