All Articles Tagged "term limits"
(Wall Street Journal) — A campaign to repeal the provision of the city’s recently approved term-limits law that exempts incumbents has collapsed because of a lack of funds. Last year, 74% of the electorate voted to restore a law that prohibits elected officials from serving more than two consecutive four-year terms. But a so-called grandfather clause in that measure allows any officeholder elected before Nov. 2, 2010, to serve three four-year terms. Henry Stern, president of New York Civic, a nonpartisan watchdog group that launched an effort last year to place a proposal on November’s ballot to repeal the grandfather clause, told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that the campaign won’t move forward because he couldn’t raise the funds to support it.
by Sue Naylor
“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” – Winston Churchill
One can argue that representational democracy is the only truly enlightened form of government, because it provides an equal voting voice to the citizens of a political formation (tribe, city, state, country, etc.) through free and fair elections. Elections allow for the voting public to approve (or remove) politicians from office, approve public policy and ultimately allow individuals to shape their own political and economic destiny.
Elections are considered the bread & butter to a functioning democracy. Yet elections, even in so-called free countries, can fail the public in two ways: a) they can be rigged and b) there is no term limit (a set number of years in which a politician can hold elected office) otherwise the elected official administration turns into a regime and the voice of opposition is held unceremoniously at by. Elections are rigged when those in power erroneously believe that their political philosophy is the one true path (as we most recently saw in Egypt with President Hosni Mubarak), and those in power find tricks and use chicanery to alter an election’s outcome to their favor. When elections are rigged (or even thought to be rigged), everyone loses.
When politicians do not have terms limits, they can quickly become drunk with the power, prestige and privilege provided by elected office. This invariably leads to abuses and corruption. It can be argued that incumbent politicians eventually tend to be more concerned with the next election and ensuring victory on election night, than doing what is in the best interest of the people. Why this is a net negative aspect for democracy and elections is that incumbent politicians, who do not face term limits, will marshal their political clout (which includes a greater ability to raise campaign financing and extend campaign season) and influence in society on electioneering and campaigning, not on effective governance. Unchecked campaign finance also presents a problem, because free flowing money has been shown to cause undue influence with certain politicians and civil servants.
Voters expect their elected officials to work for their best interest. When an election fails to deliver the will of the winning majority and respect the losing minority (which is critical), then the politician and his or her regime/administration is feckless in serving the people’s true needs, and aggravating in how it governs and addresses the desires of the minority. A democracy does not mean complete rejection of the opposition(s) and its platform just because it lost the general election; a democracy demands a certain amount of compromise to be effective.
When elections are rigged or perceived as rigged or unfair by the population and outside observers, the foundation of democracy is rattled. Even the United States, the greatest global proponent of freedom through elections, suffered from potential election fraud (or at least failed due process) in the 2000 national presidential election that ended up divisively awarding the presidency to George W. Bush; a controversial figure who initiated two unwarranted wars in the Middle East, curtailed civil liberties protected by the U.S. Constitution and supported calls for wide-spread financial deregulation that helped exacerbate the Global Financial Crisis that occurred in 2008.
Recent examples of so-called “free” elections that failed to follow the Will of the People in the international arena were in Zimbabwe. The current — and only — president of the African country is Robert Mugabe; he has been in power since the country attained independence in 1980! Since gaining power, Mugabe has savagely repressed any sort of political opposition and held elections where the results were clear before the polls even opened over the years; Mugabe was more concerned with solidifying his power than improving the lives of Zimbabweans. Once known as the breadbasket of Africa, Zimbabwe has had extreme difficulty feeding itself during Mugabe’s reign. However, in 2008 Mugabe held an election and was defeated by challenger Morgan Tsvangirai. However, Mugabe refused to relinquish power and instead entered into a combustible power-sharing pact with Tsvangirai. Mugabe still maintained title of president, but Tsvangirai – the true freely elected leader of Zimbabwe – was made Prime Minister. The true test of democracy in action in Zimbabwe will be in 2012 when the next election is scheduled.
Elections provide for a recorded, actual, and specific voice for the people of any political entity. It is the job of the citizens, elected officials and appointed officials to ensure that elections are held free and clear of any encumbrances to ensure that the cornerstone of a democracy is executed with transparency.
With current protests in Jordan and swift actions being made by King Abdullah II, it appears that recent uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia against oppressive regimes are spreading like wildfire throughout the North African and “Middle East” regions. A plethora of commentary has been written over the past few days about the protests in Egypt, the character of President Muhammad Hosni Mubarak and the failure of the Obama administration to expediently speak out against the Egyptian leader. However, there has been a substantive shortage in essays that focus on proposed solutions and potential paths forward relative to Egypt and other countries where citizens suffer under the overbearing arms of dictatorship.
Indeed, many across the globe are inspired by the courageous and gallant voices and acts of the citizens of Tunisia who fought against President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali after 24 years of oppression. However, it is fairly tragic to know that Tunisia only represents a snapshot of countries under autocratic and imperialistic leadership. When assessesing the nations that have been under such leadership for decades–such as Egypt under President Mubarack for almost 30 years, Libya under Muammar al-Gaddafi for nearly 42 years, Oman under Sultan Qaboos biri Said Al Said for 41 years, Sudan under Omar al-Bashir for 21 years, Yemen under Ali Abdullah Saleh for 32 years, Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe for 23 years and the list goes on–one begins to realize that democracy, freedom and rule of law are not ubiquitous throughout the international community.
Some commentators believe that human rights will simply never exist in certain nations. They postulate that most citizens that live under tyrannical and oppressive authority will never experience democracy and just have to expect to live in their respective societies without any freedom of speech, press, assembly and religion, and must come to terms with arbitrary arrests and being held in prisons without any reason. Certainly, some of the above-mentioned leaders and their respective countries make these hypotheses seem very valid.
A myriad of critics have exclaimed that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and similar documents (e.g., African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance; The Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam and Arab Charter on Human Rights) simply do not guarantee that member states of the United Nations will promote human rights of their own citizens. To a large degree, this assessment is correct. The Universal Declaration, which is not a treaty or legally binding, is a fundamental standard that member states can commit themselves to at face value. But, it is relatively safe to state that more objective evidence is needed across the globe for dictatorial, corrupt governments and human rights “violations.” Some scholars and thinkers have suggested that term limits be established as universal law to preclude iron-handed, autocratic leaders from holding their positions for long periods of time and in some cases, for life. Would this be the panacea for solving this historical and current dilemma? Well, the answer remains to be seen, but I think that it is a plausible solution that warrants a thorough analysis and civil debate.
First, in examining countries around the globe, it is safe to state that a large number of nations do have term limits (e.g., two five-year terms, two consecutive five-year terms, one six-year term, two four-year terms, etc.) for the head of government. Conversely, there are a plethora of countries that have no term limits. Of course, many critics would make the argument that some of the countries without term limits do enjoy democracy and basic human rights. This viewpoint would likely be valid. However, the rebuttal of this stance would simply be that there are many nations without term limits for the head of government that are enamored with inhumane circumstances such as Egypt.
In some instances, term limits do terminate the “good” politicians along with the “bad” and cause a loss of knowledge and experience. But the limits can help to prevent career or lifelong heads of government, preclude corrupt politico-economic plutocracy and introduce new ideas and thinking. Does the United Nations need to establish a “one-world government” type of international law where every country has to adhere to the same term limits? Absolutely not. In the context of a country’s “sovereignty” and interests, this should be left up to the respective nation. But maybe there should be an international law developed by the UN, upon consensus by its members, with restrictive clauses to prevent 20, 30 and 40 years of despotic domination by heads of government, including members of their family who would aim to carry on imperialistic and elitist societies. This international law should also embody punitive clauses for countries that violate the agreed term limits.
If the international community does not start moving toward solutions relative to this issue, we will continue to see nations devoid of democracy, freedom, fair and just political and social systems and basic human rights.
Anthony Jerrod is a bestselling author, speaker, and public policy expert.
(Wall Street Journal) — New York City voters on Tuesday appeared to be on the verge of restoring a law that prohibits elected officials from serving more than two consecutive four-year terms, just two years after Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council overturned the law as the mayor pursued a third term. With nearly 40% of precincts reporting, 74% of the electorate voted in a citywide referendum to restore the law. A second ballot measure on government and electoral reform also appeared to have passed.
(NYT) -Two years after Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg extended the limit on New York City’s elected officials from two terms to three, paving the way for his re-election, nearly three-fourths of city voters favor reversing his move, according to a New York Times poll.
(NYT) — Political experts, who at times earn their keep by getting things wrong a day or two ahead of everyone else, accept as axiomatic that New Yorkers in summertime can’t worry their pretty little heads about events much weightier than Paris Hilton’s latest arrest. The hyperventilating over the downtown Islamic center put a few dents in that theory.
But if the experts are usually more right than wrong, summer was a peculiar time to foist an important political idea on a public supposedly weather averse to serious thought.
(NYT) — Facing intense anger two years ago as he lobbied to run for a third term, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg made a promise. Rewrite the term-limits law now, he told critics, and voters would get a chance to weigh in on the issue later.
The public, however, may not have the definitive voice that the mayor once pledged.
A fiery debate has erupted in the aftermath of the decision last week by the Charter Revision Commission, a 15-member group appointed by Mr. Bloomberg, to protect incumbents from a change to the term-limits law.
(AP) – New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared his opposition to term limits when he had the law changed in 2008, but now he’s hesitant to get back into the debate.
A panel reviewing the city charter decided Wednesday to put a term limits question on the ballot this November.
The law now lets elected officials seek three consecutive terms. Mr. Bloomberg pushed the City Council to extend it from two terms in 2008 so that he could run for another four years.
The ballot question will ask voters whether the charter should be amended to a two-term limit. If voters reject it, the three-term law will stand.
(Crain’s) — The city’s Charter Revision Commission, in a report expected Friday, is unlikely to support putting non-partisan elections on the ballot this fall.
The staff report, though, is expected to recommend that voters get the chance to decide whether to change the law on term limits. The commission is grappling with the question of whether City Council members should be able to benefit from changes they make to term limits.