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Democracy, Dictatorship, and Term Limits

Alexander Baturo

Publication Year: 2014

A national constitution or other statute typically specifies restrictions on executive power, often including a limit to the number of terms the chief executive may hold office. In recent decades, however, some presidents of newly established democracies have extended their tenure by various semilegal means, thereby raising the specter—and in some cases creating the reality—of dictatorship. Alexander Baturo tracks adherence to and defiance of presidential term limits in all types of regimes (not only democratic regimes) around the world since 1960. Drawing on original data collection and fieldwork to investigate the factors that encourage playing by or manipulating the rules, he asks what is at stake for the chief executive if he relinquishes office. Baturo finds that the income-generating capacity of political office in states where rent-seeking is prevalent, as well as concerns over future immunity and status, determines whether or not an executive attempts to retain power beyond the mandated period. Democracy, Dictatorship, and Term Limits will appeal to scholars of democratization and executive power and also to political theorists.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: New Comparative Politics

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

List of Tables

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pp. ix-x

List of Figures

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xvi

The initial idea for this book can be dated to one particular conversation with my friends almost fifteen years ago that we had back at the Central European University in Budapest. I remember us discussing careers of several post-Soviet presidents, such as Karimov, Lukashenko or...

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1. Introduction: Term Limits and the New Caesarism

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pp. 1-16

In the past fifty years, between 1960 and 2010, from Latin America to post-Soviet Eurasia, out of two hundred term-bounded presidents that have served their terms, more than a quarter have managed to extend their stay in office beyond constitutionally mandated periods...

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2. Term Limits in Historical Perspective

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pp. 17-46

Presidential term limit is a restriction on the maximum length of tenure that a president can serve in office. It stipulates the length of term-- four, five, six or seven years (historically there were both shorter and longer terms), and the number of consecutive or nonconsecutive...

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3. Continuismo in Comparison: From a Few More Years to a Presidency for Life

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pp. 47-90

The previous chapter demonstrated that the majority of democratic regimes, as well as many non- and partly democratic regimes, restrict the tenures of their presidents, especially after the end of the Cold War. Many leaders throughout history, however, were able to circumvent...

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4. The Costs and Benefits of Leaving Presidential Office

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pp. 91-120

What explains the success of modern Caesars | incumbent presidents? In the previous chapter I explored major obstacles for executives contemplating tenure extensions. The strength of a president vis-à-vis his or her own party, legislature and judiciary, the extent of mass...

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5. The Stakes of Losing Office in Comparison

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pp. 121-145

When a president in a mature democracy with a developed economy complies with a constitution and steps down when required, we can put forward two related explanations for such behavior. If we assume that all politicians are pure office-seekers and only institutional...

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6. Endogenous Term Limits: Statistical Analyses

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pp. 146-186

In this chapter I bring together the previous discussion of the major obstacles that the presidents have to overcome when they desire political immortality (chapter 3) and of the value of political office (chapter 4). The previous chapter explored how the costs and benefits...

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7. Personal Background of Presidents and Constitutional Compliance

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pp. 187-211

Presidents are more likely to attempt to remain in office beyond their constitutional mandate if they face insignificant political constraints, as discussed earlier in chapter 3. They are also more likely to extend their terms if personal costs of departing from office are too high, as...

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8. Effects of Presidential Term Limits

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pp. 212-247

The main inquiry of this book is how the value of holding presidential office contributes to authoritarian reversals. If the presidents are not restricted from running for consecutive re-election, they, as demonstrated in chapter 3, predominantly win. Does the lack of term...

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9. Conclusion: Presidentialism, Democracy, and Term Limits

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pp. 248-260

In the preceding chapters, I have developed a leader-centric explanation for the process of democratic breakdown and personalization in presidential regimes that occurs when political leaders decide to overturn term limits. From the 1990s onward, the main focus in comparative...

Appendix: Continuismo and Constitutions

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pp. 261-266


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pp. 267-292


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pp. 293-320


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pp. 321-334

E-ISBN-13: 9780472120239
E-ISBN-10: 0472120239
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472119318
Print-ISBN-10: 0472119311

Page Count: 360
Illustrations: 10 figures, 22 tables
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: New Comparative Politics