Working Papers

Comparative Continuismo: Presidential Term Limit Contravention Across Developing Democracies

Author
Kristin McKie
Abstract

Abstract
Since presidential term limits were (re)adopted into many constitutions during the third wave of democratization, 207 presidents across Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia have reached the end of their terms in office. Of these, 30% have attempted to contravene term limits whereas 70% have stepped down in compliance with tenure rules. Furthermore, of the presidents who have attempted to alter tenure restrictions, some have succeeded in fully abolishing term limits, others have only managed a one-term extension, while a minority have failed in their bids to secure any additional terms in office. What explains these divergent trajectories? On the basis of a series of statistical analyses, I argue that trends in electoral competition over time are the best predictor of the range of term limit contravention outcomes across the board, with the least competitive elections permitting full term limit abolition and the most competitive elections saving off attempts at altering executive tenure rules. Furthermore, results show that failed contravention attempts are true borderline cases, rather than instances gross miscalculations of success by the president and her party, in that they feature less competitive elections than non-attempt cases but more competitive elections than successful contravention cases. These findings suggest a linkage between political uncertainty and constitutional stability more generally.

Resumen
Desde que muchas constituciones establecieron o re-establecieron límites temporales para los mandatos presidenciales, 207 presidentes en América Latina, Africa, Medio Oriente y Asia llegaron al final de su período. El 30% de ellos trataron de abolir los límites temporales o extender sus mandatos, el resto dejó el cargo, respetando la regla de mandato limitado. ¿Qué explica estas trayectorias divergentes? Con base en una serie de análisis multinomiales logit, sostengo que los niveles altos de competencia política en el Estado predicen el respeto por los límites temporales mejor que el nivel general de democracia o los atributos individuales de los presidentes. Analizando los desafíos exitosos a estas reglas, se advierte que es más probable que los límites temporales se eliminen completamente cuando presidentes recientes fueron enjuiciados después de dejar sus cargos, mientras que la extensión de los límites vigentes es más probable cuando el presidente en funciones es fundador de su partido. Estos hallazgos echan luz sobre los fundamentos del constitucionalismo en general.

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