The era of presidents for life

Chennai Jul 07, 2020, 12.40 PM(IST) Written By: N S Venkataraman

Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin Photograph:( Reuters )

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When someone is made the life President, it means that the people of the country have surrendered their rights to elect a new President

People of Russia have voted, approving a constitutional amendment that allows Vladimir Putin to nix term limits and remain President until 2036.

This means Vladimir Putin has been elected as life President of Russia for all practical purposes and will stay as President for another sixteen years when he would be 83-year-old. It is reported that more than 77 per cent of Russians have voted in favour of Putin becoming life President.

Of course, some opposition parties in Russia have criticized this and have questioned the fairness in the election process.

Since the concept of life presidency has been approved in Russia, Putin may further extend his life president position, even after completing 16 years as life President. Will he leave this position when it is so easy to become life President in Russia, by manipulating rules and procedures in the name of the constitutional amendment and people’s vote? He may devise some new “democratic strategy” to do so.

In the same way, it has been announced that Xi Jinping has been elected as life President of China. Members of the Communist Party of China are reported to have overwhelmingly voted in favour of making Xi Jinping as life President. 

Russia claims that it has a democratic form of governance and China too claims that it has People’s Democracy.

When someone is made the life President, it means that the people of the country have surrendered their rights to elect a new President, even when the performance of the incumbent President would be unsatisfactory and would displease the people.

In a healthy democracy, elections are conducted periodically to elect the political leader of the country for a specific period, which is normally four to six years depending upon the country. Obviously, this implies that the leader has to prove his merits to the people and after a specific period his performance would be scrutinized by the people when the periodic election would take place.

Now, Putin and Xi Jinping do not have the "burden" of proving themselves to the people once again. The life Presidents can do whatever they want with their job being secured life long. 

The concept of life Presidentship is nothing but an anachronism in a democratic society when people have no right to change the President for a very long period. Then, what is the concept of democracy all about?.

In recent times, we have seen in some countries that politicians subvert the concept of democracy to perpetuate themselves in power and impose themselves on the people and the country. We say that Putin and Xi Jinping are the immediate examples to prove this behaviour of politicians to ensure that they would not lose power at any time.

One can not but think that the concept of life long President could lead to unrest, anarchy and violence, if the people would desire to change the  President then the only way of replacing this life long President is to launch mass agitation.

Those in Russia and China who have favoured the concept of life President do not seem to have realised that the concept is a calculated risk, as far as the future peace and progress of the country is concerned.


(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)