The New York Times reported today on the possibility that Russian President Vladimir Putin, by adding his name to the parliamentary election list for December, may lead the legislature following the end of his second presidential term. The Russian Constitution prohibits members of the Federal Assembly from holding office in both the House (Duma) and Senate (Federation Council) concurrently, as well as from serving as local and federal deputies simultaneously. Apparently, and you legal types are welcome to comment here, this prohibition does not extend to two simultaneously-held federal offices — either that, or Putin would resign from office before assuming the other position to keep the move constitutional.
Furthermore, the Russian Constitution states, “No one person shall hold the office of President of the Russian Federation for more than two terms in succession.” This, as the article points out, would allow Putin or anyone to return to the presidency after a term hiatus. The speculation that Putin may simply stay for an unconstitutional third term or the new theory that he may obey the letter but not the spirit of the Constitution by remaining in a high-profile political position until he can legally resume the reins of federal power are used to point to the underdevelopment of democracy in Russia.
The U.S. set the standard of the two-term presidency, yet this became law rather than custom by Constitutional amendment only in 1951. The movement was set into motion by a Republican Congress following the fourth term of FDR. Interestingly, Wikipedia cites two Republican presidents (Eisenhower and Reagan) who supported repealing the amendment and notes that Bill Clinton supported changing the amendment to allow for a return to the presidency following an intervening term — which, you may note, is the “loophole” existing in the Russian Constitution.
All this sets up the title of the post: how many terms should a president serve? If you support a two-term limit, would you consider allowing a re-election following at least a term hiatus? Or is the consolidation of power in one person (or constellation of people) simply too dangerous for democracy? Is there a better way to balance these concerns while limiting the impotency of the president during his or her “lame duck” term?
— written by poetloverrebelspy