Modern systems of government seek, through constitutions and legislation to divide the powers of the state between separate branches of government, so that power never rests in the hands of any one individual. This is done with varying degrees of success in governments around the world; developed European and North American countries have constructed quite robust systems for the separation of powers, while in much of the developing world, particularly in Africa, Asia, and parts of South America power has settled in the hands of powerful individuals, both elected and dictatorial. One of the major tools used to try to check executive power is the institution of term limits. Term limits seek to limit the extent to which single individuals can dominate the governments of countries, and have succeeded in being upheld to varying extents around the world. The United States for example has a limit of two terms for the presidency which was changed from being an informal limit created by George Washington when he refused a third term to being formal by the twenty second amendment in 1951 following Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s four term presidency from 1933-45. The United Kingdom on the other hand has no term limits on its Prime Minister. This debate should not be about individual office holders and whether they should have had a third term – or in Roosevelt’s case not had one. Instead this debate should be about the principle of term limits for the highest executive office.
The executive is only one of the branches of government. The legislature and the Judiciary often have equally important roles to play and in the context of term limits it is up to them to set the limit. The term limit will require a super majority of the legislature to pass as if it is to be effective it should become part of the constitution so that it cannot be easily changed by the executive and his supporters in the legislature. The United States did this in 1951 when the twenty-second amendment of the United States Constitution was passed by two thirds majority in both houses of congress and ratified by three quarters of the states.
 Political Notes. 1951. “The 22nd Amendment”. Time, 5th March 1951, Available: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,805716,00.html
Chan, Sewell. 2008. “Debating the Pros and Cons of Term Limits”. New York Times. Available: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/15/debating-the-pros-and-cons-...Ginsburg, Tom, James Melton and Zachary Elkins. 2011. “On the Evasion of Executive Term Limits.” William and Mary Law Review. Available: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1683594Green, Eric. 2007. “Term Limits Help Prevent Dictatorships”. America.gov. Available: http://www.america.gov/st/washfile-english/2007/August/200708271340511xe...Jones, Charles and Bruce MacLaury. 1994. The Presidency in a Separated System. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.Koenig, Robert. 1995. The Chief Executive. Florence: Wadsworth Publishing.Meredith, Martin. 2003. Mugabe: Power and Plunder in Zimbabwe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Press Association. 2007. “Blair cabinet ‘took one decision in eight months’”, guardian.co.uk, 29th May 2007, Available: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2007/may/29/tonyblair.labour1Shifter, Michael. 2011. “If Hugo Goes”, ForeignPolicy.com, 28th June 2011, Available: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/06/28/if_hugo_goes?page=0,0Political Notes. 1951. “The 22nd Amendment”. Time, 5th March 1951, Available: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,805716,00.htmlWynne, Michael. 2004. “Politics, Markets, Health and Democracy”. University of Wolongong. Available: http://www.uow.edu.au/~bmartin/dissent/documents/health/political_influence.htmlVoice of America, 2009. “Chavez Celebrates End to Venezuela Term Limits”, 16th February, 2009, Available: http://www.voanews.com/english/news/a-13-2009-02-16-voa6-68768067.html