Leadership term limitation is good

David Cameron

By TK Chua

I am impressed by David Cameron’s decision to resign not just as the PM of UK earlier, but also as the MP for Witney. He cited his continued presence in the House of Commons as untenable for the new PM.

I think accountability and leadership renewal will only work when politicians are honourable and play by the rules.

Leaders must stand by the decisions or the policies they make. If they have made mistakes, they must take responsibility. It is useless for them to argue further, citing excuses or worse still, asking for more time for them to rectify the mistakes. This is just baloney.

I am not just talking about leaders who must be “honourable enough” to quit when circumstances dictate. I am also talking about leaders who must accept term limitation whether expressly provided or implicitly implied.

Leadership renewal is a must. It allows new thinking and a new team of people to be in charge. More than that, it allows an opportunity for us to discontinue the mistakes made by existing leaders.

I think a term limitation of eight to ten years is more than sufficient for any leader.

Unless there are extenuating circumstances, usually a term longer than 10 years would bring more harm than good. Power will gravitate and consolidate the longer the incumbents stay in power.

It is a fallacy to argue that “capable” leaders should be allowed longer terms to accomplish whatever they set out to do. Well, if leaders can’t get things done in eight to ten years, most probably it is futile to give them longer than that.

Leadership renewal, whether mandated or self-imposed, is good for stability. Transition of power becomes more predictable and peaceful. We will see less of the upheavals and uncertainties prevailing in many countries where leaders had, or have, overstayed their welcome.

The US presidency has a clear constitutional term limitation; and even the People’s Republic of China today has a similar system. Its President and Prime Minister serve for 10 years and no more. To a certain extent, the limitation has provided stability and dynamism to that country over the years. It provides new hope for the people and it minimises mistakes if the country is unfortunate enough to inherit a hapless leader.

TK Chua is an FMT reader.

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