TOP
Saturday,August 15,2020 18:28 PM

Lifting Presidential Term Is No Problem

By Vision Reporter

Added 22nd January 2004 03:00 AM

ON the face of it, the argument against the proposal to delete presidential term limits (read article 105(2) from the Ugandan constitution is appealing.

ON the face of it, the argument against the proposal to delete presidential term limits (read article 105(2) from the Ugandan constitution is appealing.

On the face of it, the argument against the proposal to delete presidential term limits (read article 105(2) from the Ugandan constitution is appealing. The rationale for thrashing what is now dubiously called “Third Term” is straight and simple. It goes that there could be nothing more democratic than a president serving two five-year terms, then packing bags into retirement. We are reminded of our chilling history of abuse of power by presidents. The anti-third term logic cashes in on this to declare that having presidents exit State House office after 10 years is the panacea. The pro-article 105(2) argument wants us to believe that true democracy is when a president has to leave power at a time specified by the constitution. Going by this logic, it follows that if we implemented term limits, problems of governance and economic misery which continue to dog much of Africa would be solved. Yet looking at this argument critically, it is very simplistic and potentially misleading. The plain truth, backed by lots to examples worldwide, is that with or without term limits a country can have democracy and development. Starting from within Africa, Ugandans are well aware that presidential term limits apply in many countries in the continent. But one would be hard pressed to define many of these countries as truly democratic-government that is accountable and delivering as per peoples’ wishes. On the contrary, what one hears more often than not about even African countries with presidential term limits are stories of unbridled corruption and other clearly undemocratic practices. On the other hand, we all know of countries without term limits for the chief executives, such as Britain, but are universally acknowledged as democratic — with prosperity. Even our own Uganda, where President Yoweri Museveni can be said to have exceeded the normal two five-year terms (by doing 18 years), has scored high on the democracy chart — better than many countries with presidential term limits. And then, of course, you have the third case of countries with term limits, such as the one, only and mighty United States of America, which are accepted as very democratic. Clearly, what this boils down to is the fact that term limits may be an ingredient in the dish called ‘democracy’, but even without this spice, the soup would still taste ok. The real explanation why one country with term limits (United States) is democratic, yet another applying the same standard (Malawi) is doubted, lies in how they each implement what article one of our constitution says: All power belongs to the people. It is only when the people, through elections, referenda and petitions can make their leaders accountable that true democracy will prevail. Putting faith in term limits for leaders for its sake is defeatist. The unspoken message in the argument that sees term limits as the panacea is to say that the people have no chance against a leader they do not like anymore. They must just put up with him and gnash their teeth until the leader’s constitutional term is over. Indeed, one often hears proponents of term limits argue that President Museveni being the incumbent cannot be defeated in an election, so he must just go. This argument is a very big disservice in enhancing the power of the people over leaders. In other words, once a president is elected he or she can do whatever they want until their kisanja is over. Surely, this is very dangerous for the country. Instead, advocates of true democracy should be stressing to the people that they must develop the will and resolve to remove a president at any time they wish. Succumbing to the argument that an incumbent will manipulate the people and institutions, means admitting that the battle for sustainable democracy is lost. It means we should be contented with electing presidents to simply take turns to misrule the country. Specifically, it would be insulting to Ugandans to suggest that in both the 1996 and 2001 presidential elections, they had no choice but to elect Museveni. Ugandans definitely had both the chance and choice to replace Museveni, but they felt he was still good enough. Ugandans have progressively demonstrated that they have the resolve to remove leaders they disapprove of from office. The turnover of Members of Parliament, for example, has been pretty high over the years.
What the country needs at this point is for the peoples’ faith to be reinforced that regardless of whether article 105 (2) is deleted, they will have the ultimate power to decide who becomes president in 2006. And since opinion is divided on removing presidential term limits, let this issue first be resolved by the people. If the choice were for no term limits, and the National Resistance Movement organization (NRMo) fielded Museveni as its candidate, it would be no cause for alarm. Rather, this would be just another test for the country’s democracy; namely, would the people still want Museveni to be their President?
Ends

Lifting Presidential Term Is No Problem

Related articles

More From The Author

More From The Author