A term of office
is the length of time a person serves in a particular elected office
. In many jurisdictions there is a defined limit on how long terms of office may be before the officeholder must be subject to re-election
. Some jurisdictions exercise term limits
, setting a maximum number of terms an individual may hold in a particular office.
House of Commons
In the United Kingdom
Members of Parliament (MPs) in the House of Commons
are elected for the duration of the parliament. Following dissolution
of the Parliament, a general election
is held which consists of simultaneous elections for all seats. For most MPs this means that their terms of office are identical to the duration of the Parliament. An individual's term may be cut short by death or resignation
. An MP elected in a by-election
mid-way through a Parliament, regardless of how long they have occupied the seat, is not exempt from facing re-election
at the next general election.
The Septennial Act 1715
provided that a Parliament expired seven years after it had been summoned; this maximum period was reduced to five years by the Parliament Act 1911
. Prior to the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011
parliaments had no minimum duration. Parliaments could be dissolved early by the monarch at the Prime Minister
's request. Early dissolutions occurred when the make-up of Parliament made forming government impossible (as occurred in 1974
), or, more commonly, when the incumbent government reasoned an early general election would improve their re-election chances (e.g. 2001
). The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 mandated that Parliaments should last their full five years. Early dissolution is still possible but under much more limited circumstances. However, the government has pledged to repeal this act.
Because the government
and Prime Minister
are effectively indirectly elected
through the Commons, the terms of Parliaments and MPs do not directly apply to offices of government, though in practice these are affected by changes in Parliament. While, strictly speaking, a Prime Minister whose incumbency spans multiple Parliaments only serves one, unbroken, term of office, some writers may refer to the different Parliaments as separate terms.
House of Lords
The office of the leader of the devolved administrations has no numeric term limit imposed upon it. However, in the case of the Scottish Government
and the Welsh Government
there are fixed terms for which the legislatures
can sit. This is imposed at eight years. Elections may be held before this time but only if no administration can be formed, which has not happened yet.
Other elected offices
Offices of local government
other regional elected officials follow similar rules to the national offices discussed above, with persons elected to fixed terms of a few years.
State and territories
- 44 states had terms of office for the lower house of the state legislature (often termed the state House of Representatives) at two years. Five (Alabama, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, and North Dakota) had terms of office at four years. (The Nebraska Legislature is an exception and has a unicameral legislature with members elected for four years.)
- 37 states had terms of office for the upper house of the state legislature (often termed the state Senate) at four years. Twelve (Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont) had terms of office at two years.
As a former British territory following the Westminster System
, there are many similarities with the United Kingdom, although with some variations based on local customs, the federal system of government and the absentee monarch.
Being a Commonwealth realm
, Canada shares a monarch
with the United Kingdom and 14 other countries, who serves as head of state of all 16 realms until their death or abdication.
The Governor General
is appointed by the monarch as his/her personal representative on the advice of the Prime Minister
, and serves for an indefinite term
, though the normal convention is 5 years. Similarly, the Lieutenant Governors
, who represent the monarch at the provincial level, are appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister (usually also with consultation of the relevant provincial premier
), and generally also serve 5 year terms by convention. The territories have Commissioners
, who are not representatives of the monarch, but are instead appointed by and represent the Governor-in-Council
(i.e. the federal cabinet
), and conventionally serve for about 5 years.
House of Commons
Similar to the United Kingdom, MPs serve for the duration of the Parliament. They may resign before the end of a Parliament or be elected in by-elections
during the middle of a Parliament.
Under the Constitution Act, 1867
, a Parliament may last for a maximum of 5 years from the most recent election before expiring, although all Parliaments to date have been dissolved before they could expire. Bill C-16, introduced in the 39th Parliament
, provided for fixed election dates every 4 years on the third Monday in October, beginning in 2009. However, the Prime Minister may still advise the Governor General to dissolve Parliament at any time.
As in the United Kingdom, the cabinet and head of government are indirectly elected based on the composition of the House of Commons, they are not technically affected by the terms of legislators or Parliaments. In practice however, the terms of government office holders are affected by changes in the House of Commons, and those who serve for multiple consecutive Parliaments are generally considered to have served a single term. The term of a government generally ends when it is defeated on a confidence matter or the governing party fails to gain enough seats in a general election.
Senators are appointed to the Canadian Senate
to represent a province, territory, or group of provinces, by the Governor General of Canada on the advice of the Prime Minister, and serve until the mandatory retirement age of 75. Senators appointed before the passage of the British North America Act, 1965
served for life. Senators may also resign from office or be expelled from the Senate.
Provincial and Territorial Legislatures
Provincial legislatures and the legislature of the Yukon function very similarly to the federal House of Commons. MLAs (called MPPs in Ontario
, MNAs in Quebec
, and MHAs in Newfoundland and Labrador
) serve for the duration of the legislature, though they may resign before the legislature is dissolved or be elected in by-elections between general elections. The legislatures of the Northwest Territories
operate using a consensus
model, but are similar otherwise. The premiers and their cabinets are selected in the same way as in the House of Commons, and like at the federal level, the term of a provincial government can be ended by defeat in a general election or the loss of the legislature's confidence.
All provincial legislatures except that of Nova Scotia
have fixed-term election legislation in place, as does the legislature of the Northwest Territories. Premiers may also advise Lieutenant Governors to dissolve legislatures at any time before the prescribed election date.
In the Netherlands the position of Minister-President (Prime Minister) is limited to four years (counted from the moment the government is officially formed) although it can be repeated indefinitely after subsequent elections. It is common for the heads of governments in the Netherlands to take up the mantle multiple times, although it's neither expected or required to do so, more often a consequence of governments breaking up internally before their official four years are over and reforming with other parties. This is how the Netherlands ended up with consequent cabinets by: 4x Willem Drees
(Drees-Van Schaik I '48, Drees I '51, Drees II '52 - Drees III '56) 3x Dries van Agt
(Van Agt I '77, Van Agt II '81, Van Agt III '82) 4x Jan Peter Balkenende
(Balkenende I '02, Balkenende II '03, Balkenende III '06, Balkenende IV '07) 3x Mark Rutte
(Rutte I '10, Rutte II '12, Rutte III '17)
Between 1982 and 2018, the Constitution of China
stipulated that the president
, vice president
, vice premiers
could not serve more than two consecutive terms. In March 2018, China
's party-controlled National People's Congress
passed a set of constitutional amendments including removal of term limits for the president
and vice president
, as well as enhancing the central role of the Chinese Communist Party
On 17 March 2018, the Chinese legislature reappointed Xi as president, now without term limits; Wang Qishan
was appointed vice president.
The following day, Li Keqiang
was reappointed premier
and longtime allies of Xi, Xu Qiliang
and Zhang Youxia
, were voted in as vice-chairmen of the state military commission
Foreign minister Wang Yi
was promoted to state councillor
and General Wei Fenghe
was named defence minister
Terms of office by country
Numbers in years unless stated otherwise. Note that some countries where fixed-term elections
are uncommon, the legislature is almost always dissolved earlier than its expiry date. "Until removed from office
" refers to offices that don't have fixed terms; in these cases, the officeholder(s) may serve indefinitely until death, abdication, resignation, retirement, or forcible removal from office (such as impeachment
In most cases where the head of government
is a different person from the head of state, its term of office is identical to the chamber that elected it (the legislature if it is unicameral, or most usually the lower house
if it is bicameral), unless it doesn't survive a vote of no confidence
Alexander Baturo and Robert Elgie (eds.). 2019. The Politics of Presidential Term Limits. Oxford University Press.
- ^ Excludes senators for life.
- ^ The Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina is composed of three members as a collective head of state, all elected at the same time via popular vote, by different constituencies each, every four years.
- ^ In Italy the ‘‘prorogatio’’, unlike the real extension of the term, does not affect the duration of the electoral mandate, but only concerns the exercise of the powers in the interval between the deadline, natural or anticipated, of this mandate, and the entry into office of the new elected body.
- ^ The Federal Council of Switzerland is composed of seven members as a collective head of state, all elected at the same time by the Federal Assembly of Switzerland every four years.
- ^ "Margaret Thatcher". Biography.com. Retrieved 5 February 2016. During her three terms…
- ^ Shi, Jiangtao; Huang, Kristin (26 February 2018). "End to term limits at top 'may be start of global backlash for China'". South China Morning Post. Archived from the original on 27 February 2018. Retrieved 28 February 2018.
- ^ Phillips, Tom (4 March 2018). "Xi Jinping's power play: from president to China's new dictator?". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 4 March 2018. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
- ^ Wen, Philip (17 March 2018). "China's parliament re-elects Xi Jinping as president". Reuters. Archived from the original on 17 March 2018. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
- ^ Bodeen, Christopher (17 March 2018). "Xi reappointed as China's president with no term limits". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 17 March 2018. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
- ^ Zhou, Xin (18 March 2018). "Li Keqiang endorsed as China's premier; military leaders confirmed". South China Morning Post. Archived from the original on 27 August 2019. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
- ^ Ng, Teddy (19 March 2018). "China's foreign minister gains power in new post as state councillor". South China Morning Post. Archived from the original on 5 March 2019. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
- ^ Mitchell, Tom (7 September 2019). "China's Xi Jinping says he is opposed to life-long rule". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 17 April 2018. Retrieved 17 April 2018. President insists term extension is necessary to align government and party posts
- ^ https://www.president.am/en/constitution-2015/
- ^ http://www.laltdh.org/pdf/constution_tchad.pdf
- ^ Buonomo, Giampiero (2003). "Norme regionali annullate, ma sulla "prorogatio" del Consiglio passa il federalismo". Diritto&Giustizia edizione online. – via Questia (subscription required)
- ^ https://mjp.univ-perp.fr/constit/mg2010.htm#3
Last edited on 15 April 2021, at 14:46
Content is available under CC BY-SA 3.0
unless otherwise noted.