Posts tagged ‘Term Limits’

05/08/2012

Russia’s Putin is no Gorbachev

Russia has a new virtual czar named Vladimir Putin, who was sworn in yesterday for a third term as President, despite the fact the legitimate Russian Constitution limits him to just two terms.

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union over 20 years ago, Russia remains an important country, since it continues to hold a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and remains influential in many developing nations. Although Russia adopted market and political reforms under Gorbachev in 1991, Putin’s recent power grab, has set Russia back in the eyes of the world.

The problem is many Russians like Putin lack a role-model for good governance. They have no George Washington to look up to, a man who could have been the first American king, if he had only wanted a crown. Since George abhorred the very idea of monarchy, he settled for President, and proved his real faith in democracy, as he voluntarily left office after two 4-year terms.

The problem in Russia is most of their well known figures were either czars or brutal dictators. Peter the Great, whose army expanded Russian interests along the Baltic, was no democrat. When Napoleon’s Grand Army invaded Russia in 1812 to liberate humanity from the tyranny of monarchs, the Russians stood on the wrong side of history, and defended the czar. When Alexander II freed the serfs in 1861, he forgot to give them any land, and of course doomed them to a never-ending cycle of poverty.

Even after the birth of the Bolsheviks, Russians gained no lasting role-model. While Karl Marx condemned the Czar, arguing wealth was accumulated through the exploitation of labor, no one today uses his icon. Vladimir Lenin, whose bust was everywhere in the Soviet Union 30 years ago, has been relegated to the pages of history. Certainly no one now could emulate Joseph Stalin, whose murderous dictatorship carried on for nearly 30 years, (1924-53).

The man Putin and others could admire is Mikhail Gorbachev (1985-91), but for some reason his lead is not being followed. Gorbachev was perhaps the greatest man of the 20th Century, as he unilaterally withdrew Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1988, advocated glasnost (openness), and promoted perestroika (a rebuilding). He ushered in open elections in 1989, for the first time in 70 years. He received the Nobel Peace Prize, as he took out old-line communists, and faced off against 100,000 reactionaries, whose coup attempt against him failed. Gorbachev single-handedly dissolved the Soviet Union from within in 1991, as 14 former Soviet republics celebrated their independence.

Following Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin served as President (1991-99) until he resigned in 1999. When Vladimir Putin, finished his term (1999-00), there was hope Russia was on its way to a free and open system, as Putin was elected in his own right (2000-04), and then re-elected for a second four-year term (2004-08).

Russia however turned in the wrong direction in 2008, when Putin failed to leave government, and instead cut a deal with a little inconsequential man named Dmitry Medvedev, who kept Putin’s seat warm for four years, while Putin served as Prime Minister (2008-12). After Medvedev abolished the Constitutional ban against serving more than two terms, Medvedev stepped down, making way for the Presidential return of the power-hungry Putin.

As President for nine years and Prime Minister for four, Putin has already been in charge for 13 years, and he should now leave the Kremlin. Gorbachev did not dissolve the dictatorial rule of the old Soviet guard, only to see it replaced by a new round of corrupt men. While Russia badly needs another Gorbachev, they got stuck instead with Putin, and more of the same. The Russian people must re-assert their Constitutional term limits, take Putin and Medvedev out, and replace them with a modern-day Gorbachev.

 

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04/20/2012

Term Limits Needed in House & Senate

A Constitutional Convention is needed to amend the U.S. Constitution so we can limit U.S. House members to no more than six terms of two years each, and U.S. Senators to no more than two terms of six years each. Because incumbency has become a way of life in Washington, and the amount of money in politics has made it nearly impossible to defeat sitting U.S. Senators or House members, the Constitution must be amended to limit terms.

The idea of limiting terms is a good one that dates back to some of our Founding Fathers, like Thomas Jefferson, who urged the imposition of limits on the number of years Senators could serve.

Although no express limits were included in the final draft of the U.S. Constitution, our first 31 Presidents adhered to a tradition started by George Washington, who left office after eight years as Commander-in-Chief. When Franklin Roosevelt violated tradition and stayed more than 12 years, the 22nd Amendment was ratified in 1951, constraining Presidents to two elected terms of four years each, or one elected 4-year term, if more than two years were already served from the term of the previous President.

Limiting the terms of U.S. House members and U.S. Senators would however prove to be much more difficult than what was done with Presidents. The problem is Constitutional Amendments typically start with a House bill that requires a two-thirds vote, and since the careers of those who wish to remain more than 12 years would be cut short by this Amendment, Representatives would have a direct conflict of interest, and the proponents of change would be unlikely to get enough votes to even get started.

The only alternative to the ordinary Amendment process is to convene a Constitutional Convention, pursuant to Art. V of the Constitution. If the legislatures in 34 states (two-thirds) vote in favor of convening a Constitutional Convention, representatives of all 50 states would be invited, and if an Amendment was introduced, the approval of 38 states (three-fourths) would be needed to make it a part of the Constitution.

Although most scholars agree an Amendment is needed, it will never start in Congress, and must instead begin with the introduction of an identical bill in 34 state legislative bodies, calling for a Constitutional Convention, strictly limited to one simply-worded Term Limit Amendment. The Amendment would then be submitted to all 50 states, and would become law when ratified by 38 states.

02/22/2012

Senegal: Support Term Limit Protests

We should support the protesters in Senegal who are objecting to the decision by President Abdoulaye Wade to run for a third term, since the Senegalese Constitution limits their leaders to no more than two terms in office.

Senegal’s road to democracy is a long one. For roughly 500 years, the colonial Europeans denied black Africans self-rule. The Portuguese were the first to take Senegalese treasure from the coast, beginning in the 1440s. After the Netherlands built a port at Goree Island in 1588, the French constructed a trading post at St. Louis in 1659, and seized Goree from the Dutch. Following an 1825 conflict, the French moved inland in 1854, and by 1893, had suppressed all resistance. French West Africa ruled this part of the African continent from 1895, through independence in 1960.

The removal of French colonialism was a major step towards democracy. Unfortunately, the initial version of the Senegalese Constitution contained no term-limits, and as a result, their first president, Leopold Senghor, served for 20 years, through 1980, and their second, Abdou Diouf, ruled for 19 years through 2000, despite protests in the 1988 and 1993 campaigns.

The current president, Mr. Wade, was first elected in 1999. Shortly afterward, the Senegalese changed their constitution, by adopting a two-term limit in 2001. Although Wade was re-elected to a second term in 2007, he announced he would run again in 2012, sparking protests, because this would be a third term. Wade, 85, further aggravated pro-democracy protesters, by trying to create a family dynasty, by making his son Vice-President.

Wade took the issue before the Senegalese Supreme Court, where a friendly judiciary ruled his first election did not count, since the term-limit amendment was not implemented until 2001, which was after he had already started serving.

Wade may have won a technical argument in court, but he lost in the eyes of those who seek more, not less, democracy. No one told our first President George Washington to step down after two terms totaling eight years. He did it to set an example of how democratic power should be transferred. President Obama, Sec. of State Clinton, and the American public should now pressure Wade to do the right thing and simply step down. 12 years in office is long enough.

01/17/2012

Republican Debate: New Hamp (1-8-12)

FOREIGN POLICY: Paul said we need someone to challenge our huge empire overseas and the amount we spend on it. Elections are held overseas, he said, but we refuse to accept results. We can no longer have 900 bases in 130 countries, he said. Santorum argued the problem with Paul is all the things Republicans like about him, he cannot accomplish, and all the things they worry about, he can do on day one. As commander-in-chief, on day one, Paul could pull all our troops back from overseas. We would no longer have the 5th Fleet in the Persian Gulf. Perry also disagreed with Paul, saying overseas spending is not our biggest problem.

DEFENSE SPENDING: Huntsman said Defense should not be a sacred cow. If we cannot find cuts in the Defense, we are nuts.

IRAN: Santorum argued Iran has a theocracy which believes the afterlife is better than this one. They are different than the Soviets, China, or North Korea, as they would actually use nuclear weapons, since they value martyrdom and would die for Allah.

PAKISTAN: Even though Pakistan already has nuclear weapons, Santorum said they are a secular state, and not theocratic.

SOCIALISM: Perry believes Obama is a socialist. Paul said there is a socialism for the rich. The banks, and military industrial complex run the entitlement system, and benefit from it.

CAPITALISM: Gingrich referred to a NY Times report that said Romney’s Bain Capital engaged in behavior which looted a company and left 1,700 unemployed.

RECESSION: Romney does not blame Obama for the recession, but claims he is responsible for getting us deeper into it and causing it to go on longer.

BANKS: Romney argues the Dodd-Frank Bill made it harder for community banks to make loans.

LABOR: Perry thinks there is a federal law that forces states to enact right-to-work laws. He claims he is not anti-union, but instead pro-jobs. Santorum would sign a national right-to-work law. Romney said the anti-union right-to-work laws make sense for the entire nation. He also claims Obama stacked the National Labor Relations Board with “labor stooges.”

ENERGY: In response to a question regarding home heating oil prices rising in NH to $4 gallon, because Obama cut the program that helps low income people, Huntsman said we need to disrupt the oil monopoly. Paul wants energy deregulated. He said subsidizing it is not the way to do it. Gingrich wants federal lands and offshore areas opened for oil and gas development. Romney said air pollution is a reason to switch to natural gas, located in the Dakotas, Penn and Texas, which costs only a fraction of oil.

ENVIRONMENT: Romney said we are responsible for clean air and cannot allow pollution from one state to flow to another state.

HEALTH CARE: Huntsman agrees with the Ryan plan which would remove 6.2 trillion from the budget over 10 years. Medicare should not be a sacred cow, he said. He would impose means testing. Gingrich called the new Ryan-Wyden bill more sensible. Paul explained medical care is not a right, like liberty, but rather an entitlement. He explained federal employees have a choice of plans. If they opt for a more expensive one, their co-insurance costs are higher. Romney would cut Obamacare and save 95 billion a year. Santorum opposes subsidizing high income seniors and supports anti-socialist approaches like Medical Savings Accounts, Medicare Advantage, based on premiums, and Medicare Part D.

SOCIAL SECURITY: Romney does not want to change Medicare or Social Security for current retirees.

POVERTY: Romney said federal poverty programs need to be sent back to the states. Given the bureaucracy, he thinks very little actually reaches those who need it. Santorum would block grant food stamps and housing and send them back to the states.

AGENCIES: Perry would eliminate the Energy, Commerce, and Education Depts. Romney would cut a whole series of programs.

TERM LIMITS: Huntsman said, as a candidate for governor, he talked about term limits and campaign finance reform.

BUDGET: The only people who would be in pain through budget cuts are crooks, Gingrich said. Romney said we need to stop the extraordinary spending going on for the past 20, 30 to 40 years.  Paul said his 1 trillion dollar proposal to cut spending would not begin with Social Security, but rather overseas spending. He would return to the 2006 budget. Perry said spending is the biggest problem and wants a balanced budget amendment.

TAXES: The right course, Romney said, is not to raise taxes. Huntsman said loopholes and deductions weigh down our tax code by 1 trillion dollars, and give rise to lobbying on Capitol Hill. We must say good-bye to corporate welfare and subsidies.

FAMILY: Santorum believes the breakdown of the American family is undermining America, as he pointed out the rate of poverty in single-parent families is five times higher.

GAYS: Romney would not discriminate against gays. He appointed people to the bench regardless of sexual orientation, but does not favor same-sex marriage. Santorum said every person should be treated with respect and dignity and should have equal opportunity, but he opposes adoption by gay couples.

ELECTABILITY: Romney will have a very hard time getting elected, Gingrich argued. Romney called himself a conservative, who balanced the Mass budget 4 years straight, and cut taxes 19 times. Santorum pointed out that if Romney was such a great Mass. Gov, why didn’t he run for re-election? He said Romney lost a race to Sen. Kennedy in 1994 by 20 points. When Romney claimed politics is not a career for him, Gingrich told him to drop the “pious baloney.” He said Romney has been running for office since the 1990s.  Paul doesn’t think the Republicans will do well with a candidate who endorsed the single-payer system and TARP bailouts. Paul sponsored 620 measures, but just 4 made it to the floor, and only 1 became law.

01/16/2012

Republican Debate: New Hamp (1-7-12)

QUALIFICATIONS: Huntsman repeated he lived overseas four times and managed two American embassies, one in China. Santorum mentioned his eight years on the Armed Services Committee, as qualification for Commander-in-Chief.

TERROR: Santorum said Obama is trying to make the war on terror politically correct by removing the words “radical Islam” from every defense document.

DEFENSE: Santorum argued government has a role to play in defense. Romney accused Obama of wanting to shrink the military, and Perry said he is cutting 1 billion in defense spending.

MILITARY SERVICE: Paul, who was drafted and served when he was young, noted 40,000 were seriously injured in our recent wars, while 8,500 died, and those who received 3, 4 or 5 deferments and did not serve, have no right to send our kids off to war. Gingrich said during the Vietnam War, he was married and never requested a deferment. He claimed he was somehow ineligible for the draft. Paul said when he was drafted, he went despite being married with two children. Romney, who received several deferments during Vietnam, finds it extraordinary that only a few families are paying the price for freedom.

AFGHAN: Huntsman said we drove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, ran al Qaeda out into sanctuaries, held free elections, and eliminated bin Laden. It is time to come home and stop nation-building. He thinks a civil war is around the corner. He would leave behind only Special Forces and 10,000 troops for intelligence gathering. Romney would listen to the generals on the ground, and without reason, said he would wait until 2014 to withdraw. Huntsman said we deferred to the generals in 1967 and did not get good results.

IRAN: Paul said he does not want Iran to get a nuclear weapon, but putting sanctions against Iran will only lead to the unintended consequence of pushing them into the hands of China. Romney accused Obama of not imposing crippling sanctions against Iran. Santorum wants to help the revolutionaries in Iran as he called the situation the most pressing issue of the day. Gingrich worries more about the closing of the Straits of Hormuz, since one of six barrels of oil flows through it every day.

IRAQ: Perry wants to send troops back into Iraq now. He worries Iran will enter Iraq. Romney would not now send troops to Iraq.

TRADE: Romney said China and European states opened 44 different trade relationships with various nations around the world. We have to do the same for American goods, claiming Obama not. He also said China manipulates their currency and if you artificially hold down its value, you make your products lower-priced and kill American jobs. Huntsman said its nonsense to think you can slap a tariff on China your first day in office as Romney would do. He said Romney would take us into a trade war where we would get tariffs in return that will hurt our exports. Romney said China does not want a trade war, because they sell more to us than we sell to them. He would hold China to free and fair trade rules. Gingrich said we cannot compete with China with an inferior infrastructure.

VULTURE CAPITALISM: Gingrich accused Romney of making spectacular profits by stripping American businesses of assets, selling everything to the highest bidder, and killing jobs for big financial rewards. He opposed leveraged buyouts, where money is taken out and workers are left behind. He said Bain bankrupted companies and laid off employees. Romney said companies must downsize before turning around and making a success. Bain invested in over 100 businesses, he said, and on balance claimed 100,000 jobs were added. Steel Dynamics in Indiana added thousands, Bright Horizons 15,000, Sports Authority 15,000, and Staples 90,000. Romney said sometimes they were not successful.

MANUFACTURING: Huntsman thinks we can win back investment and have a manufacturing renaissance.

FINANCE: Paul thinks we are in a 40-year financial bubble which is bursting and we must liquidate the debt. Romney opposed the Dodd-Frank bill.

CLASS WAR: Santorum said there are no classes in America; there are middle income people

JOBS: Romney hopes the economy is turning around, because there are 25 million unemployed or who stopped looking. Obama’s policies have made the recession deeper, he argues. Perry wants New Hampshire to pass a right-to-work law, and Paul said Santorum voted against right-to-work laws.

REGULATIONS: Perry thinks Americans want less regulation.

ENERGY: Romney said our policies keep us from using our own energy. Perry wants to open up federal lands and waters to more domestic energy drilling, so we are not hostage to countries hostile to us. Gingrich wants an energy plan free of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela. Santorum served on a coal company board.

TRANSPORTATION: Gingrich said we must make investments, because we cannot complete with China with an inferior infrastructure. Romney advocated improving our infrastructure by rebuilding bridges, roads, rail beds, and air transport systems.

HEALTH: Romney opposed Obamacare. Huntsman said he reformed health care in Utah, without an individual mandate. Paul said Santorum voted for the Prescription drug program.

EDUCATION: Paul said Santorum voted to double the Dept of Education.

SOCIAL SECURITY: Santorum said he voted for SS reform.

BUDGET/DEBT: Paul said Santorum is a big government person who voted to raise the debt ceiling five times. For the past 26 years, Paul voted against appropriations bills. Perry wants to get rid of what he called corrupt spending. Santorum said increases in the debt ceiling have happened for 200 years.

TAXES: Huntsman would eliminate 1 billion of loopholes in the tax code. He implemented a flat tax in Utah, and said the Wall St Journal endorsed his tax plan. Santorum would keep only the deductions for health care, housing, pensions, children, and charity.  He would cut corporate income tax in half, down to 17.5%. He claims the 35% rate is the highest in the world. Romney said we must have some taxes to pay for our military, but noted government has grown from 27% in JFK’s day to 37% now. He repeated a pledge to eliminate taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains. Perry thinks Americans want less taxation.  Gingrich would reduce capital gains to zero, corporate income tax to 12.5% and he would abolish the death tax. He would allow 100% expensing for all new equipment.

TERM LIMITS: Huntsman wants Congressional terms limits.

DISCRIMINATION IN LEGAL SYSTEM: Paul said the legal system discriminates, as it arrests and imprisons blacks for drug offenses far more than whites. They get the death penalty more often, he added.

CONTRACEPTION: Santorum believes there is no constitutional right to privacy, and states have a 10th Amendment right to ban contraception. After being directed to Griswold v Conn (1965), in which a state law banning contraception was challenged, Romney doesn’t think any state today wants to ban contraception.

ABORTION: Romney said Roe v Wade (1973) was not decided correctly because he thinks the issue should have been left to the states. He wants the ruling overturned.

PRIVACY: Paul correctly informed everyone the 4th Amendment contains privacy protections. Santorum agreed there is a right to privacy in the 4th Amendment.

GAYS: Huntsman, married 28 years with 7 children, thinks civil unions are fair. Santorum said gay marriage is not a federal issue, but marriage itself is because we need one law on the topic. We cannot have someone married in one state, and not in another. He wants a federal law that bans adoption for gay couples. Romney would amend the constitution as to gay marriage. Gingrich said gays ought to be able to designate friends in their last will or who can make hospital visits, but not through marriage, which should be reserved to one man and one woman. Perry favors a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Gingrich, Santorum, Romney all got it wrong when they said in succession if they were not debating they would be watching the championship college football game. The game was actually not on until a few evenings later.

08/31/2011

Former Soviets Still Need Democracy

Five former Soviet states could do a much better job of advancing democracy, by removing their dictators, holding new elections, and by enforcing a two-term limit of no more than 10 years total.

BELARUS: Alexander Lukashenko has ruled the former Soviet Republic of Belarus since 1994. After winning the 2001 election, he abolished presidential term limits in 2004, and essentially made himself dictator for life. Opposition candidates received just 2% of the vote in 2006, in a contest the EU called fundamentally flawed. Policemen severely beat two opposition candidates in the 2010 race, causing EU members to boycott his 2011 inauguration. Belarus must now remove Lukashenko, choose a new leader, enforce term limits, and rightfully join the democracies of Europe.

KAZAKHSTAN: Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan has been in power since the Soviet Union dissolved, under a system which is one of the most corrupt in the world. His regime drafted a constitution that virtually gives him unchecked powers. He took bribes in the 1990s from U.S. oil interests. He won the 1991 election, because opposition candidates were not allowed. Instead of using the electoral process, he extended his rule for four more years in 1995, through a referendum. Although the constitution had a two-term limit, it was amended by his friends in parliament to let him run as often as he wanted. He was re-elected in 1999 and 2005, with 91%, in races criticized by international groups.

UZBEKISTAN: Islam Karimov has controlled Uzbekistan since 1989. When independence was declared in 1991, he became their first president, with 86% support, by manipulating the vote. He limited opposition parties by requiring them to obtain 60,000 signatures to register. He extended his reign in 1995 for five more years via a referendum, and then claimed 91% of the vote in 2000. He let the U.S. use military bases (2001-05). Despite a two-term limit, he won a third term in 2007 with 88% of the vote against no opposition. As one of the worst dictators, Islam Karimov must go.

TAJIKISTAN: Emomalii Rahmon has held power in Tajikistan since 1992. He was “elected” in 1994, and again in 1999, with 97% of the vote. He controls much of the economy. Like others in the region, he used referendums, instead of elections, to remain in office beyond his term. He received 79% of the vote in 2006, and commenced another 7-year term. It is time to remove this dictator and establish a true democracy in Tajikistan.

RUSSIA: Outside pressure from Russia would help to change the politics in this region, but Vadimir Putin also has trouble letting go. When Boris Yeltsin resigned as President, Putin finished his term (1999-00). Putin was then elected in his own right, (2000-04), and re-elected for another 4-year presidential term (2004-08). Instead of stepping down at that point, and leaving government, he became Prime Minister (2008-). After 12 years as President and Prime Minister, Putin still appears to be the one in control, and it’s time for him to set an example by leaving the Kremlin.

08/29/2011

Sub-Saharan African Dictators Must Go

Following the demise of North African dictators in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt, President Obama should now focus on greater democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa, where many have held office for more than 10 years, and well beyond the growing international standard of no more than two 5-year terms.

CAMEROON: Paul Biya has been in public office in Cameroon since the early 1960s. He became Prime Minister in 1975 and President in 1982. He seized control of his political party in 1983, drove his rival into exile, convicted him of plotting a coup, and sentenced him to death. Biya won 99% of the vote in 1984, because he had no opponent. He survived a coup, before being re-elected in 1988. In a multi-party contest in 1992, Biya claimed a plurality, despite cries of fraud. After a two-term constitutional limit was imposed in 1996, Biya won 92% of the vote in 1997, because his opponents boycotted the election. He won another 7-year term in 2004, again under a cloud of suspicion. Biya called term-limits undemocratic in 2008, and simply removed them. It’s now time for the people of Cameroon to remove Biya.

EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Teodoro Obiang Mbasogo seized power in 1979 in a bloody coup, sentenced the previous leader to death, and became president. After winning a full 7-year term in 1982, he was re-elected in 1989, as the only candidate on the ballot. He claimed nearly 100% of the vote in 1996, 2002 and 2009, in contests marred by fraud. He keeps control by denying a free press and an opposition party. Obiang considers himself a god. It is time for the Equatorial Guineas to end his 32-year rule.

ANGOLA: Jose Eduardo dos Santos, became Angola’s second president in 1979. He won a plurality in the 1992 election, under allegations of fraud, and caused the civil war to continue. He said in 2001 he would step down before the next presidential election, but remained by amending the constitution to allow his ruling party to pick the leader. After 32 years, Santos has to go.

ZIMBABWE: Robert Mugabe, age 87, has been president of Zimbabwe since 1980, when the white government collapsed. Media controls were created in 2002, to ensure ongoing election victories. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was arrested in 2003, as Mugabe was accused of running a dictatorship. When Tsvangirai claimed victory in 2008, Mugabe managed to stay in office by creating a power-sharing arrangement in 2009. After 31 years in power, it’s time for Mugabe to step aside.

UGANDA: Yoweri Museveni has been Ugandan President since the prior government was overthrown in 1986. He promised a return to democracy, but held no election for 10 years, and then claimed 75% of the vote in 1996. In 2001, he accumulated 69%, in a race that was not free or fair, according to the Ugandan Supreme Court. Afterward, he said he would not run again, but he then abolished term limits and took 59% of the vote in 2006. He was re-elected again in 2011, with 68%, a tally disputed by outsiders. After 25 years, it’s time for Museveni to leave.

BURKINA FASO: Blasise Compaore of Burkina Faso came to power in 1987 in a bloody coup, during which the incumbent was executed. His opponents boycotted the 1991 election. After he was “re-elected” in 1998, the constitution was amended in 2000 to reduce presidential terms from 7 to 5 years, and to limit presidents to a total of two terms. Compaore argued the changes did not applied retroactively, so he ran and won again in 2005, and was re-elected in 2010. After 24 years, it’s time Compaore left.

Three more Africans have ruled since the 1990s, including: Yahya Jammeh of Gambia (1994-); Denis Sassau Nguesso of Congo-Brazzaville (1997-); and Pakalitha Mosisili of Lesotho (1998-).

President Obama is uniquely qualified to speak directly to the African people regarding the virtues of term limits. He should encourage the U.S. Congress and the EU to suspend all aid to any country ruled by leaders who have been in power more than 10 years, until they choose new leaders, and adopt term limits.

08/26/2011

North Africa/Mideast: More Rulers To Go

Now that Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, have thrown out their dictators, who is next? The answer is: any leader who has been in office for more than 10 years should be packing his bags, and the most senior among them should be getting on the bus first.

YEMEN: Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled Yemen for 31 years, should get on board. He solidified control in 1978 by executing 30 military officers, who he believed conspired against him. He was “elected” in 1983, and every five years afterward, with such large margins, they were suspect. After the 1999 election, he extended his term from five to seven years. In 2005, he promised not run again in 2006, but did anyway, and claimed 77% of the vote. During the Arab Spring, he said he wouldn’t seek re-election in 2013, offered to resign, but then did not. After suffering wounds in a bomb blast in June 2011, he returned. Get on the bus Saleh!

SYRIA: Even though Bashar Assad has ruled Syria for only 11 years, his father controlled the country for 29 years, from 1971 through 2000, and the Assad family has had a grip over the Syrian people for 40 years. Although Bashar was “elected” in 2000 and 2007, no opposition was allowed, and his rule lacks legitimacy. The bus driver has a reserved seat with Bashar’s name on it.

SUDAN: Omar al-Bashir seized control of Sudan in a military coup in 1989. After disbanding his revolutionary council, he made himself president in 1993. He received only 75% of the vote in 1996, even though he was the only candidate on the ballot. In 2000, he won 86%, another suspicious tally. Bashir has been known to imprison political opponents. After 22 years without change, it’s time for Omar to take his bags to the bus station.

CHAD: While in Chad’s military in 1990, Idriss Deby toppled the government and made himself president in 1991. He claimed 69% of the vote in 1996, and 63% in 2001, but the electoral process was criticized by international observers. Worse yet, Deby removed a constitutional two-term limit in 2005, which allowed him to be re-elected in 2006. He took 64% of the vote in a boycotted contest. After 21 years, Deby should get on board.

While other long-term leaders in other parts of the world must also go, there is a momentum in North Africa and the Mideast that  should continue. Let’s do what we can to remove these dictators.

04/11/2011

Zimbabwe: Mugabe Shouldn’t Run Again

Robert Mugabe, 87, who has ruled Zimbabwe for 31 years, plans to run for yet another 5-year term. While he will always be remembered by his people as a hero who led Zimbabwe to majority rule, his legacy is now at risk of being overshadowed by the suppression of freedom and failed economic policies.

Zimbabwe was a British colony known as Southern Rhodesia. Its black majority was ruled by a white racist minority. When Britain ordered Rhodesia to give blacks equal voting rights, white leader Ian Smith refused and instead declared independence (1965).

The refusal to end minority rule triggered a quasi-colonial guerilla war (1965-79). The UN asked member states not to recognize the Rhodesian regime, in which a minority of 250,000 whites controlled four million blacks (1965). During the conflict, Mugabe and the blacks fought from bases in neighboring Zambia, while Smith employed South African mercenaries, and arrested, tried, and executed many courageous black freedom fighters.

Over time, Rhodesia became isolated, as the blacks sabotaged the railroad that ran through neighboring Portuguese Mozambique to the Indian Ocean (1972). The white government was further cut off, when black majorities in neighboring Mozambique and Angola eliminated white Portuguese colonial rule (1975).

Mugabe emerged as a leading figure during the final push towards liberation (1976). As the UN called for free and fair elections, Smith visited President Carter, who pushed him into granting black voting rights (1978). Soon afterward, the white government finally abdicated and majority rule was allowed (1979). Rhodesia was renamed Zimbabwe, as Mugabe became president (1980).

If Mugabe had retired after two terms as president, he would have gone down in history as another George Washington. But he did not think his job was done by merely bringing about majority rule. Since the best farm land was controlled by the white minority, Mugabe seized it and redistributed parcels to blacks (1988). As farms were left to those with no experience managing them, the agricultural sector collapsed. Food shortages threatened famine, as an economic crisis gripped the country. Aid from the west was cut off due to the land seizure program (1998-2001). Galloping inflation ultimately led to price controls (2007).

Mugabe also put controls on the press to ensure his continued election victories (2002). He arrested opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai (2003). Frontline reported Mugabe was running a harsh dictatorship, without dissent (2006). When Tsvangirai claimed an election victory (2008), Mugabe refused to step down, and remained in office under a power-sharing deal (2009).

While Mugabe deserves respect for risking his life in the struggle against white minority rule more than three decades ago, his age, prior service of 31 years in office, willingness to control the free press, and his inability to solve current economic problems, all lead to the conclusion that he should not run again.

04/01/2011

Ivory Coast Sends Wrong Message

Ivory Coast, a country along the south coast of West Africa, has faced instability and unrest since the 2010 presidential election, when incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept the victory of his opponent, Alassane Quattara.

The election was monitored by international groups, who have confirmed that it was devoid of any voter fraud. The final count showed Quattara, the candidate from the north, receiving 54% of the vote, and Gbagbo, whose support was from the south, with just 45%. The UN subsequently endorsed Quattara as the winner.

Yet Gbagbo simply ignored the results and declared himself victorious, without any credible evidence to support his claim. He did this in spite of the Ivory Coast constitution that limits presidents to 10 years in office. No matter what the election outcome, it would appear Gbagbo is legally barred by the Ivorian Constitution from continuing, since he came to office in 2000 and has already served for 11 years.

The sad thing about personalities like Gbagbo is not so much what they do to their opponents, but the harm they inflict upon their own people, and the damage they cause to Africa as a whole. Africa needs to project a positive image of political stability, so tourism and international economic development may follow. People like Gbagbo contribute nothing to the advancement of Africa. Instead, they cause economic retreat and disinvestment.

After 117 years of French colonial rule, Ivory Coast started out in 1960 as one of the most successful in West Africa. The country’s first leader, Felix Boigny (1960-93), maintained close economic ties with France and the nation prospered. When their second leader, Henri Bedie (1993-99), faced economic troubles, he was taken out in a coup. Under Gbagbo, the country went through a civil war (2002-07) and now it is experiencing violence again.

Gbagbo tries to portray UN Peacekeepers and the international community as neo-colonial enemies. He accuses them of interfering in internal politics. But his attempt to make the globe a scapegoat is not helpful. Gbagbo must now step down and allow political stability, so global businesses can once again engage in economic development and Ivory Coast may once again prosper.