For quite some time my opinion on the question of whether we should reform our Constitution to provide for the imposition of term limits on our Prime Minister’s unbroken length of service, was one of ambivalence.
I have weighed the pros and the cons of the matter, and it is now my belief that we should not restrict our Prime Ministers tenures, but let the decision pertaining to their continuance of service remain squarely in the hands of the electorate, a democratic choice to be exercised in general elections as the voters see fit.
This method affords options. We cannot have our cake and eat it with term limits, because it is a double edged sword. On the one hand we have to be watchful and wary of the possible scenario materialising, of a single Prime Minister running the country, seemingly forever.
Because that individual may, consciously or not, over time, adopt a Napoleonic attitude. In other words, if one finds themselves retained in office for life they might stop considering the views of mere mortals, determining that he/she alone had all the answers to every situation that exists on earth.
On the other hand, we may be fortunate to elect an able leader who performs well in office, one who makes strides by embarking on meaningful and beneficial national programs. But these plans need time to fully germinate.
The last thing we would want to do is to interrupt this type of positive momentum by changing that leader because some people felt that he/she was around for too long. A scenario that could very well retard the nation’s advancement prospects.
A prime example of visionaries needing time for nation building, is that of the former Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. Mr. Yew, in power for three decades, from 1959 to 1990, had ample uninterrupted time to astutely chart Singapore’s development, making it one of the more accomplished countries in the world today.
Had this gentleman been handicapped by term limits, he would have never pulled off the economic miracle that lifted his country up the ladder from backwater nation classification to the admired nation status it enjoys today.
Free and fair elections every 5 years or so provides the safety valve we need, term limits wise, for controlling leaders who the people may perceive to have overstayed their welcome. We should continue to use the ballot box to make that determination.
We have to be careful not to hop from the frying pan into the pot, when we determine that one leader was in office for too long, and assume that giving someone new a chance to lead would automatically improve the country’s circumstances. A move like this provides no guarantee.
It’s basically a gamble. Because if that replacement leader falls short of expectations, then, what next?