Putin until 2036: in which countries the presidential terms were reset to zero and what did it lead to
Russia is not the first country to reset presidential terms. Previously, this was done in other CIS states and in South America, and in recent years in Africa. Details tells DW.
Zeroing the presidential term will allow Vladimir Putin to be twice elected president of Russia and potentially remain at the top post in the Russian Federation until 2036. This norm, as part of a package of amendments to the constitution, according to the CEC, was approved at a vote held in Russia from June 25 to July 1. Earlier, changes were approved by the State Duma, the Federation Council and all regional parliaments, as well as agreed by the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation.
Russia is far from the first country to have used the zeroing trick to extend the term of the incumbent. Thus, the constitutional limitation on the number of terms of government was formally retained, but in reality it was neglected.
Before Putin, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi did it quite recently in Egypt. In 2019, a constitutional referendum was held in this country, which increased his current presidential term from four to six years and at the same time nullified the previous one - from 2014 to 2018. Thus, Al-Sisi, like Putin, will be able to run again for the presidency in 2024.
Zeroing in Peru led the president to prison
The pioneers in circumventing the constitutional limitation of the number of presidential terms by zeroing were the leaders of the countries of South America and the former USSR. In 1996, this option was used by Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus and Alberto Fujimori in Peru. Their further fate has developed in different ways.
Lukashenka, having held a referendum on changing the basic law of the country, actually “wrote off” the first two years of his rule. And in 2004 he carried through a plebiscite the abolition of restrictions on presidential terms and still rules in Belarus.
Fujimori, who became the head of Peru in 1990, did not change the constitution, but in 1996 initiated the adoption of the law in the Congress controlled by him directly on the zeroing of his terms. As a result, he won the 2000 elections, in which, according to the constitution, he could not participate, but fled the country amid protests. In 2007, Interpol arrested Fujimori and extradited to his homeland, where he was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Presidency to death
Some heads of state in their nullifying terms and rewriting the constitution was stopped only by death. So, in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez began to change the constitution shortly after coming to power in 1999. As a result, new presidential elections were held in the country, and already in 2001 Chavez entered into a new term of government, the first two years were, as it were, not counted. In 2009, in the spirit of Lukashenko, he abolished restrictions on the presidential term, but, having won the 2012 election, he did not take up his duties for health reasons. Hugo Chavez passed away in March 2013.
Former President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov by 2007 was the head of state for 16 years. Thanks to the 1995 referendum on the extension of powers, instead of elections, formally, these were only two presidential terms. On the third, according to the constitution of the country, he could not go, but went. The fact is that in 2002, at a constitutional referendum, the length of the presidential term was increased. And with the updated constitution, the 2007 elections became Karimov's “first” again. Then there was another victory at the “second” in 2015 - and death in 2016.
When the president is forced to flee the country
The first president of independent Kyrgyzstan, Askar Akaev, ruled the country since 1991. In 1998, when his second term in office was coming to an end, the country's Constitutional Court clarified in response to a request from a group of deputies that Akayev could run for president again. The reason is that the constitution of independent Kyrgyzstan was adopted in 1993, after the first election of Askar Akayev, so his first term was “zero”. Interestingly, in a similar situation, the Russian Constitutional Court ruled that Boris Yeltsin would not be able to run for a third term and participate in the 2000 presidential elections.
As for Akayev, he remained in power until 2005, when the Tulip Revolution broke out in Kyrgyzstan, demanding his resignation. As a result, the president fled to Russia, which refused to extradite him despite the demands of the Kyrgyz Prosecutor General's Office.
Blaise Compaore came to power in Burkina Faso in 1987 in a military coup. Subsequently, he twice won the presidential elections. In 2000, the Burkina constitution was changed - now the head of state could hold this position for two terms, not 7, but 5 years each. Before the next elections, the Constitutional Council of the country indicated that the previous presidential terms of Compaore were thereby canceled. So he was able to be elected for two more terms, and when, at the end of them, in 2014, he wanted to rewrite the basic law, the Burkina people rebelled. As a result, Blaise Compaoré resigned and fled the country.
From zeroing deadlines to canceling restrictions
The first term of the incumbent President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon was in 1994, and the other “first” was in 2006. A constitutional referendum of 2003 took place between them, "nullifying" his previous rule. In 2016, personally for Rakhmon, a special provision was prescribed in the main law, allowing him to run for an unlimited number of times.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev won his first presidential election in 1991 as the only candidate on the ballot. Four years later, his presidency was extended by referendum until 2000. But in 2000, as the Constitutional Council of the country explained, Nazarbayev's “first” term under the new Constitution of Kazakhstan in 1995 came again.
In 2007, an exception was added to the Kazakh basic law personally for Nursultan Nazarbayev as the first president - he could run an unlimited number of times. Which he did until he retired in March 2019 at the age of 79. At the same time, he retained the posts of head of the country's Security Council and chairman of the ruling party, and his daughter became the speaker of the Kazakh parliament.
Presidents in Africa nullified in 2010
In these years, the leaders in the nullification of presidential terms were African countries. In addition to Egypt, this happened in Senegal and Burundi. Senegalese former president Abdulay Wad came to power in 2000, in 2001 he carried out a constitutional reform, limiting the number of acceptable presidential terms to two (there was no restriction before). And, having been re-elected for a second term, he assured that he would not violate these rules. But when his second term in 2012 came to an end, 85-year-old Wad said he intended to run again. The Senegal Constitutional Court dismissed the opposition’s complaint, stating that the president legally goes only for a second term after updating the constitution, not a third. However, Abdoulay Wad lost this election.
In Burundi, the president has already reset to zero twice. In 2005, the head of state, Pierre Nkurunzizu, was elected by parliament. Then the procedure was changed, and in 2010 he became the first president of Burundi to be elected by popular vote. Five years later, he wanted to run again, and the country's Constitutional Court allowed him, de facto nullifying his first term. Some Burundian soldiers mutinied and staged a coup attempt, but eventually the rebel generals were arrested and Nkurunziza won the election again. In 2018, Burundi adopted a new constitution, which reversed all previous presidential terms of Pierre Nkurunziza before the presidential election, which was scheduled for August 2020. However, on June 8, Nkurunziza died: according to the official version, from a heart attack, although some media outlets wrote that the new coronavirus was the cause.
The former leaders of Bolivia, Evo Morales, also joined African leaders. Having come to power in 2005, four years later he carried out a constitutional reform. When Morales already had two presidential terms, the country's Constitutional Court nullified his first period of rule, because he was before the change in the basic law of Bolivia. During the de facto third term, Morales tried to lift the restriction on the number of presidential terms, but the Bolivians voted against it. Then the Supreme Court entered the case and still lifted this restriction. As a result, Evo Morales announced his victory in the 2019 elections, but after protests fled the country. At home, he is accused of criminal offenses.
Finally, perhaps the most unusual nullification occurred in Ukraine at the beginning of the XXI century. As in Kyrgyzstan, the Ukrainian Constitutional Court considered that the first term of Leonid Kuchma could be reset, as it began before the adoption of the new constitution. But Kuchma himself did not run for president in 2004, so the potential zeroing was not actually realized.
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