Democracy, Dictatorship, and Term Limits

Alexander Baturo
Exploring the factors that lead some presidents to hold on to power beyond their term limits


When do elected incumbent leaders accept democratic rules, and when are they willing to manipulate these rules raising the specter—and in some cases creating the reality—of dictatorship? Many ambitious presidents throughout the world attempt to circumvent restrictions on the executive power. Yet, if these leaders have to surrender all these powers and step down, as stipulated by presidential term limits, then dictators they are not. In this book, Alexander Baturo examines the onset of personalism—the breakdown of term limits—in democratic, partly democratic, and even nondemocratic regimes around the world since 1960. Investigating the factors that encourage playing by the rules or manipulating those same rules, Baturo asks what is at stake for the chief executive if he relinquishes office. The argument centers on the costs and benefits of leaving office at the end of the president's term. Drawing on original data collection and fieldwork, Baturo finds that the income-generating capacity of political office in states where rent-seeking is prevalent, as well as concerns over future immunity and status, determines whether or not an executive attempts to retain power beyond the mandated period. Democracy, Dictatorship, and Term Limits will appeal to scholars of democratization and executive power as well as political theorists.

“A significant contribution to our understanding of how presidentialism operates and its effects on democratic survival and consolidation.”
—Jennifer Gandhi, Emory University

“In this fascinating book, Alexander Baturo gives us a comprehensive and rigorous account of why and how presidents try to circumvent term limits and of their success in so doing. He demonstrates that presidential term limits are often violated and that the consequences are rarely benign. He shows that, rather than an esoteric institutional detail, effective presidential term limits are often most needed where democracy itself is most at risk. This book deserves to be widely read among students of democracy and political leadership.”
—Kaare Strøm, University of California, San Diego

Cover design: Heidi Hobde Dailey

Alexander Baturo is Lecturer in International Relations at Dublin City University and a member of the Centre for International Studies.

Praise / Awards

  • "This is an important book on a highly salient issue, which shines a light on a key institution of presidential regimes, and should be read by all with an interest in what makes democracies endure."
    --David M. Willumsen, West European Politics

  • Winner of the The Brian Farrell book prize

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Supplemental Materials

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 350pp.
  • 10 figures, 22 tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2014
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11931-8

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  • $69.95 U.S.

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