25 January 2011

2 Lessons from Tunisia

First, the west is wrong to think of old dictators as useful allies.

our second lesson is that  leaders of extraordinary tenure are rarely good for their own countries.

In sum, little good comes from allowing a president to remain in power much longer than a decade.  That is why I have long argued that the imposition of presidential term limits is perhaps the single most important measure to improve the governance and economic performance of developing countries.

Nicholas van de Walle, who I believe is probably one of the foremost Africanist political scientists


Boredinpostconflict said...

Problem is that when you try to apply a presidential term limit, they just change the constitution when they get to power.

Lee said...

Good example of a rule/institution, takes a while for it to have any teeth.

texasinafrica said...

There's no probably about it when it comes to van de Walle. He's the best of the best.

Kim Dionne said...

In an era when changing the constitution is frowned upon, rulers can instead hand-pick their successors. This happened in Malawi, where there is a constitutional limit to the president's tenure. The hand-picked successor eventually broke away, but now in his second and final term, has anointed his brother to be the next ruling party candidate for President.

That said, I'm not sure I've lost faith in long periods of rule, despite all the evidence of terrible governance and dictatorship in Africa. I think about FDR in the US and what a difficult time it was and how he created policies that weren't short-term responses. Sometimes you need to think about the long haul, and I'm not convinced a constitutionally limited executive tends to do that, even in their lame duck term.

Lee said...

Indeed this is something of a conundrum. A fixed term president is more akin to a "Roving Bandit" with less stake in the future than a 30-year "stationary bandit." But I think the terrible governance and dictatorship kind of outweighs any potential benefits.

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