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President for life is a title assumed by or granted to some leaders to remove their term limit irrevocably as a way of removing future challenges to their authority and legitimacy. The title sometimes confers on the holder the right to nominate or appoint a successor. The usage of the title of "president for life" rather than a traditionally autocratic title, such as that of a monarch, implies the subversion of liberal democracy by the titleholder (although republics need not be democratic per se ). Indeed, sometimes a president for life can proceed to establish a self-proclaimed monarchy, such as Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Henry Christophe in Haiti.
A president for life may be regarded as a de facto monarch. In fact, other than the title, political scientists often face difficulties in differentiating a state ruled by a president for life (especially one who inherits the job from a family dictatorship) and a monarchy. In his proposed plan for government at the United States Constitutional Convention Alexander Hamilton proposed that the chief executive be a governor elected to serve for good behavior, acknowledging that such an arrangement might be seen as an elective monarchy. It was for that very reason that the proposal was rejected. A notable difference between a monarch and some presidents so-called for life, is based on the fact that the successor of the president do not necessarily possess a for life term, like in Turkmenistan.
Most leaders who have proclaimed themselves president for life have not in fact gone on to successfully serve a life term. Most have been deposed long before their death while others truly fulfill their title by being assassinated while in office. However, some have managed to rule until their (natural) deaths, including José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia of Paraguay, Alexandre Pétion of Haiti, Rafael Carrera of Guatemala, François Duvalier of Haiti, Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia and Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan. Others made unsuccessful attempts to have themselves named president for life, such as Zaire's Mobutu Sese Seko in 1972.
Some very long-serving authoritarian presidents, such as Zaire's Mobutu, North Korea's Kim Il-sung, Bulgaria's Todor Zhivkov, Romania's Nicolae Ceaușescu, Syria's Hafez al-Assad, Indonesia's Suharto, the Republic of China's Chiang Kai-shek and Iraq's Saddam Hussein, are frequently thought of as examples of Presidents for Life. However, they were never officially granted life terms and, in fact, underwent periodic renewals of mandate that were usually show elections. Official results showed these presidents receiving implausibly high support (in some cases, unanimous support).
In Escape from LA the President played by Cliff Robertson is given a life term by a constitutional amendment after the LA Earthquake and shocking Presidential victory. At the end of the film Snake played by Kurt Russell puts an end to his regime when he uses a EMP aiming device remote ending all governments including that of his dictatorship
One of the most well-known incidents of a republican leader extending his term indefinitely was Roman dictator Julius Caesar, who made himself "Perpetual Dictator" in 45 BC. Traditionally, the office of dictator could only be held for six months, and although he was not the first Roman dictator to be given the office with no term limit, it was Caesar's dictatorship that inspired the string of Roman emperors who ruled after his assassination.
Caesar's actions would later be copied by the French Consul Napoleon Bonaparte, who was appointed "First Consul for life" in 1802 before elevating himself to the rank of Emperor two years later. Since then, many dictators have adopted similar titles, either on their own authority or having it granted to them by rubber stamp legislatures.
Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany by President Paul von Hindenburg in January. On Hindenburg's death the German Reichstag voted to (unconstitutionally) merge the offices of President and Chancellor, giving Hitler the title of Führer. Later the Reichstag voted to allow Hitler to hold the positions of Chancellor and Führer for life.
After Kim Il-sung's death in 1994, the North Korean government wrote the presidential office out of the constitution, declaring him "Eternal President" in 1998 in order to honor his memory forever. Since there can be no succession in a system where the President reigns over a nation beyond death, the powers of the president are nominally split between the president of the Supreme People's Assembly, the prime minister, and the chairman of the State Affairs Commission. However, Kim Il-sung's son and grandson have been in control of the country since his death (Kim Jong-il from 1994 until his death in 2011, and Kim Jong-un since 2011) as the leaders of the Workers' Party of Korea.
Note: the first date listed in each entry is the date of proclamation of his status as President for Life.
|Portrait||Name||Title||Took office||Left office||Notes|
|Toussaint Louverture||Governor for Life of Saint-Domingue||1801||1802||deposed 1802, died in exile in France 1803.|
|Henri Christophe||President for Life of the State of Haiti (Northern)||1807||1811||became King 1811, committed suicide in office 1820.|
|Alexandre Pétion||President for Life of Haiti (Southern)||1816||1818||died in office 1818.|
|José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia||Perpetual Supreme Dictator of Paraguay||1816||1840||died in office 1840.|
|Jean-Pierre Boyer||President for Life of Haiti||1818||1843||became President for Life immediately upon assuming the office because Alexandre Pétion's constitution provided for a life presidency for all his successors, deposed 1843, died 1850.|
|Antonio López de Santa Anna||President for Life of Mexico||1853||1855||resigned 1855, died 1876.|
|Rafael Carrera||President for Life of Guatemala||1854||1865||died in office 1865.|
|Sukarno||Supreme Commander, Great Leader of Revolution, Mandate Holder of the Provisional People's Consultative Assembly, and President for Life of Indonesia||1963||1966||Designated as President for Life according to the Ketetapan MPRS No. III/MPRS/1963, life term removed 1966, deposed 1967, died under house arrest 1970.|
|Tupua Tamasese Meaʻole||O le Ao o le Malo for Life of Samoa||1962||1963||Died in office 1963, elected to serve alongside Tanumafili II (see below). The position of O le Ao o le Malo (head of state) is ceremonial; executive power is exercised by the Prime Minister, and Samoa is a parliamentary democracy.|
|Kwame Nkrumah||President for Life of Ghana||1964||1966||deposed 1966, died in exile in Romania 1972.|
|François "Papa Doc" Duvalier||President for Life of Haiti||1964||1971||died in office 1971, named his son as his successor (see below).|
|Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier||President for Life of Haiti||1971||1986||named by his father as successor (see above), deposed 1986, died 2014.|
|Hastings Banda||President for Life of Malawi||1971||1993||life term removed 1993, voted out of office 1994, died 1997.|
|Jean-Bédel Bokassa||President for Life of the Central African Republic||1972||1976||became Emperor 1976, deposed 1979, died 1996.|
|Francisco Macías Nguema||President for Life of Equatorial Guinea||1972||1979||deposed and executed 1979.|
|Josip Broz Tito||President for Life of Yugoslavia||1974||1980||appointed as President for Life according to the 1974 Constitution, died in office 1980.|
|Habib Bourguiba||President for Life of Tunisia||1975||1987||deposed 1987, died under house arrest 2000.|
|Idi Amin||President for Life of Uganda||1976||1979||deposed 1979, died in exile in Saudi Arabia 2003.|
|Lennox Sebe||President for Life of Ciskei||1983||1990||deposed 1990, died 1994.|
|Saparmurat Niyazov||President for Life of Turkmenistan||1999||2006||died in office 2006.|
A dictatorship is an authoritarian form of government, characterized by a single leader or group of leaders and little or no toleration for political pluralism or independent programs or media. According to other definitions, democracies are regimes in which "those who govern are selected through contested elections"; therefore dictatorships are "not democracies". With the advent of the 19th and 20th centuries, dictatorships and constitutional democracies emerged as the world's two major forms of government, gradually eliminating monarchies, one of the traditional widespread forms of government of the time. Typically, in a dictatorial regime, the leader of the country is identified with the title of dictator, although their formal title may more closely resemble something similar to "leader". A common aspect that characterized dictatorship is taking advantage of their strong personality, usually by suppressing freedom of thought and speech of the masses, in order to maintain complete political and social supremacy and stability. Dictatorships and totalitarian societies generally employ political propaganda to decrease the influence of proponents of alternative governing systems.
A monarchy is a form of government in which a person, the monarch, is head of state until death or abdication. The legitimation and governing power of the monarch may vary from purely symbolic, to restricted, to fully autocratic, combining executive, legislative and judicial power.
The Weimar Republic is an unofficial historical designation for the German state from 1918 to 1933. The name derives from the city of Weimar, where its constitutional assembly first took place. The official name of the republic remained Deutsches Reich unchanged from 1871, because of the German tradition of substates. Although commonly translated as "German Empire", the word Reich here better translates as "realm", in that the term does not necessarily have monarchical connotations in itself. The Reich was changed from a constitutional monarchy into a republic. In English, the country was usually known simply as Germany.
Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg, known simply as Paul von Hindenburg, was a German general and statesman who commanded the Imperial German Army during World War I and later became President of Germany from 1925 until his death, during the Weimar Republic. He played a key role in the Nazi Machtergreifung in January 1933 when, under pressure from advisers, he appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany even though the Nazis were a minority in both the cabinet and the Reichstag.
Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga was a Congolese politician and military officer who was the President of Zaire from 1965 to 1997. He also served as Chairman of the Organisation of African Unity from 1967 to 1968. During the Congo Crisis, Mobutu, serving as Chief of Staff of the Army and supported by Belgium and the United States, deposed the democratically elected government of nationalist Patrice Lumumba in 1960. Mobutu installed a government that arranged for Lumumba's execution in 1961, and continued to lead the country's armed forces until he took power directly in a second coup in 1965 to become the country's military dictator.
Führer is a German word meaning "leader" or "guide". As a political title it is associated with the Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.
The Enabling Act of 1933, formally titled Gesetz zur Behebung der Not von Volk und Reich, was an amendment to the Weimar Constitution that gave the German Cabinet—in effect, the Chancellor—the power to enact laws without the involvement of the Reichstag. The Enabling Act gave Hitler plenary powers and followed on the heels of the Reichstag Fire Decree, which had abolished most civil liberties and transferred state powers to the Reich government. The combined effect of the two laws was to transform Hitler's government into a legal dictatorship.
Heinrich Aloysius Maria Elisabeth Brüning was a German Centre Party politician and academic, who served as Chancellor of Germany during the Weimar Republic from 1930 to 1932.
Franz Joseph Hermann Michael Maria von Papen, Erbsälzer zu Werl und Neuwerk generally known as Franz von Papen, was a German conservative politician, diplomat, nobleman and General Staff officer. He served as Chancellor of Germany in 1932 and as Vice-Chancellor under Adolf Hitler in 1933 and 1934.
The Reichspräsident was the German head of state under the Weimar constitution, which was officially in force from 1919 to 1945. In English he was usually simply referred to as the President of Germany. The German title Reichspräsident literally means President of the Reich.
Article 48 of the constitution of the Weimar Republic of Germany (1919–1933) allowed the President, under certain circumstances, to take emergency measures without the prior consent of the Reichstag. This power was understood to include the promulgation of "emergency decrees ".
The 1932 German presidential election was held on 13 March, with a runoff round on 10 April. Independent incumbent Paul von Hindenburg won a second seven year term against Adolf Hitler of the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). Communist Party (KPD) leader Ernst Thälmann also ran and received more than ten percent of the vote in the runoff. Stahlhelm leader Theodor Duesterberg ran in the first round but dropped out of the runoff. This was the second and final direct election to the office of President of the Reich (Reichspräsident), Germany's head of state under the Weimar Republic.
Hitler: Speeches and Proclamations 1932–1945: The Chronicle of a Dictatorship is a 3,400-page book series edited by Max Domarus. It presents the day-to-day activities of Adolf Hitler, between 1932 and 1945, with the text of significant speeches.
Mobutism, also spelled Mobutuism, was an official party ideology of the Popular Movement of the Revolution as well as the official state ideology in Zaire during the latter half of the 20th century. Mobutism encompassed and glorified the thoughts, visions, and policies of Zairian president and self-proclaimed "Father of the Nation," Mobutu Sese Seko. The ideology included such major Mobutu initiatives as "Zairianization."
Adolf Hitler's rise to power began in Germany in September 1919 when Hitler joined the political party then known as the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei – DAP. The name was changed in 1920 to the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei – NSDAP. It was anti-Marxist and opposed to the democratic post-war government of the Weimar Republic and the Treaty of Versailles, advocating extreme nationalism and Pan-Germanism as well as virulent anti-Semitism. Hitler's "rise" can be considered to have ended in March 1933, after the Reichstag adopted the Enabling Act of 1933 in that month. President Paul von Hindenburg had already appointed Hitler as Chancellor on 30 January 1933 after a series of parliamentary elections and associated backroom intrigues. The Enabling Act—when used ruthlessly and with authority—virtually assured that Hitler could thereafter constitutionally exercise dictatorial power without legal objection.
A supreme leader or supreme ruler typically refers to the person among a number of leaders of a state, organization or other such group who has been given or is able to exercise the most – or complete – authority over it. In a religion, this role is usually satisfied by a person deemed to be the representative or manifestation of a god or gods on Earth. In politics, a supreme leader usually has a cult of personality associated with them, such as below:
A referendum on merging the posts of Chancellor and President was held in Germany on 19 August 1934, after the death of President Paul von Hindenburg 17 days earlier. The German leadership sought to gain approval for Adolf Hitler's assumption of supreme power. The referendum was associated with widespread intimidation of voters, and Hitler used the resultant large "yes" vote to claim public support for his activities as the de facto head of state of Germany. In fact, he had assumed these offices and powers immediately upon von Hindenburg's death and used the referendum to legitimize this move, taking the title Führer und Reichskanzler.
The Reichstag, officially the Großdeutscher Reichstag after 1938, was the pseudo-Parliament of the Third Reich from 1933 to 1945. Following the Nazi seizure of power and the passing of the Enabling Act of 1933, it met only as a rubber stamp for the actions of Adolf Hitler's dictatorship — always by unanimous consent — and to listen to Hitler's speeches. In this purely ceremonial role, the Reichstag convened only 20 times, the last on 26 April 1942. The President of the Reichstag throughout this period was Hermann Göring.
Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated as German Emperor and King of Prussia in November 1918. The abdication was announced on 9 November by Prince Maximilian of Baden and was formally enacted by Wilhelm's written statement on 28 November, made while in exile in Amerongen, the Netherlands. This ended the House of Hohenzollern's 500-year rule over Prussia and its predecessor state, Brandenburg. Wilhelm ruled Germany and Prussia from 15 June 1888 through 9 November 1918, when he went into exile. Following the abdication statement and German Revolution of 1918–19, the German nobility as a legally defined class was abolished. On promulgation of the Weimar Constitution on 11 August 1919, all Germans were declared equal before the law. Ruling princes of the constituent states of Germany also had to give up their monarchical titles and domains, of which there were 22. Of these princely heads of state, four held the title of king (König), six held the title of grand duke (Großherzog), five held the title of duke (Herzog), and seven held the title prince.