Term of office

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A term of office, electoral term, or parliamentary term is the length of time a person serves in a particular elected office. In many jurisdictions there is a defined limit on how long terms of office may be before the officeholder must be subject to re-election. Some jurisdictions exercise term limits, setting a maximum number of terms an individual may hold in a particular office.


United Kingdom

Being the origin of the Westminster system, aspects of the United Kingdom's system of government are replicated in many other countries.


The monarch serves as head of state until their death or abdication.

House of Commons

In the United Kingdom Members of Parliament (MPs) in the House of Commons are elected for the duration of the parliament. Following dissolution of the Parliament, a general election is held which consists of simultaneous elections for all seats. For most MPs this means that their terms of office are identical to the duration of the Parliament. An individual's term may be cut short by death or resignation. An MP elected in a by-election mid-way through a Parliament, regardless of how long they have occupied the seat, is not exempt from facing re-election at the next general election.

The Septennial Act 1715 provided that a Parliament expired seven years after it had been summoned; this maximum period was reduced to five years by the Parliament Act 1911. Prior to the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 parliaments had no minimum duration. Parliaments could be dissolved early by the monarch at the prime minister's request. Early dissolutions occurred when the make-up of Parliament made forming government impossible (as occurred in 1974), or, more commonly, when the incumbent government reasoned an early general election would improve their re-election chances (e.g. 2001). The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 mandated that Parliaments should last their full five years; early dissolution remained possible but under much more limited circumstances. However, the act was repealed in 2022 and replaced with the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act 2022, which restored the pre-2011 constitutional situation.

Because the government and prime minister are effectively indirectly elected through the Commons, the terms of Parliaments and MPs do not directly apply to offices of government, though in practice these are affected by changes in Parliament. While, strictly speaking, a prime minister whose incumbency spans multiple Parliaments only serves one, unbroken, term of office, some writers may refer to the different Parliaments as separate terms. [1]

House of Lords

Hereditary peers and life peers retain membership of the House of Lords for life, though members can resign or be expelled. Lords Spiritual hold membership of the House of Lords until the end of their time as bishops, though a senior bishop may be made a life peer upon the end of their bishopric (e.g. George Carey, made Baron Carey of Clifton the day after he ceased being Archbishop of Canterbury).

Devolved administrations

The devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are variations on the system of government used at Westminster.

The office of the leader of the devolved administrations has no numeric term limit imposed upon it. However, in the case of the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government there are fixed terms for which the legislatures can sit. This is imposed at five years. Elections may be held before this time but only if no administration can be formed, which has not happened yet.

Other elected offices

Offices of local government other regional elected officials follow similar rules to the national offices discussed above, with persons elected to fixed terms of a few years.

United States


In the United States, the president of the United States is elected indirectly through the United States Electoral College to a four-year term, with a term limit of two terms (totaling eight years) or a maximum of ten years if the president acted as president for two years or less in a term where another was elected as president, imposed by the Twenty-second Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1951.

The Vice President also serves four-year terms but without any term limit. U.S. Representatives serve two-year terms. U.S. Senators serve six-year terms.

Federal judges have different terms in office. Article I judges; such as those that sit on the United States bankruptcy courts, United States Tax Court, and United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and certain other federal courts and other forms of adjudicative bodies serve limited terms: The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces for 15 years, bankruptcy courts for 14. However, the majority of the federal judiciary, Article III judges (such as those of the Supreme Court, courts of appeal, and federal district courts), serve for life.

State and territories

The terms of office for officials in state governments varies according to the provisions of state constitutions and state law.

The term for state governors is four years in all states but Vermont and New Hampshire; the Vermont and New Hampshire governors serve for two years.

The National Conference of State Legislatures reported in January 2007 that among state legislatures: [2]

Among territories of the United States:

Members of Council of the District of Columbia serve a four-year term.


As a former British territory following the Westminster System, there are many similarities with the United Kingdom, although with some variations based on local customs, the federal system of government and the absentee monarch.


Being a Commonwealth realm, Canada shares a monarch with the United Kingdom and 14 other countries, who serves as head of state of all 15 realms until his or her death or abdication.


The governor general is appointed by the monarch as his/her personal representative on the advice of the prime minister, and serves for an indefinite term, though the normal convention is 5 years. Similarly, the lieutenant governors, who represent the monarch at the provincial level, are appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister (usually also with consultation of the relevant provincial premier), and generally also serve 5 year terms by convention. The territories have commissioners, who are not representatives of the monarch, but are instead appointed by and represent the governor-in-council (i.e. the federal cabinet), and conventionally serve for about 5 years.

House of Commons

Similar to the United Kingdom, MPs serve for the duration of the Parliament. They may resign before the end of a Parliament or be elected in by-elections during the middle of a Parliament.

Under the Constitution Act, 1867, a Parliament may last for a maximum of 5 years from the most recent election before expiring, although all Parliaments to date have been dissolved before they could expire. Bill C-16, introduced in the 39th Parliament, provided for fixed election dates every 4 years on the third Monday in October, beginning in 2009. However, the Prime Minister may still advise the Governor General to dissolve Parliament at any time.

As in the United Kingdom, the cabinet and head of government are indirectly elected based on the composition of the House of Commons, they are not technically affected by the terms of legislators or Parliaments. In practice however, the terms of government office holders are affected by changes in the House of Commons, and those who serve for multiple consecutive Parliaments are generally considered to have served a single term. The term of a government generally ends when it is defeated on a confidence matter or the governing party fails to gain enough seats in a general election.


Senators are appointed to the Canadian Senate to represent a province, territory, or group of provinces, by the Governor General of Canada on the advice of the Prime Minister, and serve until the mandatory retirement age of 75. Senators appointed before the passage of the British North America Act, 1965 served for life. Senators may also resign from office or be expelled from the Senate.

Provincial and Territorial Legislatures

Provincial legislatures and the legislature of the Yukon function very similarly to the federal House of Commons. MLAs (called MPPs in Ontario, MNAs in Quebec, and MHAs in Newfoundland and Labrador) serve for the duration of the legislature, though they may resign before the legislature is dissolved or be elected in by-elections between general elections. The legislatures of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut operate using a consensus model, but are similar otherwise. The premiers and their cabinets are selected in the same way as in the House of Commons, and like at the federal level, the term of a provincial government can be ended by defeat in a general election or the loss of the legislature's confidence.

All provincial legislatures except that of Nova Scotia have fixed-term election legislation in place, as does the legislature of the Northwest Territories. Premiers may also advise Lieutenant Governors to dissolve legislatures at any time before the prescribed election date.


In the Netherlands the position of Minister-President (Prime Minister) is limited to four years (counted from the moment the government is officially formed) although it can be repeated indefinitely after subsequent elections. It is common for the heads of governments in the Netherlands to take up the mantle multiple times, although it's neither expected or required to do so, more often a consequence of governments breaking up internally before their official four years are over and reforming with other parties. This is how the Netherlands ended up with consequent cabinets by: 4x Willem Drees (Drees-Van Schaik I '48, Drees I '51, Drees II '52 - Drees III '56) 3x Dries van Agt (Van Agt I '77, Van Agt II '81, Van Agt III '82) 4x Jan Peter Balkenende (Balkenende I '02, Balkenende II '03, Balkenende III '06, Balkenende IV '07) 4x Mark Rutte (Rutte I '10, Rutte II '12, Rutte III '17, Rutte IV '22).


Between 1982 and 2018, the Constitution of China stipulated that the president, vice president, premier, vice premiers could not serve more than two consecutive terms. In March 2018, China's party-controlled National People's Congress passed a set of constitutional amendments including removal of term limits for the president and vice president, as well as enhancing the central role of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). [3] [4] On 17 March 2018, the Chinese legislature reappointed Xi as president, now without term limits; Wang Qishan was appointed vice president. [5] [6] The following day, Li Keqiang was reappointed premier and longtime allies of Xi, Xu Qiliang and Zhang Youxia, were voted in as vice-chairmen of the state military commission. [7] Foreign minister Wang Yi was promoted to state councillor and General Wei Fenghe was named defence minister. [8]

According to the Financial Times , Xi expressed his views of constitutional amendment at meetings with Chinese officials and foreign dignitaries. Xi explained the decision in terms of needing to align two more powerful posts—General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC)—which have no term limits. However, Xi did not say whether he intended to serve as party general secretary, CMC chairman and state president, for three or more terms. [9]

Terms of office by country

Heads of state
Terms of office of heads of state.svg
Upper houses
Terms of office of upper houses.svg
Lower houses
Terms of office of lower houses.svg
2 3  4  5  6  7 >7
Not applicableUnclearVariesUntil removed

Numbers in years unless stated otherwise. Some countries where fixed-term elections are uncommon, the legislature is almost always dissolved earlier than its expiry date. "Until removed from office" refers to offices that do not have fixed terms; in these cases, the officeholder(s) may serve indefinitely until death, abdication, resignation, retirement, or forcible removal from office (such as impeachment).

In most cases where the head of government is a different person from the head of state, its term of office is identical to the chamber that elected it (the legislature if it is unicameral, or most usually the lower house if it is bicameral), unless it does not survive a vote of no confidence.

CountryHead of stateMembers of the upper house [lower-alpha 1] Members of the lower house
Flag of the Taliban.svg  Afghanistan Until removed from office
Flag of Albania.svg  Albania 54
Flag of Algeria.svg  Algeria 565
Flag of Andorra.svg  Andorra Until removed from office (Bishop of Urgel) 5 (President of France)
Flag of Angola.svg  Angola 55
Flag of Antigua and Barbuda.svg  Antigua and Barbuda Until removed from office55
Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina 464
Flag of Armenia.svg  Armenia 7 [10] 5
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia Until removed from office63
Flag of Austria.svg  Austria 64 to 65
Flag of Azerbaijan.svg  Azerbaijan 75
Flag of the Bahamas.svg  Bahamas Until removed from office55
Flag of Bahrain.svg  Bahrain Until removed from office44
Flag of Bangladesh.svg  Bangladesh 55
Flag of Barbados.svg  Barbados 455
Flag of Belarus.svg  Belarus 544
Flag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium Until removed from office55
Flag of Belize.svg  Belize Until removed from office55
Flag of Benin.svg  Benin 55
Flag of Bhutan.svg  Bhutan Until removed from office55
Bandera de Bolivia (Estado).svg  Bolivia 555
Flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina.svg  Bosnia and Herzegovina 4 [lower-alpha 2] 44
Flag of Botswana.svg  Botswana 55
Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil 484
Flag of Bulgaria.svg  Bulgaria 54
Flag of Burkina Faso.svg  Burkina Faso 565
Flag of Burundi.svg  Burundi 755
Flag of Brunei.svg  Brunei Until removed from office5
Flag of Cambodia.svg  Cambodia Until removed from office65
Flag of Cameroon.svg  Cameroon 755
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada Until removed from officeUntil removed from office4
Flag of Cape Verde.svg  Cape Verde 55
Flag of the Central African Republic.svg  Central African Republic 55
Flag of Chad.svg  Chad 65 [11]
Flag of Chile.svg  Chile 484
Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg  China 55
Flag of the Republic of China.svg  Republic of China 44
Flag of Colombia.svg  Colombia 444
Flag of the Republic of the Congo.svg  Congo 565
Flag of the Comoros.svg  Comoros 55
Flag of Cote d'Ivoire.svg  Ivory Coast 555
Flag of Costa Rica.svg  Costa Rica 44
Flag of Croatia.svg  Croatia 54
Flag of Cuba.svg  Cuba 55
Flag of Cyprus.svg  Cyprus 55
Flag of the Czech Republic.svg  Czech Republic 564
Flag of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.svg  DR Congo 555 [12]
Flag of Denmark.svg  Denmark Until removed from office4
Flag of Djibouti.svg  Djibouti 55
Flag of Dominica.svg  Dominica 55
Flag of the Dominican Republic.svg  Dominican Republic 444
Flag of Ecuador.svg  Ecuador 44
Flag of Egypt.svg  Egypt 655
Flag of El Salvador.svg  El Salvador 53
Flag of Equatorial Guinea.svg  Equatorial Guinea 75
Flag of Eritrea.svg  Eritrea Until removed from officeUntil removed from office
Flag of Estonia.svg  Estonia 54
Flag of Ethiopia.svg  Ethiopia 65
Flag of Fiji.svg  Fiji 34
Flag of Finland.svg  Finland 64
Flag of France.svg  France 565
Flag of Gabon.svg  Gabon 565
Flag of The Gambia.svg  Gambia 55
Flag of Georgia.svg  Georgia 54
Flag of Germany.svg  Germany 54 to 54
Flag of Ghana.svg  Ghana 44
Flag of Greece.svg  Greece 54
Flag of Grenada.svg  Grenada Until removed from office55
Flag of Guatemala.svg  Guatemala 44
Flag of Guinea.svg  Guinea 55
Flag of Guinea-Bissau.svg  Guinea-Bissau 55
Flag of Guyana.svg  Guyana 55
Flag of Haiti.svg  Haiti 564
Flag of Honduras.svg  Honduras 44
Flag of Hungary.svg  Hungary 54
Flag of Iceland.svg  Iceland 44
Flag of India.svg  India 565
Flag of Indonesia.svg  Indonesia 555
Flag of Iran.svg  Iran Until removed from office4
Flag of Iraq.svg  Iraq 44
Flag of Ireland.svg  Ireland 755
Flag of Israel.svg  Israel 74
Flag of Italy.svg  Italy [lower-alpha 3] 755
Flag of Jamaica.svg  Jamaica Until removed from office55
Flag of Japan.svg  Japan Until removed from office64
Flag of Jordan.svg  Jordan Until removed from office44
Flag of Kazakhstan.svg  Kazakhstan 765
Flag of Kenya.svg  Kenya 555
Flag of Kiribati.svg  Kiribati 44
Flag of Kosovo.svg  Kosovo 54
Flag of Kuwait.svg  Kuwait Until removed from office4
Flag of Kyrgyzstan (2023).svg  Kyrgyzstan 55
Flag of Laos.svg  Laos 55
Flag of Latvia.svg  Latvia 44
Flag of Lebanon.svg  Lebanon 64
Flag of Libya.svg  Libya Until removed from officeUntil removed from officeUntil removed from office
Flag of Lesotho.svg  Lesotho Until removed from office55
Flag of Liberia.svg  Liberia 696
Flag of Liechtenstein.svg  Liechtenstein Until removed from office4
Flag of Lithuania.svg  Lithuania 54
Flag of Luxembourg.svg  Luxembourg Until removed from office5
Flag of North Macedonia.svg  North Macedonia 54
Flag of Madagascar.svg  Madagascar 555 [14]
Flag of Malawi.svg  Malawi 55
Flag of Malaysia.svg  Malaysia 535
Flag of Maldives.svg  Maldives 55
Flag of Mali.svg  Mali 55
Flag of Malta.svg  Malta 55
Flag of the Marshall Islands.svg  Marshall Islands 44
Flag of Mauritania.svg  Mauritania 55
Flag of Mauritius.svg  Mauritius 55
Flag of Mexico.svg  Mexico 663
Flag of the Federated States of Micronesia.svg  Micronesia 442
Flag of Monaco.svg  Monaco Until removed from office5
Flag of Mongolia.svg  Mongolia 64
Flag of Moldova.svg  Moldova 44
Flag of Montenegro.svg  Montenegro 54
Flag of Morocco.svg  Morocco Until removed from office65
Flag of Mozambique.svg  Mozambique 55
Flag of Myanmar.svg  Myanmar 555
Flag of Namibia.svg  Namibia 565
Flag of Nauru.svg  Nauru 33
Flag of Nepal.svg    Nepal 565
Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands Until removed from office44
Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand Until removed from office3
Flag of Nicaragua.svg  Nicaragua 55
Flag of Nigeria.svg  Nigeria 444
Flag of Niger.svg  Niger 55
Flag of North Korea.svg  North Korea 55
Flag of Norway.svg  Norway Until removed from office4
Flag of Oman.svg  Oman Until removed from office44
Flag of Pakistan.svg  Pakistan 565
Flag of Palau.svg  Palau 444
Flag of Palestine.svg  Palestine 44
Flag of Panama.svg  Panama 55
Flag of Papua New Guinea.svg  Papua New Guinea Until removed from office5
Flag of Paraguay.svg  Paraguay 55*5
Flag of Peru.svg  Peru 55
Flag of the Philippines.svg  Philippines 663
Flag of Poland.svg  Poland 544
Flag of Portugal.svg  Portugal 54
Flag of Qatar.svg  Qatar Until removed from office4
Flag of Romania.svg  Romania 544
Flag of Russia.svg  Russia 65
Flag of Rwanda.svg  Rwanda 55
Flag of Saint Kitts and Nevis.svg  Saint Kitts and Nevis Until removed from office5
Flag of Saint Lucia.svg  Saint Lucia Until removed from office55
Flag of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.svg  Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Until removed from office5
Flag of Samoa.svg  Samoa 55
Flag of San Marino.svg  San Marino 0.5 (6 months)5
Flag of Sao Tome and Principe.svg  São Tomé and Príncipe 54
Flag of Saudi Arabia.svg  Saudi Arabia Until removed from office4
Flag of Senegal.svg  Senegal 555
Flag of Serbia.svg  Serbia 54
Flag of Seychelles.svg  Seychelles 55
Flag of Sierra Leone.svg  Sierra Leone 55
Flag of Singapore.svg  Singapore 65
Flag of Slovakia.svg  Slovakia 54
Flag of Slovenia.svg  Slovenia 554
Flag of the Solomon Islands.svg  Solomon Islands Until removed from office4
Flag of Somalia.svg  Somalia 44
Flag of South Africa.svg  South Africa 555
Flag of South Korea.svg  South Korea 54
Flag of South Sudan.svg  South Sudan 5 [15] Unknown5
Flag of Spain.svg  Spain Until removed from office44
Flag of Sri Lanka.svg  Sri Lanka 55
Flag of Sudan.svg  Sudan Until removed from officeUntil removed from officeUntil removed from office
Flag of Suriname.svg  Suriname 55
Flag of Eswatini.svg  Eswatini Until removed from office55
Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden Until removed from office4
Flag of Switzerland (Pantone).svg   Switzerland 4 [lower-alpha 4] 44
Flag of Syria.svg  Syria 74
Flag of Tajikistan.svg  Tajikistan 755
Flag of Tanzania.svg  Tanzania 55
Flag of Thailand.svg  Thailand Until removed from office54
Flag of East Timor.svg  East Timor 55
Flag of Togo.svg  Togo 55
Flag of Tonga.svg  Tonga Until removed from office5
Flag of Trinidad and Tobago.svg  Trinidad and Tobago 555
Flag of Tunisia.svg  Tunisia 55
Flag of Turkey.svg  Turkey 55
Flag of Turkmenistan.svg  Turkmenistan 75
Flag of Tuvalu.svg  Tuvalu Until removed from office4
Flag of Uganda.svg  Uganda 55
Flag of Ukraine.svg  Ukraine 54
Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg  United Arab Emirates 54
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom Until removed from officeUntil removed from office5
Flag of the United States.svg  United States 462
Flag of Uruguay.svg  Uruguay 555
Flag of Uzbekistan.svg  Uzbekistan 755
Flag of Vanuatu.svg  Vanuatu 54
Flag of the Vatican City (2023-present).svg  Vatican City Until removed from office5
Flag of Venezuela.svg  Venezuela 65
Flag of Vietnam.svg  Vietnam 55
Flag of Yemen.svg  Yemen 76
Flag of Zambia.svg  Zambia 55
Flag of Zimbabwe.svg  Zimbabwe 555

See also

Further reading


  1. Excludes senators for life.
  2. The Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina is composed of three members as a collective head of state, all elected at the same time via popular vote, by different constituencies each, every four years.
  3. In Italy the prorogatio, unlike the real extension of the term, does not affect the duration of the electoral mandate, but only concerns the exercise of the powers in the interval between the deadline, natural or anticipated, of this mandate, and the entry into office of the new elected body. [13]
  4. The Federal Council of Switzerland is composed of seven members as a collective head of state, all elected at the same time by the Federal Assembly of Switzerland every four years.

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A term limit is a legal restriction on the number of terms a person may serve in a particular elected office. When term limits are found in presidential and semi-presidential systems they act as a method of curbing the potential for monopoly, where a leader effectively becomes "president for life". This is intended to protect a republic from becoming a de facto dictatorship. Term limits may be a lifetime limit on the number of terms an officeholder may serve, or a limit on the number of consecutive terms.

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