President for Life

President for Life

President for Life is a title assumed by some dictators to remove their term limit, in the hope that their authority, legitimacy, and term will never be disputed.

The first well-known incident of a republican leader extending his term indefinitely was Roman dictator Julius Caesar, who made himself "Perpetual Dictator" (commonly mistranslated as 'Dictator-for-life') in 45 BC. Originally, the office of dictator could only be held for six months. His actions would later be mimicked by the French leader Napoleon Bonaparte who was appointed "First Consul for life" in 1802. Since then, many dictators have adopted similar titles.

Ironically, 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. However, some, such as Rafael Carrera, François Duvalier, Saparmurat Niyazov, José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia and Josip Broz Tito have managed to rule until their (natural) deaths.

Some very long-serving authoritarian presidents, such as North Korea's Kim Il-sung, who were frequently thought of as examples of Presidents for Life, actually underwent periodic renewal of mandate but these are largely regarded as show elections. After his death, the government wrote the presidential office out of the constitution, declaring him "Eternal President."

Others made unsuccessful attempts to have themselves named President for Life, such as Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire in 1972. [Crawford Young and Thomas Turner, "The Rise and Decline of the Zairian State", p. 211]

Notably, George Washington rejected all attempts to make him President for Life. That particular institution, as designed by its proponents, was, however, quite dissimilar from the modern usage, being an attempt to establish a limited constitutional elective monarchy.Fact|date=July 2008

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.

List of leaders who became President for Life

Note: the first date listed in each entry is the date of proclamation of their status as President for Life.
*Toussaint Louverture of Saint-Domingue was proclaimed Governor for Life by the 1801 Constitution; he was arrested and exiled to metropolitan France in 1802 and died in 1803.
*Henri Christophe of Haiti (1807) - became emperor, later suicide in office 1818.
*José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia of Paraguay (1816) - died in office 1840.
*Rafael Carrera of Guatemala (1854) - died in office 1865.
*Yuan Shikai of China (1915) - became emperor, rescinded throne, died in office 1916.
*Sukarno of Indonesia (1963) - deposed 1967.
*Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana (1964) - deposed 1966.
*François "Papa Doc" Duvalier of Haiti (1964) - died in office 1971, named his son as his successor (see below)
*Hastings Banda of Malawi (1971) - stripped of title 1993, defeated in elections 1994.
*Jean-Claude Duvalier of Haiti (1971) - named by his father as successor, deposed 1986.
*Jean-Bédel Bokassa of the Central African Republic (1972) - became emperor 1976 (deposed 1979).
*Francisco Macías Nguema of Equatorial Guinea (1972) - deposed 1979.
*Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia (1974) - died in office 1980.
*Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of Bangladesh (1975) - assassinated in 1975.
*Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia (1975) - deposed 1987.
*Idi Amin of Uganda (1976) - defeated in war 1979.
*Lennox Sebe of Ciskei (1983) - deposed 1990.
*Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan (officially in 1999, but had already been president since 1991) - died in office 2006.


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