A bad idea

POLITICIANS are the same all over, argued Khrushchev. He should know because he was one. Australia’s John Howard has proved no exception to the norm.

Which is a pity for Howard is indeed seen as a good administrator and leader at a time when there is such a dearth of good leaders everywhere. Howard took the reins of Australia at a time when the country’s economy had been going through some serious churning.

So if Australia is today seen as one of the world’s fastest growing economies and a country of the future, credit should go to Howard and his vision. His middle-of-the-road approach has succeeded on other fronts too. Despite being the leader of the conservative Liberal party, he has been able to reach out to all sections of the society.

Of course, Howard has been on the back foot over his unquestioning support to Bush’s Iraq disaster and the so-called war on terror. He has also upset many at home —especially Arabs and Muslims —by his backing for Israel’s reprehensible devastation of Lebanon. However, the prime minister still appears to enjoy the support of the majority of Australians what with the booming economy and all round prosperity

But does it mean that Howard should gird his loins for yet another —fifth —term in office? It is a bad idea even for a remarkably successful leader like Howard. He shocked his party, Peter Costello, his deputy and the prime minister-in-waiting and the rest of Australians by unveiling his ambition for a record fifth term.

Of course, finally it is up to the people of Australia to decide who they want as their leader and how many number of times he or she should lead them. But as this newspaper has argued before, there are some inherent dangers in this idea of endless race for office and power.

It has been noticed around the world that whenever leaders decide to stay put for more than two terms in office —or indefinitely, as has been the practice in some African and Arab ‘republics’ —they invariably invite all sorts of troubles and problems. Because of their long stay in power, not only the politicians and their cronies develop vested interests but they also lead to all round corruption and constitutional decay.

This is precisely why many sensible democracies such as the US have limited the term of office to two tenures. Howard doesn’t have to look far to be aware of the perils of a third term in office. Look at what a third term has done to his ally and friend Blair, the longest serving Labour PM. He has lost all the confidence of his party as well as the people. Howard may prove an exception. But why take chances and why set a bad precedence?

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