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Birch Barlow: You know, there are three things we're never going to get rid of here in Springfield. One: the bats in the public library. Two: Mrs. McFierly's compost heap. And three, our six-term mayor: the illiterate, tax-cheating, wife-swapping, pot-smoking, spendocrat "Diamond" Joe Quimby.
Mayor Quimby: [while watering pot plants in his office] Hey! I am no longer illiterate!

A politician with Ultimate Job Security. No matter how incompetent or corrupt, that person cannot be thrown out of office. Perhaps because there's no one to fire them (who fires the King of a Kingdom?), or perhaps because no one will run against them. Or maybe their corruption is part of the reason they can cling to their office. Lastly, they may simply use the population's general apathy.

In episodic media, this may overlap with Vetinari Job Security: the politician (more often incompetent than corrupt in those cases) does get replaced — and his replacement proves far worse, thus the heroes have to try and get the previous buffoon back into power.

And sometimes, if it's a really small community in the middle of nowhere or the position doesn't include much in the way of real authority or prestige, this trope ends up happening because nobody can be bothered to run against the incumbent.

Just the First Citizen is often when the dictator poses as this. It may also lead to a Hereditary Republic. See also Elective Monarchy, where a monarch has to be elected, but once they win, they have the position for life. Compare Loyal to the Position, where a low-ranking official holds their job over successive administrations. Contrast Short-Lived Leadership.

No Real Life Examples, Please! noreallife


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Kage in Naruto are elected by the village elders and appointed by the feudal lord who runs the nation. The appointment is for life or until voluntary retirement. Of course, the lack of Kage being removed might simply be because they're too powerful to risk insulting. The Kage is expected to be the strongest ninja in the village, and most of them qualify as a Person of Mass Destruction.
  • Mayor Papazoni of Pecola definitely fits into this mold. He is fond of giving long-winded speeches, but then simply pops into one of his many hidey-holes whenever somebody questions what he's going to actually do for the town. They state that the only reason that he keeps getting elected is that nobody else will take the job.

    Comic Books 
  • The Chief Judge of Mega City One in Judge Dredd, who are basically like a Roman dictator if you remove even their term limits. They were nominated by the Council of Five at first, then by an election held among the Senior Judges. While later on at least some checks and balances were added in that an obviously corrupt Chief Judge could be deposed either by the Special Judicial Squad or another Judge could decide to run against them for the position, terrible Chief Judges like McGruder and Cal were basically unremovable (because the former had dissolved the Council of Five, while the latter ran the SJS too), only vacating either of their own volition or by force. Averted by the Mayor, which anyone could run for, but the office itself is almost completely powerless.

    Fan Fiction 
  • A pretty rare heroic version appears on Coreline with the Governor of Michigan. The fact that he's an Alternate Self of Optimus Prime (and thus one of the greatest definitions of "Big Good" out there, not to mention a robot that will probably outlive almost everybody living on the state barring hostile action, which means people know he'll be around for a long time) made the decision easier. This is also a very rare instance where the "elected" part is not said ironically—the people of Michigan chose to make him Governor For Life.
  • Alistair Theirin is one of the rare heroic types in Skyhold Academy Yearbook. By rights he's the hereditary King of Ferelden, being the last member of the family which has ruled it for hundreds of years; however, prior to the series beginning, he and his wife helped to transition the country into a democracy instead. The people responded by electing him President for life, and he will hold the post until he decides to step down.
  • Tanya in A Young Woman's Political Record gets elected Chancellor of alt-Weimar Germany, initially in a coalition government. After fixing the economy, driving back the Francois occupation of the Rhine, and reunifying with Austria via referendum, her party wins a majority in the Diet. After winning an alt-World War II (with somewhat different alliances), the country still has perfectly free elections but she's probably not going to lose one anytime soon.

    Films — Animation 
  • In the film version of Horton Hears a Who!, the Mayor of Whoville is revealed to be an inherited position, which implies this. Of course, Mayor seems to be just ceremonial, as the City Council seems to hold all the political power.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The president in Escape from L.A. got the constitution amended so he could stay in office for life. Impeachment probably isn't an option considering the America of this movie is a stone's throw away from a complete theocracy.
  • El Presidente of the Republic of Isthmus in Licence to Kill, although the Big Bad Franz Sanchez reminds him that Sanchez is The Man Behind the Man.
    Sanchez: Remember, you're only President... for life.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • The books establish that Palpatine's 13 years as Supreme Chancellor in the prequels is not the norm and there's term limits. However, being The Chessmaster he is, Palpatine engineered crisis after crisis so he could stay in office. Then at the end of the Clone Wars, he declared himself Emperor and the post stopped being an elective position.
    • Legends also explains this was the case for Mon Mothma when she led the Rebel Alliance. There was a vote held every two years where it was decided if she would continue leading, but throughout the Galactic Civil War, she was never voted out. She later became the New Republic's first Chief of State, but would resign during the events of the Jedi Academy Trilogy. At least one faction (under General Garm Bel Iblis) split off from the Alliance in protest over this, although they rejoined later (they'd feared Mon was setting herself up as a new dictator, but later realized this wasn't the case).

  • Discworld
    • The Patricianship of Ankh-Morpork runs on the principle of "one man, one vote". The Patrician is The Man, and he has The Vote. Once in, a patrician cannot be removed. So the city's in trouble when they wind up with loonies like Winder and Snapcase (a man so mad he eventually was hung up by his figgin). Of course, there are other ways of getting them out of office... Vetinari, however, has managed to get around that one by being too useful to kill. Hence, Vetinari Job Security.
    • Late Jim Cloop, the mayor of Scrote, has the position permanently, because everyone agrees he's the best mayor they've ever had. Not "for life", permanently. He died in office immediately after the election, and they couldn't afford to hold another one. When his first term was up, they noticed he hadn't raised taxes, taken bribes or embezzled public funds, so they voted him in again. That was over a century ago, and he's still mayor as of the most recent Discworld Companion.
  • Played with in the Ender's Shadow series. The office of Hegemon of Earth is a permanent position, at least when Peter is elected. However, he spends the early years of his administration setting up the government so that he would be the last Hegemon, with the One World Government transitioning to a more conventional democracy.
  • Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series: In "The Merchant Princes", the Commdors of the Republic of Korell are elected once, and rule the nation for the rest of their life.
  • In David Weber's Honor Harrington, this happens with dismaying regularity.
    • First, in the People's Republic of Haven, over half of the population is on state-funded welfare and the families of the "democratically elected leaders" have been in place for generations; they keep the population happy and they get to stay in power... even if they have to go conquering most of the other planets in the region and loot their economies to keep the edifice standing.
    • The Solarian League is worse, though; the Office Of Frontier Security is in bed with the transsteller corporations; the usual plan is to destabilize an independent star nation so that they'll "invite" in the Office Of Frontier Security for "protection"; the OFS guy is often "elected" to be "President For Life" while the transstellers take over the planet's economy and start looting.
  • Older Than Radio: The character translated as Mayor in Gogol's The Inspector General (1836), who is a powerful Small-Town Tyrant with more powers than a mayor would be thought of as having. This being Czarist Russia, there was neither a press nor was central bureaucracy as strong as today. Of course, he had more power than a mayor of a comparable town today.
  • The Perfect Run: Played for laughs. In one bad loop, Ryan gets captured by the Meta Gang. After killing their leadership, he takes over the gang and insists on being called "Mister President." When one of the Psychos demands to know why he's in charge since he was recently their prisoner, Ryan cheerfully puts it to a vote. Frank the Mad, Sarin, a sapient pile of ooze, and dozens of murderous duplicating bunnies all raise their hands. The rest of the Psychos see which way the wind is blowing and go along with it.
    Ryan: I love democracy.
  • The Peri Jean Mace Ghost Thrillers: The post of Burns County Sheriff is practically an inherited position held by the patriarch of the Holze family going back over a century. They're bigoted, lazy, and probably corrupt, but nobody has really bothered challenging them. Deputy Dean Turgeau runs against Joey Holze in book three and successfully unseats him.
  • In Perry Rhodan, the eponymous character in his function as "Grand Administrator", i.e. head of state, of the Solar Empire is a somewhat odd example. There's no hint that he couldn't in principle have been voted out of office at any time, and in fact there are occasional side plots dealing with intrigues surrounding an election while other things are also going on — yet for the entire existence of the Empire he just seems to have ultimately gotten reelected every time. (Granted, for somebody who's biologically immortal old age isn't much of a reason for retirement, and after the first hundred years or so he'd have become as much an institution as a person and it would be kind of hard for most "normal" people to beat him in terms of sheer experience on the job.)
  • For the first nine books of Safehold, the Republic of Siddarmark was this by virtue of constitutional design: the office of Lord Protector was explicitly stated to be for life, with new elections happening upon the death of the old Lord Protector (no family had managed to permanently entrench themselves and keep getting elected, so it had avoided dynastic rule). Then book ten retconned it to elections happening every five years with no restriction against re-election, turning the Lord Protector at the start of the series and up to that book into one of the 'keeps getting re-elected' variety instead.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Boardwalk Empire, Nucky Thompson seems to be this at first, but by the end of the season, we see that his hold on power is much more fragile than it appears. The mayor and the Commodore both thought that they had achieved this status, but it was revoked when they lost Nucky's backing due to a changing political climate.
  • Scully from Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been the NYPD 99th Precinct's union representative, despite his admitted incompetence, since he runs unopposed every year because no one else wants the job. Scully, himself, has no real interest in actually being the union representative. He's only in the position because union meetings have a party sub.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer had Mayor Richard Wilkins III (he was also Richard Wilkins II and I as well). Not once in three lifetimes was he voted out of office.
  • Boss Hogg in The Dukes of Hazzard is the County Commissioner, and completely corrupt. Nobody ever runs against him for commissioner, though. Probably helps that he owns the bank and everyone's mortgages. Ditto for Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane, thanks to Better the Devil You Know.
    • One episode did have the Dukes assist a friend of theirs who was running against Boss Hogg, but Status Quo Is God so he keeps the position.
  • LazyTown: There's no other adult in LazyTown who wants to be mayor, so Milford is stuck with the job for life.
  • Sam Booth in Murder, She Wrote is Cabet Cove's seemingly permanent mayor, despite being consistently portrayed as incompetent and aware of it. In the episode "Town Father", he claims that "being re-elected is the only thing I know how to do!" According to Doc Hazlett, he gets the vote because most Cabot Cove residents like things the way they are, and Booth can be relied upon to never make any decisions, leaving the status quo as default.
  • In Once Upon a Time, Regina Mills (formerly known as the Evil Queen) is always Mayor of Storybrooke, Maine, due to the terms of the curse placed upon its inhabitants. The citizenry rationalizes this by assuming that everyone is simply too afraid to run against her, even though no one actually seems to like her enough to vote for her.
  • On Parks and Recreation, Garry is revealed to have spent the rest of his life as Mayor of Pawnee, winning each election thanks to an adoring public.
  • In The Savage Eye, Ireland's President For Life.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Rifts, there's Karl Prosek, of the Coalition States. He was elected Chairman after the death of the previous head, his father. He then secretly started a grass roots campaign that got him elected Emperor-for-Life. He's not incompetent, nor is he corrupt, but under his reign, the Coalition has become more and more intolerant of non-humans and magic users and its populace has become more and more ignorant and xenophobic. In a way, he's actually worse than an outright tyrant, because he's convinced the citizens of the Coalition that his draconian measures are for their own protection, and they cheerfully obey his every wish.
  • Two of the Sorcerer-Kings of Dark Sun use this gambit in slightly different ways. Andropinis of Balic claims he was elected as "Dictator for Life" over 700 years ago, and since he's still alive and well today, he naturally gets to reign. He does maintain a charade of democracy in his city-state, but will openly rig elections to pick candidates he favors. In contrast, Alabach-re of Raam claims to be merely "The Great Vizier", having been divinely appointed by a deity called Badna that will remove her if it deems her a failure in carrying out its orders for the city-state — in contrast to Andropinis, her people recognize that this is a blatant attempt to pass off the blame for her corrupt, decadent and ineffectual rule to another, and they scorn her weakness for resorting to such a ploy, making them the most blatantly rebellious and anarchic of the city-states.
  • Warhammer 40,000: The Iron Hands are one of the only Space Marine chapters that don't have a single permanent leader; instead, they're run by a council of Iron Fathers who elect one of their number to serve as Voice of the Council. However, the current Voice, Kardan Stronos, proved so popular thanks to both his martial skill and the reforms he enacted that they just keep reelecting him every time his term is up (and Space Marines can live a long, long time). Some have even offered to formalize it and make him their official Chapter Master for life, but Stronos staunchly refuses this every time.

    Video Games 
  • In the Animal Crossing series:
    • Tortimer, the mayor of the town in the first three games. He doesn't appear to actually do anything mayorly. There are never any elections (that you witness, anyway, no matter how long you play—apparently mayors in your town are elected for life), so it's not entirely clear that he ever was elected. This is lampshaded in The Movie, where there is a mayoral election, and Tortimer wins by one vote. The only vote. Which he cast. The only reason he isn't mayor in New Leaf is that he retired.
    • The Player Character is this in New Leaf. S/he can have a 0% approval rating and the town can be filled with weeds and trash, but everyone will still refer to him/her as the mayor. What's more, the player didn't even want the position; s/he was mistaken for the real mayor, and the animals refused to believe otherwise.
  • The Civilization games comes to mind... no matter how many centuries pass, no matter how many revolutions rage through the lands, YOU are always the guy who's in charge when the smoke clears - whether that means being the 'democratically-elected' President, Prime Minister, Glorious Dictator, or High Priest of the Church of You. It is, however, implied in a few events in Civ IV that the actual rulers do change over time (it's even possible in a monarchy for the ruling family to die out and be replaced with someone completely different, whom we never see), which would make the leaders and the player more representations.
  • The DS games Drawn to Life seem to mistake a mayor for a king. As apparently when the mayor will eventually die, his daughter will then become mayor.
  • Fallout
    • The Enclave has such Presidents. There is President Richardson who was serving his sixth term by Fallout 2 and won otherwise democratic elections as there were no other candidates, and there is President Eden who proclaimed himself President after the former's death and has been the President for over thirty years.
    • It's noted that Tandi, the second President of the NCR, was elected in 2196, the first of eleven electoral wins. She served until her death in 2248, at which point she was over a hundred years old. Unlike a lot of examples of this trope, this was because Tandi was a truly beloved politician who was by all appearances incredibly competent. Caesar in Fallout: New Vegas actually argues that part of the reason he doesn't believe in democracy is that the NCR under Tandi was functionally a hereditary dictatorship (Tandi's father was the first President), and it went downhill when the NCR started having Presidents come and go every few years.
  • Also same in Galactic Civilizations, no matter what the leader's title may be or the government of the faction, they're in office the whole game. Elections simply determine whether your political party leads the senate. And if your leader doesn't have a specific title AI players will refer to you as "Emperor", implying Republics and later governments are actually Constitutional Monarchies.
  • Hate Plus features *Mute, the Councillor of Security, who has held the position since the ship's launch, or more specifically, 1,600 years! It makes sense, as she's an AI programmed to safeguard the ship, allowing her to avoid being bound by limitations such as human mortality.
  • In Hidden City, Mr. Black is the elected Head of the Security Service, which gives him a near complete authority over the Upper City region, and in one of the sidequest where he justifies his strict policies to the player, he is described as "Superintendent for Life".
  • Mayor Gale of My Time at Portia seems to be mayor indefinitely and hopes that his son will take over after he retires. Thankfully he's a Reasonable Authority Figure who always does his best to help the town of Portia, so the player never has any reason to want anyone else in office.
  • David Jefferson Adams in Shattered Union is very closely elected President for his first term, and gets all his opponent disqualified for the next election. His second term doesn't last long.
  • Ditto in Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, where the leader of the faction is always the same. However, this is slightly justified in the Expanded Universe where the leaders undergo periodic life extension treatments. Also, unlike Civilization, the factions in SMAC are based in ideology, which would make sense that they'd want to keep the founders of the ideology in power. Also, in case of Yang, his State Sec makes sure he stays in power. Also subverted in an Expanded Universe novel, where Yang gets arrested and put in jail for his atrocities and his political rival Jin Long is put in his place... except Long is actually a clone of Yang and takes Yang's name for political reasons and marries Yang's daughter.
  • The SimCity series lampshades this by having your advisors comment on how corrupt you are, and some call elections a "formality" (given that the only way to be voted out of office is to work your city into inescapable levels of debt), and mention in passing "the debauched toga parties" and wasteful spending.
    • In the original game, you would be ousted by "an angry mob, led by your mother" if you fail to achieve the objectives in scenario mode.
    • In later SimCity games, your default name is "Mayor Defacto". They've come to terms with your eternal rule, and have just accepted it.
    • Monique Diamond, the finance advisor from SimCity 4, is particularly egregious with implications of embezzlement. She's not complaining; it's also implied she's skimming money off the top herself.
    • It was possible to be fired (therefore losing the game) in the SNES version, though.
      • It is also possible to get fired in most versions of SimCity 2000 and 3000.
  • Mayor Lewis in Stardew Valley has been so for over twenty years, and says that nobody even bothers running against him any more, so there's no need for elections.
  • In Stellaris dictatorial empires elect rulers for life, while democratic empires can spend influence resource points to all-but-ensure re-election if a ruler has really useful bonuses and oligarchic or corporate empires can absolutely guarantee a ruler's re-election. It's also possible for leaders to attain immortality or something close to it and keep getting re-elected endlessly.
  • Veronica, in Story of Seasons (2014), is the appointed head of the Guild which runs the town; she effectively serves as the mayor. If the player character is male and romances her daughter Angela, it's explained that Angela is trying to prove that she's capable of taking over the post when her mother decides to retire, suggesting that Guildmistress is both this trope and hereditary.
  • An ideal to be aspired to in Tropico, hard to achieve.
    • Actually fairly easy to achieve by tweaking your character's past and personality before the game starts. Coming to power via a military coup or socialist rebellion drastically reduce the expectations of your people for fair democratic elections. With the right setup, you can get away with never holding an election!

    Web Comics 
  • Mayor Jeb from Men in Hats, who is totally incompetent and corrupt. As Aram puts it, "Why the hell do we keep voting for this guy?"
  • Justified in Three Apples. After the "Chrysalis Incident", Princess Celestia created a "Mandate of Heaven" that magically bound officials like Mayor Mare to their positions. Ironically, the very existence of that spell meant that the Thief's Crystal could twist it to its own ends.
  • Chris-Chan in Sonichu: CWCville (which was named after him) was founded before he was even born, seemingly for the sole purpose of him having a place to rule over.

    Web Original 
  • Welcome to Night Vale: When the Night Vale city council comes up for election the Sheriff's secret police take hostages to ensure people vote "correctly". The mayor doesn't enjoy the same job security, however, as within the first year of the podcast Mayor Pamela Winchell announces that she is leaving office at the end of the year and elections are held, and that she certainly was not leaving because the council demanded it.

    Western Animation 
  • In Elena of Avalor, Dona Paloma has been Avalor's Magister of Trade for the past several years. She's won all of her past elections because everyone else is too scared to run against her... until Season 2, where Chancellor Esteban suggests that Julio should run against her when the latter expresses frustration with her jerkass tendencies. Julio ends up winning unanimously, although Paloma is hired as his assistant due to Julio's inexperience and Esteban feeling bad for her.
  • The Mayor of Dimmsdale an The Fairly Oddparents once introduced himself as "mayor for life". When the crowd reacts with confusion, he merely laughs and tells them they need to pay attention to those ballots.
  • Richard Nixon in Futurama becomes the president of Earth by only one vote in the first season, but manages to stay in office for the remainder of the show, by which point he's starting his fourth term (and that's not counting his two terms as US president). He only ever faces one major challenger to his position, who is erased by a Time Paradox upon being elected.
  • The mayor of Gravity Falls was in office for nearly a century before his death in "The Stanchurian Candidate," by which point the town has gone so long without an election that the scroll describing the electoral process is covered in cobwebs and infested with bats.
  • Moral Orel: Clay has kept his position as a Mayor Pain despite the Villainous Breakdown he faced in the Season 2 finale and Season 3, likely because the whole town's adulthood is shown to be as screwed up and self-absorbed as him.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998): The Mayor of Townsville is a completely incompetent moron but manages to stay in office. One episode revealed that this is because no one ever runs against him - though he insists on campaigning anyway which annoys everyone so much that when Fuzzy Lumpkins tells him to shut up, the people vote him the new mayor despite the fact that he never actually enters the mayoral race. Of course Fuzzy turns out to be even worse so the girls get the old Mayor to take his job back.
  • Mayor Quimby of The Simpsons who tends to get voted back into office due to voter apathy, corruption, and the fact that the Republican party can't pick a candidate to oppose him. When they do, they picked Sideshow Bob (a known criminal). To quote "White Christmas Blues":
    Mayor Quimby: Don't you idiots see what this means?
    Lenny (angrily): Idiots? Why did we re-elect this guy?
    Carl: Because his opponent has a long Slavic name.
    Mayor Petrovichnyamilenkossarian: Who wants bumper sticker?
    • One of the future episodes revealed he was eventually indicted and reduced to working as a cab driver under the alias "Mohammed Jafar".
  • The eponymous mayor of Tom Goes to the Mayor, who has remained in office for twelve years due to a combination of family connections, low voter turnout, and a bizarre local law giving mayors thirteen-year terms.