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President for Life

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This is when a dictator tries to make sure they are in power permanently by taking the title "President For Life", making them a de facto monarch who happens to have a republican title.

This does not include leaders who simply happened to expire before their predefined terms did. Nor does it include leaders who served multiple terms via show (or, in some cases, legitimate) elections where there was no other candidate. This is about doing away with elections altogether. Definitely a sign of a People's Republic of Tyranny, and very often a President Evil.


Whether they actually serve for the rest of their lives is quite another question — as is how long they live after attaining such a position.

This makes distinguishing between "republic" and "monarchy" (especially if the dictator is President For Life of a Hereditary Republic) a Royal Mess, and there have been cases of a President For Life crossing that line and declaring himself King or Emperor, becoming a Monarch in name as well (Jean-Bedel Bokassa of the Central African Republic/Empire is the most recent example).

A subtrope of In It for Life. Compare: The Generalissimo and Just the First Citizen, with which there is often overlap (especially the former). Contrast Permanent Elected Official. A President for life should always remember that he or she Only Serves for Life. If a President for life remains as a ruler even after they died, it becomes The Necrocracy.



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  • In the future of Marvel 1602, the US gets a President-for-Life as a Hero Killer dictator (strongly implied to be Zebediah Kilgrave, the Purple Man), prompting Captain America to travel back in time.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Coreline has a downplayed (and rare heroic, and even more rare having had the "for life" part elected by the public with full informed consent) example with the Governor-For-Life of Michigan: Optimus Prime.

  • In Licence to Kill, Big Bad Sanchez warns the president of the Banana Republic that he's "only President for life".
  • Escape from L.A. has a hyper-religious President of the US, who gets elected solely because one of his rants happens to come true quite by accident. Somehow, he gains enough support from the legislature and the people to amend the Constitution to get him declared this trope. He then proceeds to move the capital to his hometown, launch a network of Kill Sats, and make anything he doesn't like illegal (such as red meat, smoking, drinking, premarital sex, etc.). Anybody who doesn't agree gets deported to Los Angeles (which is separate from mainland US) or gets sent to the electric chair.
  • In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, this is how Coin ultimately seeks to guarantee her power, making herself "interim" President, with a proper election being postponed indefinitely. When Katniss understands this, she makes sure it's a short term.

  • In Julian Comstock, term limits for the President have been abolished and most of the checks on his power such as the Supreme Court and House of Representatives have been dismantled. Technically every President is elected to every term, but the majority of the population doesn't get to cast their own ballot, with their feudal landlord voting on their behalf, and every President runs essentially unopposed. The post is also de facto hereditary, Julian himself becomes at least the third Comstock to serve as President by the end of the book.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin calls himself Supreme Dictator and President for Life of G.R.O.S.S.
    • Only until Hobbes declares himself King and Tyrant, at which point Calvin decides that's what he wants to be instead.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Ric Flair became President of WCW, and later declared himself President For Life.

     Tabletop Games 
  • GURPS Cyberworld: The US presidency has become one of these after the then-incumbent is "forced" to suspend the Constitution and declare a state of emergency. Officially the title is "Provisional President", and free elections will be held as soon as the Provisional Government gets everything stabilized, but every four years the Provisional Congress automatically announces that elections will not be held. The current Provisional President referred to the situation as the "Permanent Emergency" when he took power, so do the math.

    Video Games 
  • Possible in the Tropico series, but the risk is civil unrest once the people decide that they really want free elections again. That said, El Presidente can still easily stuff the ballot box, so long as doing so doesn't verge into a Revealing Cover-Up.
  • In Stellaris after "government forms" were introduced, the Dictatorial government form is this: A ruler chosen by "oligarchic election" whenever the previous ruler dies.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Quite popular amongst real-life dictators, and has its own article at That Other Wiki. Some even lived up to the term.
    • Famously, Ugandan dictator Idi Amin proclaimed himself this in many of his narmtastic rants.
    • François Duvalier of Haiti. Died in office.
    • Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan. Died in office.
    • Hastings Banda of Malawi. Stripped of title in 1993, defeated in an election in 1994.
    • Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana. Thrown out of office in 1966.
    • Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia. Died in office in 1980.
    • Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia. Deposed in 1987, died under house arrest in 2000.
    • Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of Bangladesh. Assassinated 1975, after only seven months in power.
    • Jean-Bédel Bokassa of the Central African Republic. Declared President for Life in 1972, then went all the way and was crowned Emperor of the Central African Empire in 1976. Deposed in 1979.
    • Chiang Kai-shek of the Republic of China. Died in office in 1975. Although very much an authoritarian military dictator throughout his entire political career, a new constitution drafted after World War II — attempting to ease the ROC into democracy — saw Chiang getting elected as President. After losing the civil war and retreating to Taiwan, Chiang continued ruling with an iron fist but styled himself president rather than The Generalissimo as in past years.
    • Subverted with Kim Il-sung of North Korea, who was declared Eternal President of the Republic after he'd died. However, he was NOT President For Life while he was alive; his term was regularly renewed via show elections. Christopher Hitchens commented that this made North Korea the world's only necrocracy.
    • Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, who took office in 2003 after the death of his father Haydar, suspiciously enough.
    • Napoleon made himself First Consul for life on the way to becoming Emperor.
    • The Ur-Example is probably that of Julius Caesar, granted the title of dictator perpetuo or dictator in perpetuity, abandoning the usual time restrictions on Roman dictatorships historically observed. This of course being shortly before his infamous assassination, and possibly being subverted by the lack of implication Caesar would never resign the post.
      • His great-nephew and heir Augustus was offered this title but refused it, knowing how dangerous this was. He preferred the titles imperator, originally a military honorific roughly meaning "commander" but which evolved into a royal title (translating, of course, to "emperor") over time, and princeps (first citizen), which likewise evolved centuries later into the royal title "prince". For the first 311 years of the Roman Empire, the emperors followed Augustus' example by insisting that they were neither royal nor dictators and that Rome was still a republic in which power ultimately flowed from the citizens and the Senate. Not until Diocletian in 284 AD was the pretense discarded.
  • Another example of someone who crossed the line and declared himself Emperor, Yuan Shikai.
  • As of March 2018, the term limits for President and Vice President of the People's Republic of China have been removed. The day after that constitutional amendment was passed, President Xi Jinping was reappointed President of China since his 2013 election was under the old term limits.


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