China has abolished the presidential term, in a move that effectively allows Xi Jinping to remain as president for life.
The constitutional changes were passed by China’s annual sitting of the National People’s Congress on Sunday.
The vote was widely regarded as a rubber-stamping exercise. Two delegates voted against the change and three abstained, out of 2,964 votes.
China had imposed a two-term limit on its president since the 1990s.
But Mr Xi, who would have been due to step down in 2023, defied the tradition of presenting a potential successor during October’s Communist Party Congress.
Instead, he consolidated his political power as the party voted to enshrine his name and political ideology in the party’s constitution – elevating his status to the level of its founder, Chairman Mao.
On paper, the congress is the most powerful legislative body in China – similar to the parliament in other nations. But it
was widely believed that it would approve what it was told to.
Constitutional changes require approval from at least two-thirds of the National People’s Congress. Sunday’s vote was more strongly endorsed than any of the four earlier revisions to the 1982 constitution and was expected after a procession of delegates have cheered Mr. Xi’s leadership over the past week and the change to let him govern longer.
“Doesn’t the emperor of Japan rule for life? Doesn’t the Queen of England rule for life?” said Chen Jinshi, a delegate and chairman of real-estate developer Zhongnan Group. “So why can’t our president rule for life?”
“As long as his health is good,” Mr. Chen said, “what’s there to be worried about?”
Other amendments added Mr. Xi’s signature political theory to the national charter as well as a clause affirming the Communist Party’s leading role in governing China and provisions for a new anticorruption agency that expands party oversight to all public servants.
‘Doesn’t the emperor of Japan rule for life? Doesn’t the Queen of England rule for life? So why can’t our president rule for life?’
President Trump’s reaction
The US president this March applauded Xi Jinping’s bid to usher China back into an era of a president for life – hailing the world leader as “great” and praising the fact he now holds office “for life”.
‘He’s now president for life. President for life. And he’s great,’ US president Donald Trump echoed.