Abusive Constitutional Change: The Case of Presidential Term Limits in Latin America

It is often argued that presidents will tend to relax constitutional term limits when institutional and structural conditions allow so. However, most theories attempting to explain term limits relaxation evade the examination of political actors’ actual preferences and motivations. Drawing from the concept of political agency, this article maintains that term limits removal occurs as a consequence of presidential normative and substantive preferences. The more autocratic tendencies the president portrays, the more likely it is that constitutional term limits will be relaxed. Quantitative analysis of an original dataset confirms that the more radical the president is – i.e., intransigent and intolerant in achieving his political goals– the more likely it is that he will alter reelection rules in his benefit, controlling for alternative explanations.