China’s rubber-stamp parliament on Sunday allowed President Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely, perhaps for life, as it ratified a contentious constitutional amendment to abolish the two-term presidential limit, making him the most powerful leader since Chairman Mao Zedong.
The amendment to give 64-year-old Xi an indefinite term effectively ended the collective leadership system followed by the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) to avert a dictatorship from emerging in an otherwise one-party state akin to the era of Mao which witnessed the most brutal events like Cultural Revolution resulting in the killings of millions of people.
Set for his second five-year term as president this month, Xi, the most powerful leader in recent decades heading the CPC and the military, will now be the first Chinese leader after founder chairman Mao to remain in power lifelong.
The National People’s Congress (NPC) has kept its reputation as the rubber stamp parliament for its routine approval of CPC proposals by voting exactly to the official script.
The amendment removing the term limits for the president and the vice president was approved by the NPC with 2,958 in favour, two against and three abstentions, official media reported. The two votes of dissent apparently had official sanction to show a semblance of diversity.
For today’s vote, the NPC chose to follow paper ballot system instead of hand raising and electronic voting.
Xi stood up first at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing to cast his paper ballot in a red box.
The first Constitution of China was enacted in 1954. The current Constitution has been in place since 1982 and has undergone four amendments in 1988, 1993, 1999 and 2004.
The removal of the term limit was regarded as the biggest political change in the one-party system which has remained in force in China since 1949.
Ahead of the vote by deputies in the NPC, the seven member Standing Committee – the topmost body of the CPC – unanimously approved the amendment to abolish the presidential term limits.
Observers say the constitutional amendment in effective paves the way for China’s transition from being a one-party state to a one-leader state with Xi, described by some as an “Emperor”, to remain in power in the foreseeable future.
Xi, christened as “lingxiu” – a leader with highest prestige, is aggressively pushing China’s military modernisation to make the world’s largest army a mightier force capable of winning modern wars.
The proposal of a limitless tenure for Xi has sparked worldwide concerns specially in China’s neighbourhood.