Should the terms in office of local government officials be limited ? 

The public discourse is once again bringing a debate about possible time limits on the periods in office of local self-government executive bodies. Proponents of such a solution argue that it would be conducive to refreshing and reinvigorating local self-government, counteracting routine, and fostering initiative among local officials.

Those opposed to changes in this regard, meanwhile, argue that the possibility of electing local officials without limitations follows from the very nature of democracy. If – the thinking goes – a local community trusts a specific individual, it should be up to that community to decide how long this individual stays in power. Also, a wójt or a mayor who has held her/his post for a number of years gains experience which she/he can bring to bear to the benefit of all.

As an important point, elections for local self-government bodies are regulated at statutory level, in the Polish electoral code. Thus, imposition of limits on the terms in office of local self-government officials would require amendment of the applicable laws. Art 127.2 of the Polish Constitution allows for analogous temporal restrictions in the context of presidential elections, so no technical concerns should arise from the constitutional law perspective.

That said, art 16.1 of the Constitution speaks of the unique nature of local self-government as a local community, the idea being that it is the local population which is most competent to decide on local matters. This approach derives from the broader concept of decentralisation and is a practical manifestation of liberties which should not be restricted without due cause. The practice of local politics seems to bear out the theory that the most trusted local politicians are the ones who have held their posts for ten years and more, getting better on the job as they go along. So, this line of thinking goes, the national legislature ought to uphold these values, letting freedom grow rather than restraining it.05