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China approves ‘president for life’ change

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China has approved the removal of term limits for its leader, 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.

It was designed to prevent another leader like Chairman Mao Zedong emerging, espousing collective leadership rather than one-man rule and the cult of personality.

But, says the BBC’s Stephen McDonell in Beijing, China’s president has now amassed power the likes of which has not been seen here for decades and he is even less likely to be challenged after today’s result.

Mr Xi 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.

In late February, the party proposed removing term limits from China’s constitution. Mr Xi was due to step down in 2023.

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.

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