Reform US terms

Allan Massie and Sir Malcolm Rifkind highlight the probable benefits to Russia and even to the West of another six years of Putin’s stability and relative predictability to add to his current 12 years in power (Perspective, 8 March).

In contrast, the USA is in the throes of its biennial state of short-term focused, time consuming and wildly expensive electioneering for Congress and/or the Presidency, unsuitable for a sophisticated economy and to the detriment not only of its democracy but of the West in general.

A large part of a new president’s first year is necessarily devoted to on-the-job learning, and many unpopular but essential domestic or international initiatives required in the fourth year are effectively stalled due to electioneering pressures and the perceived need not to rock too many global boats.

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No wonder President Obama said last July that the US did not have a triple-A political system to match its then triple-A credit rating.

Without affecting other electoral timetables, two simple reforms to encourage a slightly longer-term view and to enable more competent challengers to emerge and to be tested more gradually and effectively, would be for an initial presidential term of six years followed by four years when an incumbent is re-elected; and for the House of Representatives to copy the Senate by limiting its two-yearly elections to only one-third of the seats rather than the whole House.

John Birkett

Horseleys Park

St Andrews