(COMBO) This combination of pictures created on May 4, 2022, ex-Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (L) gestures during a meeting with members of the Rede Party in Brasilia, on April 28, 2022, to discuss the party's support for Lula's candidacy for president in the upcoming October elections, and another of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro smiling during the Brazilian Army Day celebration at the Army headquarters in Brasilia on April 19, 2022. - According to a mid-December poll, President Jair Bolsonaro, was getting crushed in the race for Brazil's October elections, trailing his nemesis, ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, so badly it seemed he might lose in the first round. But since then, the far-right incumbent has staged a turnaround, so much so that political analysts now say he could yet come from behind to win a new four-year term. Bolsonaro is seeking reelection while Lula de Silva is scheduled to officially launch his candidacy on May 7 at a rally in Sao Paulo. (Photo by EVARISTO SA / AFP) (Photo by EVARISTO SA/AFP via Getty Images)
Brazil's presidential election leaves voters with hard choice
03:26 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

George Washington knew when to cede power. But many of today’s global leaders find it much harder to leave the stage — and could do with a dose of the first US President’s humility.

Some have no desire to quit. Others are desperate to claw back the clout they once had. The result is an era of stasis in already repressive nations like Russia and China, and déjà vu in democracies where ex-leaders seem to be putting narcissistic considerations above national interests.

“I will probably have to do it again,” said former President Donald Trump — he of the two impeachments and the US Capitol insurrection — to supporters baying for a second term this weekend. Boris Johnson (once referred to as “Britain Trump” by the ex-POTUS) just mounted his own comeback bid and failed —though anyone who thinks he’s given up on emulating his hero Winston Churchill, who returned as Prime Minister six years after losing the 1945 election, is surely mistaken.

Democracy is hanging by a thread in Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro has hinted he may not accept defeat in his quest for a second term in this weekend’s run-off vote. His rival is another retread — Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the former two-time president known as “Lula” whose return to the spotlight detoured through a partial jail term (his conviction was later annulled).

A woman places her ballot paper in the ballot box as Italians vote to elect a new parliament on September 25, 2022 in Bologna, Italy.

Some of the current comeback kids have been on the world stage since the 1990s. In Italy, three-time former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is back in parliament after a tax fraud scandal, though his attempt to play kingmaker in coalition talks dissolved after he boasted about his ties with old friend Russian President Vladimir Putin. Another scandal-prone leader trying to recapture past glories is Benjamin Netanyahu, who served so long as prime minister that they dubbed him “King Bibi.” He is leading in the polls ahead of yet another Israeli general election.

Of course, one alternative to making a comeback is never going away. Putin himself has been in power since December 31, 1999 — though had to spin a scam in which he was “demoted” to prime minister for a number of years as the power behind the throne before returning as President. And in China, Xi Jinping just cemented a norm-busting third term in office.

Exhausted after two terms, and disillusioned by bitter, partisan politics, Washington passed on a third term in office in 1796. He told Americans that he was “persuaded, whatever partiality may be retained for my services, that in the present circumstances of our country you will not disapprove my determination to retire.”

Not words you hear very often these days.