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THE trial of Malawi's former President-for-Life Hastings Banda for crimes during 30 years in power should be handwriting on the wall for other leaders and parties too long in the saddle.

That includes Fidel Castro (36 years), Burma's SLORC military junta (33), Mexico's PRI ruling party (66), Zaire's Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga (30), and Vietnam's, China's, and North Korea's Communist parties (46 to 50). That's not all the absolute rulers or semi-permanent parties on earth. But it's a good sampling of regimes that remind us of one of the great values of democracy: government that rejuvenates itself by changing hands at the behest of the governed. The current fad word has government ''reinventing'' itself. Democracies do that all the time.

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