Choosing between 2 women? 6-week elections? Here’s what other democracies are up to

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A large portion of Americans think the US government needs major, systemic reform — at least according to some polling — so it’s worth looking at how other countries are doing things.

Where are elections not never-ending?

Anyone struggling to maintain interest in the never-ending, yearslong focus on the American presidential election might look with envy at the United Kingdom.

Voters there only learned Wednesday they’ll have an election in July, when rain-soaked Prime Minister Rishi Sunak gambled by announcing a snap general election for July 4. No months of primaries. No party conventions.

Everyone knew something was coming — Sunak’s Conservative Party had until next January to call the election, and it seems like an excessive period since the last UK-wide election in December 2019 — but clearly the campaign portion will be truncated. Sunak and his party have six weeks to make up a steep deficit in the polls or at least hope to block an outright majority for the Labour Party.

RELATED: 7 questions you might have about the UK’s snap July general election

British voters won’t directly pick a prime minister. Instead, they’ll select members of Parliament. The leader of the party that wins a majority automatically becomes prime minister, and he or she assembles a government around them. It would be as if US House Speaker Mike Johnson appointed fellow lawmakers to run portions of the federal government.

It can be a messy system, such as when the ruling Conservative Party churned through a series of prime ministers in recent years without having to get any input from voters.

In contrast, India, which is the world’s largest democracy and which, like the UK, has a parliamentary system of government, conducts its election over the course of many weeks. Results will be announced on June 4. CNN’s Will Ripley was recently out on the campaign trail with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is vying for a third consecutive term. Modi’s international reputation has morphed in those years from that of a reformer to that of a divisive nationalist, vilifying the country’s Muslims in his bid to keep power.

Where are they choosing between 2 younger women instead of 2 old men?

Anyone struggling to find inspiration in the rematch of two senior citizens vying for the US presidency might look with some envy at Mexico, where the government bears many similarities to the US but where the president can only serve a single six-year term.

That means Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador must step aside despite his relative popularity — and, at 70, youth — compared with the US options, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.

Mexico presidential candidates Xochitl Gálvez (left) and Claudia Sheinbaum (right). - Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images
Mexico presidential candidates Xochitl Gálvez (left) and Claudia Sheinbaum (right). - Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images

Instead of choosing between two older men, when Mexican voters go to the polls on June 2, they will be choosing between two younger women. López Obrador endorsed the front-runner, Claudia Sheinbaum, the candidate from his Morena Party who previously led the Mexico City government. The candidate for an opposition coalition is Xochitl Gálvez, a former Mexican senator. Both are 61.

There are other candidates, although they have little chance of winning. Tragedy struck the campaign trail Wednesday when a stage collapsed due to heavy winds, killing nine people.

It’s a direct election — no Electoral College — and the person who gets the most votes wins.

Where do judges not have lifetime appointments?

Another difference in Mexico is that Supreme Court justices serve a 15-year term instead of the justice-for-life tradition in the US.

If the US had term limits, Samuel Alito would be three years off the bench and free to fly whatever flag he wanted at any of his homes. Instead, with no term limits and no binding ethics rules for US Supreme Court justices, there’s nothing to keep Alito from joining opinions related to November’s election.

That’s despite the fact that the flags outside his homes suggest he might have some preferences. Does an upside-down flag flown outside his home in Virginia days before Biden’s inauguration betray a bias? Does the flying of a flag seen at the January 6, 2021, “Stop the Steal” rally suggest a friendliness to Christian nationalists? There’s arguably more evidence of a preference in the activism of fellow justice Clarence Thomas’ wife, Ginni.

Thomas, who was appointed to the bench in 1991 by then-President George H.W. Bush, is more than 30 years into his Supreme Court tenure. Both Thomas and Alito, in their 70s, are younger than both of the men most primary voters for the major political parties have selected to run for president.

Where do they overhaul their court systems?

If the nature of the US Supreme Court seems immutable and unchangeable, it’s not. There’s no political will to change the system, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

Congress could, in theory, impose term limits on justices. It could also change the number of justices on the court, as it has in the past. There are active campaigns to change the US system, including changing the number of justices and imposing 18-year term limits. But these do not currently have major political momentum. Plus, Republicans rightly feel they will enjoy an advantage with the current system for decades to come. It’s unlikely they would buy into an overhaul.

The UK actually overhauled its Supreme Court with a Constitutional Reform Act back in 2005, although a major difference between the UK and the US is that the UK does not technically have a written constitution.

There are plenty of cautionary tales out there as well about other forms of government. In Russia and China, where free speech and the press are seriously limited, autocratic leaders have instilled themselves and are looking to widen their worldwide influence.

El Salvador had a ban on its president serving two consecutive terms, but a court full of appointees by controversial President Nayib Bukele gave him the power to seek and win reelection in February.

That’s not an option in the US, where the 22nd Amendment only allows for a person to serve two four-year presidential terms. Whoever wins in November — Biden or Trump — will be unable to run again.

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