With nominations now being sought for the 2012 Moderator Election, I'm struggling to see for how long such appointments are made: without knowing that, how can any nominees commit to being available?
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The appointments last until one of the parties decides that it's no longer feasible to maintain the relationship.
It should be safe to assume that moderators will continue to be moderators until:
Make no mistake, if you're nominating yourself for a moderator position on Stack Overflow, you should expect to actively work on moderating Stack Overflow. If you aren't willing to do that, make way for someone who will.