When Bernie Sanders announced his 2020 US presidential campaign, some commentators highlighted his advanced age. Should Sanders succeed, he would be 83 years old by 2024, the term’s end.
Yet voters from nations around the world have favoured older leaders. Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad is 93 years old; Lebanon’s president, Michel Aoun, is 83.
In some cases, criticism of elderly presidents is health-focused: their physical frailness prevents them from representing their countries abroad, while age-related ailments cast doubt on their cognitive abilities.
Since his 2013 stroke, for example, Algeria’s wheelchair-bound president—81-year-old Abdelaziz Bouteflika—has made few public appearances. Nevertheless, earlier this month state media declared Bouteflika would seek a fifth term.
In other cases, a president’s advanced age is a warning that their power’s legitimacy is fading.
Last week, Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced changes to parliamentary law that would let him rule until 2034. If successful, el-Sisi’s record-breaking term would see him through to his 79th year.
Most democracies require a minimum age of their presidents, often between 30 and 40. In France, an 18-year-old could be president.
Is it time for a maximum presidential age?
Credit for this article's header image goes to Getty.