Until what age can one be elected to head a country. In an interview with the American channel PBS on Wednesday February 8, Joe Biden, 80, declared that he “intended” to run again in 2024, while specifying that he had “not yet taken any final decision”. He was already, at his election in 2020, the oldest politician to become president of the United States, at 78 years old. He then eclipsed Donald Trump, the previous record holder, elected in 2016 at the age of 70.
There is no age limit for becoming president, in the United States as in most countries. However, according to a poll (1), 73% of Americans would be in favor of such a limitation. To the question “what should be the maximum age to be elected president?” 40% of respondents had set the limit at 70 years. Moreover, the current average age of senators is around 64, the highest in the history of American democracy.
Auguste Thiers, oldest French president
If he confirms his new candidacy and achieves his goals, Joe Biden will be an exception. In the landscape of Western democracies, only one politician has reached the head of a State by being elected at more than 80 years old: Giorgio Napolitano, elected President of the Italian Republic in 2006, at the age of 81 years. He will also be re-elected in 2013, at the age of 88. The Italian president, however, has less power than his American counterpart and his election is by indirect suffrage by a few hundred voters.
In France, Auguste Thiers was for a long time the oldest French politician to become president, in 1871, then aged 74. He was dethroned in 1965 by Charles de Gaulle, winning the presidential election for his re-election at the age of 75, against François Mitterrand, then 69 years old. Later, Jacques Chirac will also be re-elected, in 2002, at the age of 70.
Young people in power
Across the Channel, one of the oldest politicians to become Prime Minister after a general election was Winston Churchill, re-elected in 1951, at age 77.
Conversely, more and more young people are becoming heads of state or government in Western democracies. Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin was elected at 34, Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand Prime Minister at 37. Justin Trudeau was 43 when he was elected leader of Canada. Emmanuel Macron, the youngest elected President of the Republic in France was only 39 years old in 2017.