“Older leaders are the trend”… More than half of the world’s population is over 70 years old

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Among the top 10 countries by population, only one country had an aging leader 10 years ago: India.
Currently in 8 countries, the remaining two countries will soon inaugurate leaders in their 70s.
Young people are indifferent to politics and unable to cope with rapid global changes.

Ten years ago, among the 10 most populous countries, India was the only country with a top leader in his 70s or older, but now there are eight countries, and more than half of the world’s population is in the hands of politicians in their 70s and 80s, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). It was reported on the 28th (local time).

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Former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who retired in 2014, was 82 years old when he left office, and his successor, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was 64 years old when he took office.

The remaining two countries, Indonesia and Pakistan, are also expected to have leaders in their 70s depending on the results of this month’s elections.

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In February 2014, US President Barack Obama was 52 years old, and Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin were also in their 60s. At the time, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was only 47 years old.

There are many reasons why the age of leaders in each country has increased significantly.

◆The long-term rule of dictators is due to barriers to entry into democratic countries.

First of all, the point is that dictators have strengthened their power. In 2022, President Xi broke with convention and took office for the third time at the age of 69. Putin, who first became president at the age of 47, has been in power for 25 years. Strong challenger Alexei Navalny recently died in prison at the age of 47.

In democratic countries, barriers to entry have risen. As the amount of money needed to win an election grows larger, established politicians have a huge advantage. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, currently 73 years old, is expected to easily be elected as Prime Minister for the third time. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, now 76 years old, won a landslide victory in the general election last month and began her fifth term as prime minister for the first time in history. He has been in power for 16 years.

In the middle of this month, a 72-year-old defense minister was elected president in Indonesia. He will succeed President Joko Widodo, who went from a furniture factory owner to a small town mayor to become president in 2014. President Widodo is 53 years old. The election of President Widodo 10 years ago was a great hope for the development of democracy in Indonesia, the world’s third most populous country.

Ben Bland, director of the Asia-Pacific program at Chatham House in the UK, pointed out, “The world is changing rapidly, but there are few young leaders, so the lack of new ideas is a big problem.”

According to a Pew Research Center poll last year, Americans are eager to see a leader under the age of 70. There are concerns about the health of 81-year-old President Joe Biden and 77-year-old former President Donald Trump.

In fact, the two often make mistakes due to their advanced age. Biden referred to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as the Mexican president, while Trump referred to his political rival, Nikki Haley, as former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, now 82 years old, froze in front of reporters for a while last summer. Ultimately, he announced that he would step down from his position as floor leader in November.

The reason it is difficult to oust old leaders who refuse to step down is because they enjoy vested interests.

◆There is an argument for limiting the upper age limit for politicians, but it is difficult to implement.

Accordingly, there is a proposal that the retirement age of federal civil servants should be limited in the United States. Candidate Haley argued that mental competency verification should be mandatory for politicians when they turn 75. Some lawmakers argue that the Constitution should be amended to prohibit politicians who turn 75 years old or older from running for office. However, there is virtually no possibility that these claims will come true.

French President Emmanuel Macron became the youngest president at the age of 39 and appointed a 34-year-old prime minister this year. Although the average age in Europe is higher than in the United States, it is much easier for young leaders to emerge. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni became prime minister at the age of 45 in 2022, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is currently 46 years old.

Older leaders emphasize that their wealth of experience is an asset. It is said to be of great help in a world situation where five-dimensional chess must be played, such as the US-China confrontation, the Gaza war, and the Ukraine war.

◆Many young leaders are emerging in European countries with a high average age.

However, there are equally great doubts that older leaders are not able to cope well with the rapid changes of the 21st century, such as artificial intelligence and climate change.

Political scientists warn that young people will become indifferent to politics due to the aging generation of political leaders. As the voting participation rate of young people decreases, political leaders fall into a vicious cycle in which they pay less attention to the interests of young people. For example, budget allocation for child protection will inevitably be reduced.

In his recent Lunar New Year speech, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, 72, emphasized that “it is a good time for young couples to have children.” He warned that the birth rate is decreasing, saying that young people these days are only interested in building careers and getting along well with each other. Prime Minister Lee is scheduled to hand over the position of prime minister to a successor 20 years younger than him this year.

Among older leaders, there are also leaders who make efforts to communicate with younger people. President Biden, who was born during World War II, posted a TikTok video of the Super Bowl football final this month and wrote, “This is really fun.” 72-year-old Reserve General Prabowi Subianto, who was elected President of Indonesia, became a hot topic when he posted a picture of himself holding a cat on Instagram and stormed an election campaign without permission.

82-year-old U.S. Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders and 74-year-old British Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn also have great influence among progressive young people.

Kevin Munger, a political science professor at the University of Pennsylvania, pointed out that baby boomer leaders will exert more power over the next 10 to 15 years.

Source: Donga

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