The List: The World’s 10 Oldest Leaders
If John McCain wins the election in November at the age of 72, he will become the oldest person in U.S. history to assume the presidency. But McCain is a veritable spring chicken compared with these guys.
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President of Zimbabwe
Date of birth: Feb. 21, 1924
Years in power: 28 (prime minister 1980-1987 and president since 1987)
Rank on Failed States Index: No. 4 (out of 177 countries ranked), critical
Progeny: 2 sons, 1 daughter, and 1 deceased son. When asked about the number of grandchildren Mugabe has, a spokesman at the Zimbabwean Embassy in Washington, D.C., said, I cant say that on the phone, thank you, and abruptly hung up. Mugabes oldest child is around 19 years old, so its unlikely he has grandchildren yet.*
Health status: In a country where life expectancy has plunged from 60 to 40 during his reign, Mugabe guards his health status fiercely. His wife says he gets up at 4 a.m. each day to exercise. In 2005, rumors circulated that he had died of a heart ailment, but his spokesman at the time said, He is as fit as a teenager. There has been at least one confirmed sign of frailty: In 2000, he collapsed in Malaysia and required stitches above an eye.
Next in line: In March 29s presidential elections, Mugabes primary challengers are former Finance Minister Simba Makoni and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, whose skull was fractured in a savage, politically motivated attack in March 2007.
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Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz al-Saud
King of Saudi Arabia
Date of birth: 1924 (exact day unknown)
Years in power: 12 (king since August 2005, but had been de facto ruler since December 1995 after his predecessor, King Fahd, was incapacitated by a stroke)
Rank on Failed States Index: No. 83, borderline
Progeny: At least 20 daughters and 15 sons. A spokesman at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C., did not know how many grandchildren the king has. News archives dont state any number. The king has had more than 30 wives, which could make counting his children, much less his grandchildren, a little complicated.
Health status: The king has had heart problems, but he still seems to get out and about. Last summer, he spent six weeks traveling abroad, including visits to Morocco, France, Poland, and Jordan. Of course, his entourage is thought to include what has been described as a traveling clinic.
Next in line: Crown Prince Sultan bin Abd al-Aziz al-Saud
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Girija Prasad Koirala
Prime Minister of Nepal
Date of birth: Feb. 20, 1925
Years in power: 2, since April 2006 (but has served as prime minister 3 times previously: March 2000-July 2001, April 1998-May 1999, and May 1991-Nov. 1994)
Rank on Failed States Index: No. 21, in danger
Progeny: 1 daughter, 2 grandchildren
Health status: Koirala has suffered from breathing problems in the past and in recent interviews has had difficulty finishing his sentences. He fell ill in January with chest and throat infections and took nearly two weeks of bed rest. During that time, rumors circulated that he had died.
Next in line: Former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, from Koiralas Nepali Congress Party, has been mentioned as a potential successor. Elections for the Constituent Assembly, which will draft a new constitution, are scheduled for April 10. And with a new constitution, who knows what could happen.
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President of Senegal
Date of birth: May 29, 1926
Years in power: 8, since April 2000 after a March 2000 election
Rank on Failed States Index: No. 117, borderline
Progeny: 1 son, 1 daughter, and 3 granddaughters
Health status: The octogenarian seems to be doing fine. His age has even been a selling point: He used his nickname, Gorgui, a Wolof word meaning old man that carries a respectful, endearing connotation, in campaign posters while running for reelection last year.
Next in line: The next round of presidential elections isnt until 2012, so its a bit early to be naming names.
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President of Egypt
Date of birth: May 4, 1928
Years in power: 26, since former President Anwar Sadats assassination in October 1981
Rank on Failed States Index: No. 36, in danger
Progeny: 2 sons, 2 grandsons
Health status: Rumors that Mubarak was in declining health circulated widely in Egypt last summer, and four newspaper editors were convicted in September for making assertions about the presidents health. Government prosecutors accused one of the newspapers of scaring away hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign investment. Mubaraks wife told a Dubai-based TV channel, though, that everything is OK.
Next in line: Its widely thought that Mubarak is grooming his youngest son, Gamal, to be the next president, but many Egyptians fiercely oppose pharaonic succession.
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Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah
Emir of Kuwait
Date of birth: June 6, 1929
Years in power: 5 (emir since January 2006, but had been de facto ruler since being made prime minister in 2003, when both former emir, Sheikh Jaber, and former prime minister, Sheikh Saad, were in too poor health to govern)
Rank on Failed States Index: No. 124, borderline
Progeny: When asked about the number of children and grandchildren the emir has, a spokeswoman at the Kuwaiti Embassy in Washington, D.C., said, That is a complicated question. News reports reveal he has one deceased daughter, but beyond that, the number of children and grandchildren couldnt be confirmed.
Health status: The Kuwaiti royal family rarely releases health information, but the emir does have a pacemaker and some say he has some health problems.
Next in line: Crown Prince Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah
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President of Cuba
Date of birth: June 3, 1931
Years in power: 2 (president since February 2008, but had been de facto president since July 2006 when his brother, Fidel Castro, transferred power to him due to failing health)
Rank on Failed States Index: No. 77, borderline
Progeny: 3 daughters and 1 son; 8 grandchildren, according to a June 2007 New York Times obituary about Rals wife
Health status: Ral is addicted to alcohol and has been a heavy drinker since his teenage years, according to research by Brian Latell, an expert on Cuba at the University of Miami.
Next in line: Some names floated after Fidel stepped down from power include Carlos Lage, Ricardo Alarcn, Felipe Prez Roque, Ramiro Valds, and Esteban Lazo, all of whom have held high-level government positions.
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President of Kenya
Date of birth: Nov. 15, 1931
Years in power: 5, since December 2002
Rank on Failed States Index: No. 31, in danger
Progeny: Officially, 3 sons, 1 daughter, and 6 grandchildren. Additionally, on a continent where polygamy isnt unusual, there is a daughter from a co-wife. Kibakis office, however, put out an unsigned statementwidely attributed to the presidents first wifeasking the press to kindly refrain from making references about any other purported member of my immediate family.
Health status: Kibaki was hospitalized with a blood clot and high blood pressure in January 2003, following a broken leg he suffered in a December 2002 automobile accident. He had to cancel many appearances at the beginning of his first term, which thus started his presidency on a sour note. He remains an avid golfer.
Next in line: If opposition leader Raila Odinga had his way, hed be president, a position he lost in December 2007s election, which he said was rigged in favor of Kibaki. Now, under a power-sharing agreement, Odinga is to be prime minister.
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Prime Minister of India
Date of birth: Sept. 26, 1932
Years in power: 4, since his election in May 2004
Rank on Failed States Index: No. 110, borderline
Progeny: 3 daughters and 3 grandsons
Health status: Still going strong. No ailments have been widely reported, and astrologers predictions that Singh would develop serious health problems by the end of September 2004 apparently didnt materialize.
Next in line: In the worlds largest democracy, its anybodys guess.
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Chair of the State Peace and Development Council of Burma
Date of birth: Feb. 2, 1933
Years in power: 16, since April 1992 after the countrys previous military ruler stepped down due to ill health
Rank on Failed States Index: No. 14, critical
Progeny: 3 daughters, 1 son, and at least 3 grandchildren
Health status: Shwe is widely believed to suffer from diabetes and hypertension. His health is deteriorating, with dementia, heart problems, and a stroke taking their toll, say Burmese government sources quoted anonymously in the press. In January 2007, Shwe was hospitalized in Singapore for two weeks, possibly for cancer, and missed Independence Day celebrations for the first time since he was in power. Many Burmese think Shwes ailments are bad karma he generated from his ruthless crackdown on protesting monks last year.
Next in line: The military juntas No. 3 man, Shwe Mann, is seen as the likely successor.
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*Editors Note: The original entry on Robert Mugabe included this sentence: A Boston Globe op-ed does mention that the United States has placed a travel ban on an unspecified number of his grandchildren. The Globe article is ambiguous, but given the youth of Mugabes children, it appears unlikely they have children of their own.