Speculation has Bernie Sanders may run for US President in 2020, when he will be 79. Mahathir Mohamad is aiming to become Malaysias PM (again) at the age of 92.
Wikipedia has a list of state leaders by age. Many of the oldest state leaders are constitutional or absolute monarchs or presidents who have been in power for a long time. But who is the oldest head of state / government at the time of being elected to the office?

For the purpose of this question, I consider any election where the person did not hold office before, but did hold office after the election. I include cases of de facto elections, such as the leader of the largest party becoming prime minister after elections, as widely expected but not required in parliamentary systems.

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    Since this question was asked, Mahathir Mohamad did become PM again at 92, so I think that probably now gives an answer.
    – Thomas
    Commented Nov 13, 2018 at 9:50
  • @Thomas: Depends on what the title of the question means by “first” elected. Perhaps gerrit can clarify.
    – chirlu
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 16:14
  • Many of the oldest state leaders are constitutional or absolute monarchs or presidents who have been in power for a long time. Do those count if first appointed to the office per a constitution, meaning they aren't really elected?
    – JJJ
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 16:46

4 Answers 4


A possible contender is Nicolo de la Ponte (born on 15 January 1491). He was elected Doge of the Republic of Venice on the 3rd of March 1578. He was aged 87 years and 47 days at the time of his election.

Venice in this period had a habit of electing elderly rulers; between 1400 and 1600, the average age of a Doge at election was 72.

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    More recently, John XXIII become head of state in Vatican in 1958, one month before his 77th birthday. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_John_XXIII
    – Evargalo
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 15:23
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    There are many examples of elected leaders in their late 70s. For instance, Winston Churchill became Prime Minister for the second time in 1951, shortly before his 77th birthday. Ones in their 80s are much less common. A modern example is Shimon Peres, who became the President of Israel in 2004 at the age of 83. Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 15:38
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    The OP specifically asked for for a first accession to head of state/gvt, otherwise not only Churchill, but also Mugabe, Eyadema, or even Berlusconi would be good tries.
    – Evargalo
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 15:53
  • Tchernenko was in his 73rd year when he became head of USSR: fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konstantin_Tchernenko , and Mandela was 76 when he became head of South Africa fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelson_Mandela
    – Evargalo
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 15:55
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    @Evargalo: Even more recently than John XXIII, Benedict XVI became pope three days after his 78th birthday, in 2005. He was the oldest person to be elected pope since Clement XII (1730, aged 78 plus three months).
    – chirlu
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 19:17

Beji Caid Essebsi was elected President of Tunisia in the 2014 Tunesian election which took place on the 23rd of November 2014.

He was born on the 29th of November 1926, meaning he was 87 years and 359 days old at the time of his election. He was sworn into office on the 31st of December 2014.


Mahathir won the 2018 Malaysian general election, making him the oldest elected head of state at 92 years old.


I'm not sure if this qualifies because it's an appointment, not an election win, but I'll post it anyway (and remove if deemed out of scope).

General Prem Tinsulanonda was appointed Regent of Thailand on the 13th of October 2016. He was born on the 26th of August 1920, meaning he was aged 96 at the time of his appointment.

According to Wikipedia, General Tinsulanonda is the 5th oldest severing state leader ever. The role of regent of Thailand is "a person who exercises the official functions of a monarch of Thailand when the monarch is incapable of functioning or during a period of interregnum".

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