In the United States the official qualifications for becoming president, as laid out in the Constitution, are incredibly low. The only requirements are that:

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

Is it pretty standard in modern democracies to set the qualifications so low and allow the electorate to vet the appropriateness of the candidates qualifications? Or are there countries that require specific educational and professional achievements from their candidates before they seek high elective office?

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    Are those incredibly low requirements? It means that a 33 year old who has lived in the country for 30 years is not eligible... – gerrit Jan 18 '13 at 17:32
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    @gerrit I mean that they are incredibly low restrictions on that portion of the population. Constitutionally, anyone could become president (i.e. convicted felon, mentally challenged, anarchist). It seems reasonable to me that countries would demand more of their leaders. My question is, do modern democracies trust the population to do this vetting, or do any explicitly require it. – Michael Kingsmill Jan 18 '13 at 17:44

Actually, that bar is unusually high.

Very few countries require candidates to be natural-born citizens. For instance, the current (January 2013) Prime Minister of Australia is Julia Gillard, who was born in Wales, not in Australia. Andrew Bonar Law was born in New Brunswick (now in Canada) and was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1922-23.

The age restriction is also unusual; most countries grant the right of candidature at the same time as the right to vote.

The length of residence is unusual too; most countries will allow anyone who is a citizen and a permanent resident to stand, even if they only moved back last week.

  • While Gillard is a good example, Law is not. British colonists were British subjects. – gormadoc Nov 12 '19 at 20:25

I don't know about traditional, but in most countries whose system derives from the British Parliamentary system (e.g. UK, Canada, Australia) you can stand as an MP if you are eligible to vote - i.e. you must be a citizen and you must be 18 years old. In some places there are residency requirements too, but they are typically only a few years. If you are elected as an MP there are no further barriers to being Prime Minister (other than getting your fellow MPs to vote for you).


If you want to stand for election to Parliament in Britain, you don't even have to be British:

People wishing to stand as an MP must be over 18 years of age, be a British citizen or citizen of a Commonwealth country or the Republic of Ireland.

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    Well, they did have Scottish, Norman, Roman and Norse monarchs. Not exactly a new concept for the country :) – user4012 Jan 18 '13 at 23:57
  • You don't even have to be a legal resident - many Commonwealth citizens aren't. To stand for a local council or the European Parliament, you can be an EU citizen also. – Richard Gadsden Jan 19 '13 at 13:07

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