French Youth Minister sets out law to ban elderly politicians from clinging on to power into old age

Patrick Kanner is 'interested' in a plan to impose a three-term limit and a maximum age of 70 on all elected positions, as well as reducing the voting age from 18 to 16

Click to follow
The Independent Online

In a country where train drivers retire at 50 and many other people retire at 60, France is notorious for having politicians who cling on into old age.

The French Youth Minister is looking into a report that suggests it is time to rejuvenate politics by imposing a three-term limit and a maximum age of 70 on all elected positions, from president to local councillor. Patrick Kanner is said to be “interested” in the proposals and ready to frame them as a draft law. He is also considering a suggestion that the voting age should be reduced from 18 to 16.


The minister’s chances of getting age limits through the National Assembly (average age 59 years and 10 months) or the Senate (average age 61) appear to be slight. The three-mandate limit will also be resisted as alien to the French political tradition.

“To be a parliamentarian is not a career that starts at 20 and finishes at 65,” said the Socialist MP, René Dosière, 74. “It’s a role people can assume at any time. You cannot bring the same logic to the workplace and to elective office.”

Jacques Chirac remained President until the age of 74 (Getty)

France is no longer quite such a gerontocracy as it was when Jacques Chirac remained President until the age of 74 or François Mitterrand stayed in the Elysée Palace until the age of 79. President François Hollande is a sprightly 60. He is, nonetheless, one the oldest leaders in the EU and the oldest leader in the G7. Declared or almost certain candidates for the next presidential election in 2017 include the ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy, 60, and Alain Juppé, 69.

In the lower house, the National Assembly, there are 53 MPs who are 70 or over, out of a total of 575. In the upper house, the Senate, 83 out of 344 senators would be forced to retire if Mr Kanner’s idea were introduced. The relative youth of British politicians has attracted envious glances.

“In Britain, party leaders quit politics after their defeat [in the general election in May], even though they’re only in their forties,” Gael Sliman of the polling company Odoxa pointed out. “In France the system provides for little renewal and promotes the old or very old… and failure. That is not inspiring [for voters].”