Gather round, Malaysians, and send your best wishes to our indomitable leader, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is celebrating his 93rd trip around the sun today.
The (fellow!) Cancerian won a landslide victory in Malaysia’s revolutionary 14th General Election in May this year.
GE14 carried stakes that were high enough to make even the most consummate politician pass out from altitude sickness: Taking on his former alma mater, the Barisan Nasional coalition (the only group to have lead Malaysia since the country’s inception), he went maverick and founded a new party, allied himself with his former adversaries — many of whom he had imprisoned more than once — ran a tireless campaign, won by a landslide, and brought genuine hope of a better future for many, many Malaysians.
All of this before his 93rd birthday!
We would love to know what else is left on his bucket list, and please don’t say skydiving in Dubai, because that is so very zeitgeist 2000s that it’s actually in a Flo-Rida video.
Prime Minister Mahathir is currently the world’s oldest-serving leader, having been born nearly one year before his closest competitor, the United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth II — who doesn’t actually wield much in the way of real power but makes our list on longevity and name power glam (aka The Queen).
Never ones to shy away from a ranking table, we’re here to give you the world’s top five most geriatric government-slash-state heads, and also give them a bit of context.
Grab the dietary fiber, and pop a multivitamin, it’s time to meet five people (from oldest to relative youngest) who probably accomplish a lot more in their day than you:
Mahathir Mohamad: What can we say about Tun Dr M than hasn’t already been said before? He is relentless, unflagging, un-aged, and sharper than even your funniest friend.
What never ceases to amaze us is how astutely he understands the power of social media, whether it’s throwing shade on Twitter, ensuring that his low-cost Bata slippers make it to Instagram, to our personal favorite coup de grace: That time he gate-crashed a symposium that was asking everyone but him if he was too old to lead by telling them, and the crowd, “Say it to my face.” You couldn’t pay for that kind of press, and you better believe he tweeted the whole thing. Hats. Off. To. You. Sir.
Age: 93 years, 0 days
Birthday Present Suggestion: Whatever it is, make sure it’s not more than RM10. This year, we’re all about budget slashing, and that includes birthday presents.
Elizabeth II: Queen of the United Kingdom, and head of a commonwealth we’re still part of, this formidable lady has lived long enough to have, at one time, been our own head of state pre-independence.
We wonder what it’s like to have experienced such a full lifetime of colonial loss, but still feel obliged to send a relative every few years to check in on how we’re doing. Are you that ex that thinks we’re the one(s) that got away, or is it just a stiff upper lip type thing?
Let’s be real, while Queen Elizabeth completes more royal duties than any of her much younger progeny (looking at you, Prince Edward!), we’d wager that it’s a garden party compared to the fiascos that greet Tun every morning. Still, great job, and even greater hats.
Age: 92 years, 80 days
Birthday Present Suggestion: One of Rosmah’s seized tiaras – you know, something for an actual queen.
Beji Caid Essebsi: Prior to Mahathir’s landslide victory, Paris-educated Essebsi (who looks a wee bit like Rupert Murdoch in this pic) held the title of world’s oldest democratically elected leader as Tunisia’s president, after Tunisians voted his party into power following the country’s 2011 revolution. He’s now at number two, but let’s be real — it’s a race where no one actually wins (cue: an existentialist abyss).
Essebsi has a lot in common with Mahathir, having left his previous party to found another, Nidaa Tounes. Unlike Mahathir, whose PPBM party is only open to Malays, Essebsi’s party is founded on secularism.
Since coming to power, he’s campaigned for the rights of Tunisian women to marry non-Muslims, which sounds hella progressive for a 90-something.
Age: 91 years, 223 days
Birthday Present Suggestion: Mediterranean-blue Lacoste polo shirt to bring out those baby blues.
Kim Yong-nam: At 90, Kim has been president of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea for the past 20 years. Don Oberdorfer, a professor at the renowned Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, spent a fair amount of time with Kim before his death. He described him as “enigmatic, rigid in his official role, personally pleasant, highly intelligent, and an important figure behind the scenes in Pyongyang.” We say: All of this must be true, because a lot of key party members seem to “expire before their time” through politically motivated executions, or spend their twilight years in a gulag.
Age: 90 years, 156 days
Birthday Present Suggestion: What else to buy a Teflon-don other than a non-stick frying pan.
Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah: Sheikh Sabah, born the same year the global stock market crashed and sent the world into a fiscal depression, has reigned over Kuwait since 2006.
He and Mahathir are currently living in parallel worlds: Both as old as sliced bread (yes), and both heads of states that depend largely on the price of oil to maintain their prosperity. Both are trying to push austerity onto their respective populaces, who have gotten very used to dirt-cheap petrol prices, and plush public-sector wage packages, amidst a global drop in oil prices.
Kids these days, eh, want it all?
Sheikh Sabah is also regarded as one of the Middle East’s most prolific humanitarians: To date, Kuwait has given more in relief to Syrian refugees than any other country in the world. Nice! How ‘bout giving all of those stateless Kuwaitis a Kuwati passport, too?
Age: 89 years, 24 days
Birthday Present Suggestion: Let’s be real: This Emir probably has everything and then some, so it’s all about giving an “experience” rather than a gift. Ever skydived in Dubai?