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France mulls age limit on electoral candidates over 70

AFP / Lionel Bonaventure I France could introduce a ban on people over 70 years of age standing for election
3 min

The French government is considering banning politicians over 70 from standing for office in a bid to inject new blood into the country’s political class – proposals that unsurprisingly have not gone down well with some of France’s older officials.

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The age cap – which would apply to those standing in both local and parliamentary elections – was one of a number of recommendations made in a government-sponsored report on published Monday looking at ways of getting more young people involved in politics.

It also suggested limiting MPs and senators to no more than three terms in office as well as lowering the voting age to 16.

The proposals are now being considered by France’s Minister for Youth Patrick Kanner.

“This could be a very popular measure … [But] I do not have to decide at this stage,” the minister told AFP.

“The question of age is a legitimate one,” Kanner said. “The report’s writers wanted to provoke debate.”

If the rules are introduced, they could have a serious impact on the make-up of France’s current tranche of elected officials.

There are currently 53 MPs aged over 70 among the 577 members of the country’s lower house National Assembly. The oldest is the 86-year-old Loïc Bouvard, a member of the centre-right party Les Républicains.

Within the 344-member upper house, there are 83 senators aged at least 71.

One of the biggest names that would be affected if the proposals are adopted would be Alain Juppé, running against former president Nicolas Sarkozy to be Les Républicains’ candidate in the 2017 presidential election.

‘No de Gaulle, no Churchill’

Juppé, who himself introduced an age limit of 75 for electoral candidates during his time as prime minister before the rule was scrapped by his successors, is 69 years old.

The proposals have already received a flurry of fierce reactions from French politicians, mostly from those towards the upper end of the age scale.

The 70-year-old Républicains MP Bernard Debré called the idea of an age cap a “denial of democracy”.

"It would have meant that Charles de Gaulle could not have stood for election, or that Churchill would have been sidelined," he said on French radio station Europe 1.

François Loncle, 73, said he could “claim to be in better shape than many of my colleagues in their fifties”, while his fellow Socialist Party MP René Dosière, 74, argued that “being an MP is not a career that starts at 20 and finishes at 65”.

However, others were more open to the idea.

“We need to encourage change in politics,” said 66-year-old Socialist Party MP Jean Glavany on RMC radio. “I hope to apply these principles to myself” when the time comes, he added.

Meanwhile, 44-year-old senator Luc Carvounas, also a Socialist, tweeted: “70 years max? It’s still too much.”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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