Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe marked his 30th year in power this week. He announced plans to stand for reelection in 2012 if his party nominates him, though he still has a number of years to go if he aims to become one of the world's longest-serving leaders.
Iron-fisted Mugabe took the helm of the south African country on March 4, 1980. Despite losing parliamentary elections in 2008, his party won a violent run-off that ultimately put him in a power-sharing agreement with opposition Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
Even after three decades in power, the 86-year-old barely cracks the Top 10 list of world’s longest-serving elected leaders.
Of course, the word “elected” is used very loosely here. Still, we're not including countries ruled by a monarchy.
If we did count kings and queens in our Top 10 list, then Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej would top it as world’s longest-serving current leader. Reigning for 63 years, King Bhumibol is the longest-serving Thai monarch in history, even though he was born in Massachusetts. Not far behind him on the list would come Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, who has reigned for 58 years, and Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who has reigned for 41 years.
Setting aside monarchies, our Top 10 list includes one Asian leader, two Latin American leaders, and seven African leaders. Yes, we know that equals 11 people.
Perhaps surprisingly, it doesn't include North Korea’s Kim Jong-il – who assumed office in 1994 – or Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez – who took the helm in 1999. Maybe the loudest dictators just seem like the longest-serving ones.
(Additional research by Leigh Montgomery.)