Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck
King of Bhutan
Date of birth: Feb. 21, 1980
Assumed power on: Dec. 14, 2006
How he got to the top: His father handed him the position.
In a benevolent effort to move his Switzerland-sized Himalayan kingdom
of 600,000 from a monarchy to a democracy, his father—the previous
king—abdicated in December 2006 and passed the throne to “Prince
Jigme,” who fittingly has a master’s degree in politics from Oxford
University. The Land of the Thunder Dragon became the world’s newest
democracy in March when Bhutanese went to the polls for the first time
ever to elect a 47-seat National Assembly. The handsome king will
remain as the country’s head of state, but he is committed to guiding
JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images
Prime Minister of Dominica
Date of birth: June 8, 1972
Assumed power on: Jan. 8, 2004
How he got to the top: The right person died at the right time.
After earning degrees in English and psychology from the University of
Mississippi and New Mexico State University, respectively, Skerrit
became an instructor at a Dominican community college. Elected to
Dominica’s parliament in 2000, he eventually became the education
minister of the poor Caribbean country. When former Prime Minister
Pierre Charles abruptly died from an apparent heart attack, Skerrit was
selected by his Dominica Labor Party to replace him. Shortly
thereafter, he revoked his country’s recognition of Taiwan and
established formal relations with China. The Chinese government had
offered $122 million in aid, about $1,700 per Dominican.
GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images
President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Date of birth: June 4, 1971
Assumed power on: Jan. 26, 2001
How he got to the top: His father was killed.
Father Laurent Kabila, the previous president, was assassinated by
his bodyguard in 2001, and the younger Kabila—described as soft-spoken
and reserved—became his successor. A former guerrilla fighter who
trained in China and spent a decade in the military campaign that
ousted dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997, Joseph Kabila made history in
2006 when he won the DRC’s presidential election and became his
country’s first democratically elected leader since independence in
1960. The elections have brought relative stability to the country
after decades of war, and during Kabila’s tenure, the DRC has entered
into lucrative mining deals with foreign investors.
DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images
Prime Minister of Macedonia
Date of birth: Aug. 31, 1970
Assumed power on: Aug. 27, 2006
How he got to the top: His party won parliamentary elections.
Gruevski, a former amateur boxer who earned a master’s degree in
economics in 2006, has a résumé that includes president and founder of
the Broker’s Association of the Republic of Macedonia (1998), minister
of trade (1998 to 1999), and minister of finance (1999 to 2002). He
became a member of Parliament in 2002 and has been head of the
center-right VMRO-DPMNE party since 2003. When the VRMO-DPMNE won the
2006 parliamentary elections, Gruevski was asked to form a new
government. His party claimed victory in parliamentary elections in
June that were marred by violence in ethnically Albanian areas.
TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images
President of Nauru
Date of birth: Oct. 1, 1969
Assumed power on: Dec. 19, 2007
How he got to the top: His predecessor received a no-confidence vote.
Stephen is strong—literally. He competed in the 1992, 1996, and 2000
Olympics as a weightlifter and won 12 medals in the Commonwealth Games
between 1990 and 2002. His most impressive performance was lifting
172.5 kg (380 lbs.) in the 62 kg (137 lb.) weight class in the 1999
world championships. On a Pacific island of 14,000, that made the 160
cm (5-foot-3-inch) Stephen a national hero. He was elected to
Parliament in 2003, and when the 18-member body gave former President
Ludwig Scotty a no-confidence vote last year, Stephen was sworn in. His
tenure has been stormy.
FATI MOALUSI/AFP/Getty Images
King of Swaziland
Date of birth: April 19, 1968
Assumed power on: April 25, 1986
How he got to the top: His father, the previous king, died.
Mswati was crowned king a mere six days after his 18th birthday, and
the country has been a train wreck ever since. An estimated 26 percent
of Swazis between ages 15 and 49 are HIV positive, one of the highest
rates in the world. Mswati’s brilliant solution: a sex ban. In 2001, he
instated the uncwasho rite, which put a five-year ban on sex for
females under 18. The move proved unpopular, especially after
Mswati—who at last count had 13 wives and at least 23 children—married
a 17-year-old. The ban was lifted a year early.
President of Georgia
Date of birth: Dec. 21, 1967
Assumed power on: Jan. 25, 2004
How he got to the top: He led the Rose Revolution.
Educated in law at Columbia University and George Washington University
through an Edmund S. Muskie fellowship, Saakashvili was elected to
Georgia’s Parliament in 1995. In 2000, he became the country’s justice
minister and spearheaded crackdowns on corruption. That soured his
relationship with then President Eduard Shevardnadze. In November 2003,
tens of thousands Georgians took to the streets to protest flawed
parliamentary elections. After days of demonstrations, Saakashvili and
supporters stormed the parliament building, waving roses. Shevardnadze
resigned, and Saakashvili was elected president the following January,
a position he won again in this January’s elections.
PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images
President of Togo
Date of birth: June 6, 1966
Assumed power on: Feb. 5, 2005
How he got to the top: His father groomed him for the position.
Gnassingbe’s father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, ruled Togo with an iron
fist after a 1967 coup. He prepared his son—who has an MBA from George
Washington University—to be his successor by letting him tag along at
official functions and appointing him minister of public works, mines,
and telecommunications in 2003. Eyadema died in February 2005, and the
military installed Gnassingbe as president even though the constitution
said the parliament’s speaker was to assume power. Under international
pressure, Gnassingbe stepped down 20 days later, but he won the
presidency in a disputed April 2005 election that sparked violence
DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images
Prime Minister of Bulgaria
Date of birth: May 5, 1966
Assumed power on: Aug. 17, 2005
How he got to the top: He politicked his way to the top of his party.
After earning a Ph.D. in history, he worked as a journalist,
covering foreign policy. He became a foreign-policy advisor for the
Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) in 1995 and was elected to Bulgaria’s
National Assembly in 2001. Later that year, he became the BSP’s
chairman. In June 2005, the BSP won the largest number of seats in
parliament, and after two months of deadlock, the National Assembly
voted him prime minister. A relative youngster, he has shown off his
wild side: Referring to his longtime live-in girlfriend Elena Yoncheva,
he arrived at a 2002 BSP event on a motorcycle with a sign on his back
that said, “If you are reading this, Elena must have fallen off on the
SERGEI CHIRIKOV/AFP/Getty Images
President of Russia
Date of birth: Sept. 14, 1965
Assumed power on: May 7, 2008
How he got to the top: He stayed tight with former President Vladimir Putin.
After training as a lawyer, Medvedev worked with Putin in the St.
Petersburg Mayor’s Office in the 1990s. By 2000, he was heading Putin’s
presidential campaign. In the early 2000’s Medvedev served as chairman
of Gazprom, Russia’s natural gas monopoly, and in 2005 became first
deputy prime minister in Putin’s administration. He was Putin’s
handpicked successor and easily won March’s presidential election.
Medvedev let Putin be prime minister, leading many to wonder who’s
really running the show. Among Medvedev’s youthful interests: hard-rock
group Deep Purple. He listened to banned recordings as a 13-year-old in
the late 1970s, and this February when the group was flown to the
Kremlin for a concert, he was beaming.