If It Makes You Feel Better, Trump’s Reality Show Politics Are Not Confined to the United States

Check out the weirdness of politicians in other countries.

Photo Credit: emipress/

President Trump. It is possible that no two words have ever struck such despair in the heart of progressive-minded citizens. What was only a few months ago hilarious and unthinkable has suddenly become not only thinkable but plausible, and in some minds, maybe even inevitable. Moderate Republicans (the few who are left), Democrats and the generally sane have watched in horrid fascination as the Donald has broken every rule of electoral politics and not only escaped voter punishment but thrived. America has never seen anything like it. The circus has come to town.

But the United States is not unique in entertaining the election of seriously strange buffoonish people to office. Other countries have had their share of wide-eyed wingnuts run for, and even win, elections.

Here are six countries that have made electoral politics a reality show.

1. Brazil

The New York Daily News may delight in picturing Donald Trump as a clown, but in Brazil, a place that seems to attract strange candidates like flies to honey, voters elected an actual clown to the Brazilian congress. In 2010, Francisco Oliveira Silva ran for office under the actual slogan “It Can’t Get Any Worse.” Really? Silva campaigned for the office dressed as a clown named Tiririca. Among his promises, he told voters he would increase corruption. This promise did not seem to dissuade voters, and despite being only mildly literate, Silva got more votes than any other congressional candidate that year. And Trump-haters take heart: Silva proved to be an excellent legislator, and was actually voted Best Congressman. He stepped down in 2013, claiming his colleagues were too incompetent to work with.

2. Pakistan

From 2008 until 2013, Asif Ali Zardari was the duly elected president of Pakistan, one of the select few nations to have nuclear bombs at its disposal. So it might come as a bit of an “uh oh” moment that Zardari, in addition to having the power to cause radioactive holocaust, was also a man who believed it was necessary to sacrifice goats in order to ward off evil spirits. The practice, known as sadiqa, involved the sacrifice of a black goat every day to protect against “evil eyes.” The meat of the goat was distributed to the poor, which is nice. But still. Zardari decided not to run again for president, which given his incredibly low poll numbers (under 15% approval) as well as accusations of corruption, was not exactly a surprise. Guess the sacrifices didn’t work, unless Zardari was the evil spirit being warded off. It is unknown if Trump owns any goats.

3. Italy

If ever there were a European doppelganger to Donald Trump, Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi would have to be the guy. Elected Prime Minister of Italy four times, he was a media mogul, a womanizer and the object of both adulation and scorn. After the World Trade Center attacks, Berlusconi remarked, in comments that could easily have come from the Donald’s mouth, "We must be aware of the superiority of our civilization, a system that has guaranteed well-being, respect for human rights and, in contrast with Islamic countries….” Over the years, Berlusconi was accused of being both too liberal and too conservative, and his populist rhetoric made it difficult to pin him down in either camp. Berlusconi verbally abused his political enemies, even comparing them to Nazis. Scandals were a constant companion during his terms of office, both political and personal. Besides accusations of corruption, malfeasance and general incompetence, his personal life has been littered with tabloid fodder, including extramarital affairs, children out of wedlock, prostitutes, under-age lovers, Mafia connections, and tax fraud. Currently barred from political office due to tax convictions, Berlusconi has been reportedly considering running for parliamentary office in Estonia. Seems you can’t keep a good man down.

4. South Africa

Whatever else you might say about Donald Trump, you can’t say he's had six wives, 20 children, or believes in polygamy. Elected president of South Africa in 2008, Jacob Zuma has been colorful if nothing else. Prior to his election, he avoided a rape conviction by convincing the jury that the sex was consensual. Although serving on a government HIV committee that widely recommended the use of condoms, Zuma himself admitted he knew the woman in question was HIV-positive and yet did not use a condom. (Instead, he said he took a shower afterward because that "would minimize the risk of contracting the disease.”). Besides accusations of corruption, Zuma’s most Trump-ian similarity might be his use of colorful language. On accusations of being a crook: “Me? Well, I don’t know, I must go to a dictionary and learn what a crook is. I’ve never been a crook.” On gay people: "Same-sex marriage is a disgrace to the nation and to God. When I was growing up, an ungqingili [a homosexual] would not have stood in front of me. I would knock him out." On Zimbabwe strongman Robert Mugabe: “The people love him. So how can we condemn him?” On how long the African National Congress will remain in power: “The ANC will rule South Africa until Jesus comes back.”

5. Mexico

For weird candidates, Trump will never beat Morris. That’s because Morris is a cat, and he almost became mayor of Xalapa, the state capital of Veracruz, Mexico. Much as Americans think Donald Trump is flourishing because of the weak, uninspiring candidates he is facing, it seems Morris benefited a bit from that himself. A couple of Mexican activists, dismayed at the mayoral candidates they were expected to choose from, registered their pet cat Morris to run. They were trying to make a humorous point, but Morris actually got over 12,000 votes, and beat, among others, Mexico’s largest leftist political party. Much as Ralph Nader was accused of splitting the vote and giving George W. Bush the presidency, Morris was accused of doing the same and giving the PRI party the Xalapa mayoralty. Of course, Morris never actually got to be mayor of Xalapa. After all, he did lose the election. Unlike Stubbs, who has been the feline mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska, since 1998. Maybe this cat politician thing isn’t so outlandish after all.

Mexico (again)

Besides almost electing a cat in Xalapa, voters in 2013 actually did elect a dead man. Legally dead, anyway. It seems in 2010 Lenin Carballido decided to fake his death in order to sidestep a rape charge. Three years later, however, he felt the political calling and threw his hat in the ring for mayor of his small town in Oaxaca. Strangely, he decided it was smart to run under his own name, and to wallpaper the town with posters of his face. Carballido won the election, but also managed to perk up the ears of the authorities, who wondered how this dead man was running a political campaign. Sadly, though the choice of the people, he was not allowed to take office.

6. Japan

One person you can bet the bank Donald Trump will never be compared to is Japanese assemblyman Ryutaro Nonomura. Nonomura was accused of using public money for personal use, including numerous visits to a spa town. If it were Trump, he would jut out his jaw and deny, deny, deny. Not Nonomura. Instead he held a press conference, where he wailed…and wailed…and wailed. Never was a public apology so fascinating. His loss of face has been viewed over 2 million times on YouTube, and a porn film parody of it was even produced. In all, Nonomura was suspected of embezzling about 17 million yen (almost $150,000), but only formally accused of taking about $19,000, which he has paid back. 

Watch: More world leaders who sound like just like Trump:


Larry Schwartz is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer with a focus on health, science and American history. 
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