Are there any countries where non-citizen can become president?

  • In many countries only citizens can run for president.

    In the USA in particular there has been some indications of introducing changes to the rules such that naturalized citizens can run for president but I haven't found out if there are countries in which this is already happening.

    I guess there would have to be a big enough group of politically active non-citizens but I am not sure it's possible to create a party with the sole purpose of lobbying for the political rights of non-citizens.

    Of course there is a lot of variation since each country has their own rules so I am merely looking for pointers to continue my research.

    Related links:

    Germany 1933 perhaps?

    @AndrewGrimm And Germany 2016. The only requirement for being voted Bundeskanzler of Germany is having voting rights, and one does not necessarily need to be a natural born German to get these.

    You seem to be conflating being a non-citizen and being an immigrant. In most countries, there is actually no formal rule banning immigrants from becoming president, cabinet minister or MP (even if in practice it's not always easy to imagine how one could be in a position to be elected president) but they first need to become citizens, which can be very easy or very hard depending on the time and place.

    At the time of the U.S. Constitution, there were no real democratic republics in the world. If that provision sounds xenophobic, remember that the authors were looking at the absurdity of a German king of England and a French King of Spain, and so on.

    From reading the activity around this question I realized I did not explained properly a key point which is "without becoming a naturalized citizen".

    I just read your last comment. Is your question actually about immigrants without X citizenship, who could become presidents of State X?

  • Looking at Wikipedia's list of presidential qualifications by country, there are several countries where the government head does not necessarily need to be born in the country.

    Countries where the president must explicitly be a born citizen:

    • Afghanistan
    • Albania
    • Algeria
    • Argentina
    • Colombia
    • Mexico
    • Philippines
    • United States of America

    In most other countries, anyone who can vote can also be voted for president, which usually also includes naturalized citizens.

    Australia lies somewhere in between - we're a constitutional monarchy, but in order to be an MP, which is required if you want to be a PM for more than a few months, you need to renounce citizenship to other countries.

    @AndrewGrimm: What happens if the "other country" does not agree to rescind your citizenship?

    @DJohnM An acquaintance of mine was in that situation. He had to renounced his Iranian citizenship to acquire the German one. Iran does not allow to renounce citizenship. So now he is considered a German everywhere in the world except for Iran.

    @Philipp Actually, he is probably considered an Iranian everywhere except in Germany too (cf. US restrictions for example) and that's pretty much how it always works with dual citizenship. The only thing that differs due to the fact that you can't renounce your Iranian citizenship is that you qualify for an exemption to the requirement of renouncing any previous citizenship when becoming German.

    @AndrewGrimm can someone who is not Australian citizen become MP in Australia? In this page it says that just to vote one has to be either Australian citizen or "eligible Brirish subject": http://www.aec.gov.au/enrol/

    @ypercubeᵀᴹ I can't look up the details right now, but Heather Hill was disqualified because she hadn't renounced her British citizenship IIRC.

    @AndrewGrimm I was asking is she (or anyone) could have been elected after renouncing the other citizenship but without gaining the Australian.

    @ypercubeᵀᴹ wouldn't you be stateless if you did that?

    @AndrewGrimm Yes. indigochild's answer says that this is possible (for a stateless person become MP and even PM of Australia). I thought your first comment meant the same.

  • Not seeing any great data source out there I already, I reviewed the constitutions of 48 countries. I looked for the requirements to hold their chief executive position. These countries were selected in a non-random and non-projectible way.

    I will update this answer as I review more constitutions.

    Below is a map summarizing my findings, as well as showing the countries that I have reviewed to date:enter image description here

    40 of 48 countries require citizenship

    For 40 of the 48 countries I reviewed, I could see a constitutional requirement that included citizenship. 22 of these 48 required natural-born citizenship, although the exact formulation of "natural-born" varied.

    Countries which require citizenship to become the chief executive are colored red on the map; dark red countries require natural-born citizenship.

    3 countries do not appear to require citizenship

    For 4 of the 48 countries, their constitution makes it possible to have a non-citizen be the chief executive. These are discussed below.

    Australia

    Article 44 of the Australian Constitution outlines the reasons a person may be disqualified from running for a federal legislative seat. The Prime Minister is selected from among elected legislators, so they are required to be meet those same conditions.

    In particular, someone becomes disqualified if they are:

    a subject or a citizen ... of a foreign power

    Notably, this doesn't mean they would have to be a citizen of Australia, they just can't be a citizen of anywhere else. This opens the door to a stateless Prime Minister of Australia, or perhaps someone who has renounced their citizenship in another country.

    Bosnia and Herzegovina

    Bosnia/Herzegovina has a kind of triumvirate: three Presidents each elected from a different territory and of a different ethnicity (see Article 5). The three Presidents are:

    • A Croat elected from B&H
    • A Bosniac elected from B&H
    • A Serb elected from the Serbian Republic

    The Constitution is silent on what it means to be "elected from" one of these territories. It does not lay down a citizenship requirement, opening the door to the possibility of a non-citizen of the correct ethnicity being elected to the Presidency.

    Note: The Constitution mentions an elections law that will define more of the election system. It was available online, but offered no more clarification on this issue.

    Croatia

    Croatia's constitution does not have any formal requirements for their chief executive, except being elected.

    5 countries: Other

    Five countries were coded as "other". In two cases I couldn't tell, because I couldn't find an English copy of the current constitution (Benin and the Ivory Coast). Two was excluded for not having an elected federal executive (Brunei and Comoros). One was excluded for not being a sovereign nation (Aruba).

    The text quoted from the Constitution of Canada pertains to Senators, not Members of Parliament. MPs must be citizens (whether naturalized or by birthright).

    @GeoffBall - I'm looking at the constitution, but I don't see any requirements for the House of Commons or generally for a MP. The only requirements I see are for Senators. Are they perhaps somewhere else?

    I added a bit of info as a comment on WS2's answer.

  • In Britain, we do not have a President, but any Member of Parliament could become Prime Minister (indeed there is no law saying the PM has to be an MP - the Queen could in theory ask anyone to be PM - though one suspects there would be some angry comments in the press were they not a member of the House of Commons!)

    In order to be an MP, one has to be a British citizen (by birth or naturalisation), a citizen of a Commonwealth country, or the Republic of Ireland.

    Given that there are large numbers of British nationals who hold dual nationality, it would be perfectly possible for a national of another country to become an MP (there are several of such right now) and then Prime Minister. Conservative MP for Stratford on Avon, Nadheim Zahawi, was born in Iraq though, as far as I know he no longer holds Iraqi nationality. But from the following list of MPs of an ethnic minority, a number will undoubtedly hold dual nationality with another country.

    As regards an Australian, Canadian, or New Zealander, it is clear that without becoming a British citizen, they could become an MP (and hence PM) as a Commonwealth citizen. I am not clear however whether a British national could become an MP and hence PM in any of those countries.

    To run for Parliament in Canada, one must be 18 by election day and a Canadian citizen.

    @GeoffBall - I'm about to update my answer to include Canada. The Canadian constitution only says "a subject of the crown", not a Canadian citizen. Is there a source somewhere I should be aware of?

    Article 3 of the Canada Elections Act restricts voting to citizens of Canada age 18 and up (http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/E-2.01/page-2.html#h-3), while article 65(a) says that only qualified electors are eligible to become candidates (http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/E-2.01/page-10.html#h-33).

    This is also codified in the constitution under section 3 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    @GeoffBall - I will change Canada on my map. Thanks. Always glad to have a regional expert around.

    @indigochild What colour were you proposing to make Britain?

    @WS2 - These are all based on reviewing the constitutions of these countries (which is why my progress is so slow). Since I haven't reviewed that constitution, I wouldn't propose anything.

    @indigochild You will have a problem reviewing the British constitution, since there isn't one - at least not a written constitution. It is embedded in about 1000 years of common law and precedent. You may have read that the Prime Minister was recently prevented from invoking Article 50 of the EU Constitution to leave without an Act of Parliament. Private individuals challenged the Government in the courts and won. But it took many weeks and an appeal to decide the outcome.

    @WS2 - I understand that. But it isn't a concern until (or if!) my sample ever gets that far.

  • One additional data point. This is not about the Presidency, but relevant anyway because this was not a hypothetical but an actual non-citizen holding a high political office:

    New Zealand had one MP, Matt Robson, who was not a citizen of New Zealand (he was an Australian citizen at the time, and only later was naturalized into New Zealand).

    New Zealand is phasing out this rule, though; only somebody who has been a permanent resident before 1975 is eligible.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM