From stardom to politics: some precedents

December 29, 2017 10:42 am
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Liberian ex-footballer George Weah has won the race to become the country’s president © AFP/File / GERARD JULIEN

, PARIS, France, Dec 29 – Former international football star George Weah, who has won Liberia’s presidential run-off, follows several celebrities who have achieved the top job in their countries.

However, only one sportsman — Hungary’s double Olympic fencing champion Pal Schmitt — has previously become president.

Here are some precedents:

– US: Reagan and Trump –

B movie actor Ronald Reagan, who played in Hollywood for more than two decades, was the first cinema star to enter the high echelons of US politics. He was elected governor of California in 1966 before starting the first of two terms as president in 1981.

Ronald Reagan started the first of two US presidential terms in 1981 © AFP/File / MIKE SARGENT

Several decades later, in January 2017, real estate mogul and reality TV star Donald Trump entered the White House without any political, diplomatic or military experience. The 45th president of the United States, whose surprise election shocked the world, hosted the TV show “The Apprentice” between 2004 and 2015.

Hollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger, who succeeded Trump as host of the reality show, also made the leap from cinema to politics. The bodybuilder and action hero was California’s Republican governor from 2003 to 2011.

– Estrada in the Philippines –

Former Philippine President Joseph Estrada rose to fame as an action movie star © AFP/File / NOEL CELIS

All-action tough guy movie star Joseph Estrada, who played in around 100 films, entered politics in 1969 and was elected president of the Philippines in 1998 where he remained until 2001. He was then detained for six years and convicted of plundering state coffers before winning a pardon in 2007.

– Martelly in Haiti –

In Haiti popular carnival singer Michel Martelly — known to the country’s youth as “Sweet Micky” — won the April 2011 presidential election with more than 67 percent of votes.

– Morales in Guatemala –

Jimmy Morales, a former TV comic with no previous political experience who campaigned on anti-corruption promises, was elected Guatemala’s president in October 2015. Also a cinema producer and TV personality, Morales is famous for his 2007 film “A President in a Sombrero” in which he plays a country bumpkin cowboy named Neto who nearly gets elected president by accident.

– Europe: Schmitt and Landsbergis –

After his election by parliament in June 2010, Pal Schmitt, a double Olympic gold medal epee winner in 1968 and 1972, became the fourth president of democratic Hungary. Schmitt entered politics as secretary general of the Hungarian Olympic Committee in the 1980s. He was toppled from the presidency in April 2012 by a plagiarism scandal.

In Lithuania musician Vytautas Landsbergis led his country to independence from the Soviet Union and was in 1990 elected as president.

– Writers, boxer –

Before he was president of Czechoslovakia, Vaclav Havel was a writer and dissident © AFP/File / DANIEL JANIN

Others have leapt from careers in literature to politics, like Senegal’s poet and author Leopold Sedar Senghor, who became the republic’s first president upon independence in 1960, and Vaclav Havel who in 1989 won post-communist Czechoslovakia’s first presidential election.

Well away from the electoral process, Ugandan dictator Idi Amin Dada, who seized power in 1971 in a coup, was a former heavyweight boxing champion from 1951 to 1960.

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