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15 Of The Strangest World Leaders Currently Alive

15 Of The Strangest World Leaders Currently Alive

We might like to think that most nations of the modern world are led by a man or woman who is more or less rational, reasonable, and who holds a legitimate claim to power thanks to an election or appointment, but that’s hardly the case in many a place. While the era of the absolute monarch is long over, and while there are but a few dictatorships left in the 21st Century, there are a plethora of world leaders who are either strange and questionably sane individuals and/or who hold power for reasons ranging from the arcane to the outrageous.

If you value the stability of a legitimate government run by a person who respects the position he or she holds over their own sense of entitlement (or their own delusions of grandeur), then be glad you don’t live in a country run by one of the people on today’s list. And yes, this would be a great place to take a jab at the current POTUS, but let’s take solace in the resilience of American governance and know that it’s only for one term. Which is a lot better than the situation in, say, Cameroon, where the “elected president” has been in power for more than 42 years, as of this writing.

15. Paul Biya – Cameroon

Via: Wikimedia Commons

Well, why not start off with the man who has held power for longer than any other current world leader? Paul Biya is generally considered to be a dictator despite his official title of Prime Minister. (He took the office of the president in 1975 and switched to prime minister in 1982.) Biya spend many months out of each year encamped in a lavish hotel in Switzerland, regularly changes election laws to ensure he can hold power after sham polling every few years, and once won an election with a not-at-all dubious 99.98% of the vote. Yeah, that doesn’t sound rigged at all.

14. Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov – Turkmenistan

Via: CBS

At the risk of seeming culturally insensitive, unless you are a native Turkmen, don’t even bother trying to say this guy’s name. We’ll just call him President B. and leave it at that. President B. has won several terms as head of state by landslide margins: he was elected in early 2017 with a 97% win, in 2012 with a 97% victory, and in 2007 he won with an 89% margin. While President B. does rule with dictatorial style, with his country generally oppressed and isolated, it’s what he did before coming to office that’s rather odd: he was a dentist. His successful career in dentistry led him to head the Ministry of Health, which led to an appointment as deputy prime minister, which soon led to the top executive spot in the nation. While in office, he won the nation’s first ever major race car event. The win was totally not staged.

13. Bashar al Assad – Syria

Via: The Duran

While these days he is best known for ordering chemical weapons attacks on areas largely populate by civilians, Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad wasn’t always on the path to be a murderous dictator largely disassociated with real life and/or anything even adjacent to decency. No, Bashar was all set to be an eye doctor for life. He studied ophthalmology in his native country and then found work as a doctor in a London hospital. But when Assad’s brother was killed in a car crash, young Bashar was tapped to succeed their father as president whenever the older man died. After that happened, Dr. Assad took power following a demonstrably bogus 2000 election, and he’s been a horrible leader ever since.

12. Johanna Sigurdardottir – Iceland

Via: Mobile & Apps

Johanna Sigurdardottir, the Prime Minister of Iceland, is the first openly gay national leader in history. And that’s awesome, not strange; we salute her. What’s odd about Sigurdardottir is that before she got into politics, she worked as a stewardess for more than three decades. At an age when many people are thinking of retiring, she entered into politics as a result of her experience with union organization, and soon enough she was in charge of the whole damn country. A lofty achievement for the former flight attendant, eh? And good on Iceland for being progressive enough to elect an openly gay female Prime Minister.

11. Andry Rajoelina – Madagascar

Via: Alchetron

OK, to be fair, Andry Rajoelina is not the current head of Madagascar. He left office peacefully in 2014 after assuming office following a period of civil unrest. He will almost surely be back to power later, though, as he is only in his mid 40s and stepped down only to comply with rules put in place to stave off future strife. He will be eligible to run again in later elections. Before entering politics, Rajoelina was a DJ who played music at parties and shows. At 19, he opted out of college and instead opened an event production company that arranged concerts and festivals. He would grow wealthy and successful off his growing entrepreneurial enterprises, largely thanks to investments made by his wife’s wealthy family and thanks to his own prominent family’s connections.

10. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – Iran

Via: BBC

Sure, there’s a President of Iran, but whoever holds that office is certainly not the head of the nation. That distinction belongs to Ali Khamenei, who holds the unambiguous title of Supreme Leader. He has held this “office” since the 1989 death of his predecessor, Ruhollah Khomeini, who headed the state following the 1979 revolution. While Khamenei has cultivated an image as living a piously simple, even austere lifestyle, some experts estimate that he has amassed a fortune worth more than $90 billion. He believes that gender equality is a Zionist conspiracy, but is apparently pro stem cell research. Go figure.

9. Vladimir Putin – Russia

Via: Getty

You have to hand it to president Putin: he has managed to stay in power in Russia since 1999, and has done so ostensibly within the purview of the law. He first served a short term as Prime Minister, then starting in 2000, he served two terms as president. Putin then stepped aside as his handpicked successor served one term while Putin occupied the Prime Minister spot yet again. While he was serving as PM, the laws were changed such that the president’s term would be six years instead of four. Putin was again President as of 2012. When he’s not deftly consolidating political power, Putin spends his time finding ever younger women with whom to relate. He divorced a long-estranged wife wife in 2014, then took up with a 23 year old gymnast. Rumour has it he subsequently ditched her for an even younger  lady. When not involved in trysts with young ladies, he takes part in PR stunts like driving race cars, leading flocks of birds in ultralight planes, shirtless hunting, judo exhibitions, and a whole lot more.

8. Evo Morales – Bolivia

Via: The Independent

Evo Morales, now in his second decade as the head of state of Bolivia, is the first indigenous ruler of that South American nation and is seen by many as a champion of the people. As a young man, he was a substance farmer and then joined the military. His rise to power involved everything from socialist activism and union organization to multiple arrests to support for coca farmers, seen by many as a tacit support of the illegal cocaine trade. In office, he has maintained his socialist and ideals and joined a professional soccer team, becoming one of the oldest pro players on the planet, and the only professional soccer player who is also a president.

7. Omar al-Bashir – Sudan

Via: Al Jazeera

Omar al-Bashir came to power in Sudan after leading a 1989 military that overthrew a freely elected government. Al-Bashir and the military opposed the democractically-elected government’s willingness to negotiate with rebels in the country’s south; ironically, the south would split off and form the new nation of South Sudan many years later. In office, al-Bashir has supported numerous campaigns rife with violence, rape, theft and pillage, and that have left millions of people displaced. He has the dubious distinction of being the only sitting president of a country who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court.

6. Raul Castro – Cuba

Via: ABC News

Cuba will always be a nation formed under the long shadow of Fidel Castro, as will the life of his younger brother Raul. In 2008, Raul took over the presidency of the communist island nation due to Fidel’s failing health, but he ruled (or… served, I guess) as something of a proxy while Fidel was still living. Before moving into the executive office, the younger Castro was not exactly a minor player in Cuban power circles, though: in fact, he was the Minister of Armed Forces for almost fifty years. This is a job for which Raul was well suited, having been a key member of the revolution led by Fidel and by Che Guevara that brought the communists to power in the 1950s. So from guerrilla soldier to head of the army to head of it all, Raul has led quite a life.

5. Nicolas Madur0 – Venezuela


President Nicolas Maduro is presiding over a goddamn mess of a political situation these days. His country has been hit hard by falling oil prices, as oil production is far and away the South American nation’s main source of cash, and by the fact that it’s cash-strapped porto-communist government has virtually no effective social safety nets in place and is rapidly losing the confidence of its restive populace. But aside from being a reviled and ineffective leader, Maduro is also a social media maven. If you thought Trump tweeted a lot, he’s got nothing on this guy. Nicolas Maduro sends out around three dozen tweets every day and has dispatched tens of thousands of the miniature missives while in office.

4. Angela Merkel – Germany

Via: US Defense Watch

The strange thing about Angela Merkel isn’t a social media addiction, a sexually deviant past, or corrupt path to power, but rather that she is arguably the most intelligent world leader around today. Before a spectacularly impressive political career that saw Merkel becoming both the first female head of the German state and the current longest serving head of any European nation, she was a scientist who earned a PhD from the Academy of Sciences in Berlin-Adlershof. Her thesis was focused on quantum chemistry, AKA molecular quantum mechanics, AKA something you have to be very intelligent even to understand, much less to make a career of.

3. Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck – Bhutan

Via: NY Daily News

Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, who we’ll no call just Khesar, is actually a pretty normal guy considering he is the royal head of state of the rather unusual mountain nation of Bhutan. It’s the traditions surrounding his rule that are odd. Khesar rose to the head position of his kingdom in 2006 (official coronation in 2008), taking the title Druk Gyalpo, which translated to Dragon King. Khesar, educated in the US and Britain, is in fact breaking many of the customary ways of his nation, and is urging a pivot toward democracy and progress. He is essentially working to make his own role less important; other world leaders could learn a thing or two. (He’s also considered to be quite the heartthrob, and was called Prince Charming prior to his ascension.)

2. Baron Waqa – Nauru

Via: Alchetron

President Baron Waqa of Nauru has the unique honour of being the leader of the world’s smallest sovereign republic. The island nation is 8.1 square miles in total size and has a population of just 10,000 people. Despite this, there is still plenty of political turmoil: since his election in 2013, he has already had to face a confidence vote over forced deportations of several officials and he allegedly accepted numerous bribes from international businesspeople while a government minister. Waqa may also have been involved in a plot to overthrow the entire government of Nauru a few years before he took power. Lots of drama considering the entire nation is about a third the size of the island of Manhattan.

1. Kim Jong-Un – North Korea

Via: CNN

Oh, where to start with the chubby boy premiere of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea? He has political foes executed with canons and mortar shells, he loves basketball (he’s fond of drawing Michael Jordan and hanging out with Dennis Rodman) and computer games, eats lots of cheese, drinks like a fish, smokes, and suffers from hypertension despite being only in his mid 30s. That’s what happens when you balloon up to around 300 pounds thanks to an insatiable appetite and the means to suit it. Kim is married but also keeps a Pleasure Troop of young women on hand to entertain him as he desires. Also, he keeps ordering tests of weapons that might just blow a massive crater out of some corner of the world some day.

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