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In the business it is very common to open leading positions to any candidate, even those who worked with competition before, in believe to getting the most skilled/competitive leader.

Why is it not the same in politics? Is (or has) there any country where a foreign citizen can become Prime Minister or President?

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  • Andorra has two co-princes (which act as the heads of state), which are the bishop of Urgell and the president of France.
    – user49822
    Sep 30, 2023 at 21:19
  • Being legal to became president or prime minister is not the same as being voted by electors in the country. Being citizen may not be a legal requirement but it may be highly correlated with some preferences of electors, making the event of a non citizen being elected unlikely.
    – Pere
    Sep 30, 2023 at 21:58
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    Don't you think corporate executives are chosen for their skills, with little regard to politics while with politicians it's the other way round? Oct 1, 2023 at 12:32
  • The highest authority in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the High Representative, who has never been a citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
    – user102008
    Oct 4, 2023 at 15:07

3 Answers 3

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Why is it not the same in politics?

Most defense-related jobs [even relatively low-level ones] have much stricter nationality and loyalty requirements than that of a random CEO.

The president or PM is often the head of the armed forces in some way, so there's that issue if one were holding them to a much looser standard in that regard.


Is (or has) there any country where a foreign citizen can become Prime Minister or President?

There are examples of PMs being dual nationals (or former dual nationals). Iraq perhaps had a record of these recently:

Outgoing premier Adel Abdel Mahdi [PM 2018-2020] holds French citizenship and former prime minister Haider Al-Abadi [PM 2014-2018] is also a British national.

Not mentioned in that 2020 piece but the president of Iraq 2018-2022, Barham Salih, also held British citizenship, according to Wikipedia.

(FWTW, there was a Baathist era law 46/1963 forbidding dual citizenship altogether [art. 11], but his was abrogated after Saddam's ousting.)

As for someone not being a citizen of the country in question at all, that's a much tougher proposition, and I'm not sure I can come with examples.

But for minister jobs below PM, perhaps this is an interesting [enough] example from 2014...

In an unusual development, three foreigners were appointed to Ukraine's new government this week.

US-born Natalie Jaresko became finance minister, Lithuania's Aivaras Abromavicius economy minister and Aleksandre Kvitashvili - from Georgia - health minister. Hours before the vote in the parliament that installed them, all three were granted Ukrainian citizenship by President Petro Poroshenko.

The move is part of a fresh anti-corruption drive in Kiev. Politicians and other officials supportive of the idea say outsiders in the cabinet will have fewer vested interests, or links to local lobbyists. President Poroshenko also said Ukraine should make use of "the best international experience".

So at least the motivation in this case appears to have been along the lines you asked. (The [loyalty] issue that I mentioned earlier did come up in [pro-Russian] opposition discourse rather quickly; there are some quotes to that effect in the article that I won't add here as being rather predictable in their contents.)

I'm not sure there are any longer-term trackers on such issues, but Papua New Guinea had some 17 naturalized citizens become ministers. Most (13) were from Australia. There average per-cabinet was also relatively high (4) according to that blog's calculations.

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In the UK, any Commonwealth citizen is eligible to be an MP, and so eligible to be Prime Minister.

(and any descendent of Sophia of Hannover is eligible to be Monarch, there are no nationality requirements)

Your analogy is false, since a requirement for being a leader of company is that you are employed by that company. By analogy, to be a leader of a country you are expected to be a member (ie a citizen) of the country, even he they had previously held another citizenship.

There are recent examples of UK Prime Ministers who would have had the right to claim another nationality. Boris Johnson was born in New York, and was a US citizen until 2016 (when he renounced it).

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    FWTW, BJ apparently had US citizenship (too) but renounced it in 2016 theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/08/… Sep 29, 2023 at 21:25
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    Birth in the United States does not allow one to claim US citizenship; it either makes one a US citizen or not (if one's parents have diplomatic immunity).
    – phoog
    Sep 30, 2023 at 15:19
  • @phoog, thank you, clarified.
    – James K
    Sep 30, 2023 at 16:14
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Vaira Vīķe was born in Riga, Latvia. At the end of 1944, as the second Soviet occupation of Latvia began, her parents escaped to Nazi Germany.

Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga is a Latvian politician who served as the sixth President of Latvia from 1999 to 2007

Vaira Vīķe attended Victoria College of the University of Toronto, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1958 and a Master of Arts in 1960

In June 1998 she was elected Professor emerita at the University of Montreal and returned to her native land, Latvia, after a 54-year absence. On 19 October the Prime Minister named her Director of the newly founded Latvian Institute.

Somebody who returns from abroad a year before assuming their post, and almost certainly held a passport of a different country for most of their life, should count as a "yes"

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    Countries that considered themselves under foreign occupation for decades (like the Baltic ones) often have relaxed the rules of residency etc. The same goes for those that saw the overthrow of long-term dictatorial regimes. The two conditions kinda overlap for the Baltics actually. Sep 29, 2023 at 19:43
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    There is a difference in someone living abroad because they want to and because their country is occupied by a foreign power. Also it appears that she was actually born in Latvia and not born in a foreign country which is what I think the question was asking about rather then someone moving abroad.
    – Joe W
    Sep 29, 2023 at 20:17
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    I don't think she is considered a foreign citizen as she was born and that country and later forced to flee because it was occupied by another foreign power.
    – Joe W
    Sep 29, 2023 at 20:31
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    And what most countries care about is having local citizenship and having been born with it. Having citizenship in another country is generally only an issue when they don't recognize it in the first place. In the US having dual citizenship wouldn't prevent you from being president.
    – Joe W
    Sep 29, 2023 at 21:17
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    What do you mean it is not hard to acquire? It is kind of hard to change where you are born (or influence that at all) after the fact. The example you gave is someone who was born in a country, later left the country because it was occupied, and finally came back when it was freed.
    – Joe W
    Sep 29, 2023 at 21:23

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