In some cases, politicians’ careers have been damaged or ruined. In others, although leaders were not allowed to run again, their allied and political movements have survived and even flourished.
In Peru, for example, in 2001, lawmakers prevented President Alberto Fujimori from serving a decade in a corruption scandal. But his daughter Keiko, boosted by her supporters, almost won the presidency in 2011 and 2016. Argentine President Juan Perón was overthrown in a coup in 1
In some cases in Latin America, Harvard politician Steven Levitzky said imposing “legitimate bans on major populists for anti-democratic behavior did not work well.” They were very destabilizing. ”
That’s because these leaders portrayed themselves as martyrs and maintained a significant degree of popularity, said Levitzky, co-author of “How Democracies Die.” Many people supported the politicians but could not vote for them.
And yet, it is also problematic to let abusive leaders run again, Levitzky said. He said Trump’s efforts to overthrow the presidential election results were “stinging at the heart of democracy.”
“If he is allowed to drive, the system will essentially have to tolerate his behavior,” Levitzky said. (Trump has called the indictment “a witch hunt.”)
Here are some world leaders who have been banned from returning to office and dropped out:
Fernando Collor de Mello, President of Brazil 1990-92
Two years after his presidency, the Collor de Mello was charged with corruption and denied access to work for eight years. But his political career was not over: He was elected to the Senate in 2006 and re-elected in 2014. Another Brazilian ex-president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was leading the polls for another term in 2018, when he was banned by a electoral court because he was found guilty of corruption. It paved the way for the election of former fringe politician Jair Bolsonaro. Lula appeals to his convictions and remains one of Brazil’s most popular politicians.
Alberto Fujimori, President of Peru 1990-2000
Lawmakers declared the conservative populist “morally unfit” in the midst of a corruption scandal and removed him from the presidency in 2000. He was then banned from public office. His daughter Keiko took up her political cloak – called Fujimorismo – and benefits from the support her father retained among poor Peruvians. She rose to lead the right-wing Popular Force party in Congress and finished second in the presidential runs in 2011 and 2016. Alberto Fujimori is serving a 25-year prison sentence for corruption and human rights violations. Keiko Fujimori is under investigation for alleged money laundering – she says she is innocent – but could compete in the April presidential election.
Efraín Ríos Montt, President of Guatemala 1982-83
The general took power in a 1982 coup and was ousted by the military a year later. A 1985 constitutional reform banned former coup leaders and their close relatives from running for president. Still, the ex-dictator ran for president in 2003, arguing that the provision did not apply to him. He won only 11 percent of the vote, but continued to serve in Congress from 2004 to 2012. In 2013, after losing his congressional seat and therefore his immunity from prosecution, he was convicted of genocide for the brutal massacre of Mayan citizens during the country’s civil war. The verdict was overturned and he was tried again when he died in 2018. Ríos Montt’s daughter Zury was a leading right-wing extremist presidential candidate in 2019 but was disqualified under the constitutional ban.
Ehud Olmert, Prime Minister of Israel 2006-09
After leaving office, Olmert was convicted of bribery, fraud, obstruction of justice and breach of trust and served 16 months in prison. Israeli law prohibits people convicted of crimes of “moral unrest” from running to the Knesset for seven years from their release from prison. After Olmert completed his sentence in 2017, he sought to clear his name. Although his reputation was tarnished, Olmert did not lose supporters as such because the Israeli parliamentary system is more about parties than individual leaders.
Silvio Berlusconi, Italian Prime Minister 1994-95, 2001-06, 2008-11
The media mogul and center-right politician served as Italy’s prime minister for more than nine years between 1994 and 2011. In 2013, he was convicted of tax fraud; subsequently, he was expelled from the Senate and banned from holding political office for six years. He remained influential through his media holdings and his leadership of the Forza Italia party. An Italian court lifted the 2018 political ban a year early, citing “good behavior.” While Berlusconi’s party has fallen in popularity, he won a seat in the European Parliament in 2019.