A perennial candidate is a political candidate who frequently runs for elected office and rarely, if ever, wins. The existence of perennial candidates lies in the fact that in some countries, there are no laws that limit a number of times a person can run for office, or laws that impose a non-negligible financial penalty on registering to run for election.
A number of modern articles related to electoral politics or elections have identified those who have run for elected office and lost two to three times, and then decide to mount a campaign again as perennial candidates. However, some articles have listed a number of notable exceptions.
Some who have had their campaign applications rejected by their country's electoral authority multiple times have also been labelled as perennial candidates.
Reason for running
It has been noted that some perennial candidates take part in an election with the aim of winning, and some do have ideas to convey on the campaign trail, regardless of their chance for winning. Others have names similar to known candidates, and hope that the confusion will lead to success.
Some perennial candidates may mount a run as a way to help strengthen his or her party's standing in a parliamentary body, in an effort to become kingmaker in the event of a political stalemate.
Some perennial candidates have been accused of running for office continuously as a way to get public election funding. Some have also been accused of being backed by the government of their country, in an effort to make the government appear more rational in comparison.
Due to the complex and intricate political system in Brazil concerning political parties, there are more than 30 political parties. In this scenario, it is very useful to have hopeless candidates who can make a good number of votes and increase the overall votes count of a party (or coalition). As a consequence, there are thousands of small perennial candidates for local elections around the country, whose sole purpose is helping others get elected, then ask for a job in the elected government cabinet.[original research?]
Vera Guasso, labor union leader and member of the Unified Socialist Workers Party (PSTU), ran for the Porto Alegre city assembly, mayor of Porto Alegre, the Brazilian Senate and other positions in a non-stop serial candidacy (every two years) from the early 90s on. In her best results, she had numbers of votes in local Porto Alegre elections similar to those of lesser-voted elected candidates but did not get a seat due to her party's overall voting being small. PSTU traditionally enters elections with no visible chance to, allegedly, "put a leftist set of points in discussion" and "build the party" but has lately achieved some expressive numbers.
Enéas Carneiro, a cardiologist and founder of the far-right Party of the Reconstruction of the National Order (PRONA), ran for presidency three times, in 1989, 1994 and 1998. He was mostly known for his comical style of speech on political broadcasts (due in part to the reduced TV time his party had) and his distinct beard. He also ran for mayor in São Paulo at the 2000 elections, before finally being elected federal deputy in 2002 with record voting. He was re-elected in 2006 but died in 2007 from myeloid leukemia.
Patricia Métivier contested 24 Canadian federal, provincial or municipal elections from 1972 to 2001.
David Popescu has run for federal, provincial, and municipal office multiple times since 1998 on an extreme anti-abortion and anti-gay platform. While campaigning in the 2008 election, he advocated the execution of homosexual people, which precipitated charges under Canada's hate crime laws.
John Turmel is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the candidate who has the "most elections contested" and lost 103 as of October 2022 (he also ran in a by-election canceled due to a general election).
Harry Bradley ran for the Toronto Board of Control 24 times between 1930 and 1964. He also ran for mayor in 1960 and 1962, and for city council in 1969.
Kevin Clarke is a homeless person who has unsuccessfully contested municipal, provincial and federal offices in Toronto numerous times from the 1990s to the present, often as leader of The People's Political Party.
Régent Millette is a teacher in Quebec who has run for public office at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels over 25 times since 2000.
Álvaro Noboa ran unsuccessfully for president in 1998, 2002, 2006, 2009 and 2013; he attempted to run for president in 2021 but his candidacy was suspended by the electoral authorities due to an alleged violation of registration requirements.
Nicolás Zúñiga y Miranda was a presidential candidate 10 times: 1892, 1896, 1900, 1904, 1910, 1911, 1913, 1917, 1920 and 1924 and also tried to run for a seat in the Congress of Mexico at least twice. The eccentric Zúñiga never got more than a few votes, but always claimed to have been the victim of fraud and considered himself to be the legitimate President.
Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas was a presidential candidate three times: 1988, 1994 and 2000, also was elected the first Head of Government of Mexico City in 1997, was the leader of PRD, the left-wing mayor party and was Governor of the state of Michoacan.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador ran unsuccessfully for president two times, in 2006 and 2012, before being elected president in 2018. He failed to acknowledge the results of his first presidential loss in 2006, protesting for months in the capital of the country during the aftermath.
Domingo Laíno ran unsuccessfully for president three times: 1989, 1993, and 1998. His best performance was in 1998, with 43.88% of the votes.
Efraín Alegre was a presidential candidate three times: 2013 and 2018, and 2023. His best performance was in 2018, with 45.08% of the votes.
Roger Cáceres, FRENATRACA presidential candidate in 1980 with 2% of the vote, 1985 with 2% of the vote and 1990 with 1.3% of the vote.
Ezequiel Ataucusi, FREPAP presidential candidate in 1990 with 1.1% of the vote, in 1995 with 0.8% of votes and in 2000 with 0.75% of votes.
Ricardo Noriega, presidential candidate for All for Victory in 2001 with 0.31% of the vote and for Desperate National in 2011 with 0.15% of the vote. He was also a candidate from Independent Civic Union for senator in 1990.
Andrés Alcántara, presidential candidate of Direct Democracy in 2021 with 0.29% of the vote. He also was not elected as a congressman in the 2000 elections, 2016 and 2020, and as Mayor of Santiago de Chuco.
Ciro Gálvez ran unsuccessfully for president three times in 2001, 2006 and the most recent in 2021 and ran unsuccessfully for Governor twice in 2002 and 2006.
Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori ran unsuccessfully for president three times in 2011, 2016 and 2021, each time losing in the run-off.
Jaime Salinas, candidate for mayor of Lima in 2002 and 2018 and presidential in 2006, without being elected and with low percentages such as 0.53% in the 2006 presidential elections and 3.5% in the 2018 municipal elections.
Verónika Mendoza, ran unsuccessfully for president in 2016 and 2021, did not qualify for the run-off in both rounds
Fernando Olivera ran unsuccessfully for president four times in 2001, 2006, 2016 and 2021 in which in 2006, he withdrew from the race and in 2021, his candidacy was rejected.
Máximo San Román ran for the vice presidency four times between 1990, 1995, 2006 and 2011 in which, in 1990, he was successful and ran for the presidency on in 2000.
Raila Odinga leader of Orange Democratic Movement has been on the ballot five times—1997, 2007, 2013, 2017 and 2022 losing every single time . Prior to that and under the old Kenyan Constitution, Raila was a member of parliament for the Lang'ata Constituency Raila who is referred to as 'Baba' by his followers.
Frederick Fung, initially gained success in almost every election, including District Council, Urban Council and Legislative Council election since 1983. However, since 2015, Fung faced consecutive failures in every election he participated, including 2015 (District Council), 2016 (Legislative Council), March 2018 (Democratic Primary), November 2018 (Legislative Council By-election) and 2019 (District Council). He lost popularity because of his unwillingness to retire, as the Pro-democracy supporters having negative feelings on gerontocracy.
Dr. K Padmarajan, a doctor turned politician from the state of Tamil Nadu, had contested 199 elections, and lost all of them. Limca Book of Records named him as "India's most unsuccessful candidate".
Petr Hannig is the leader of Party of Common Sense. Since 2002, he has repeatedly run for the Chamber of Deputies and Senate. He also ran for Czech presidency in 2018 election., but failed as well, ending last but one with 0.57% of votes. He also wanted to run in 2023 presidential election but failed to get nomination.
Miroslav Sládek ran for the Czechoslovak presidency in 1992. After dissolution of Czechoslovakia he sought the Czech presidency in 1993, 1998 and 2018. He withdrawn from 2018 election due to failure of his party in the 2017 legislative election.
Jan Švejnar unsuccessfully ran for the Czech presidency in 2008. He also ran for the position in 2013 but withdrew. He planned to run for the office in 2018 but he did not receive political support. Some politicians noted that Švejnar lives in the United States and "shows up in the Czech Republic only when there is a presidential election."
Helmut Palmer (1930–2004) stood without any success for about 250 elections as mayor in villages and cities in southwestern Germany and various times as independent candidate for the Bundestag. His son Boris Palmer became mayor of Tübingen.
Ástþór Magnússon is an Icelandic businessman and politician who unsuccessfully campaigned for the post of President of Iceland five times; in 1996, 2000, 2004, 2012 and 2016.
Marco Pannella is described by many as a perennial candidate, even though he was actually elected multiple times as a member of the Italian Parliament, the European Parliament, and the municipal councils of a handful of cities.
Nazzareno Bonniċi, known more in Malta by the affectionate nickname 'Żaren tal-Ajkla', part of his tongue-in-cheek unregistered Partit tal-Ajkla (en. Eagle Party), has been a perennial candidate in the 2013, 2017 and 2022 Maltese general elections, and the 2004, 2009, 2014 and 2019 European Parliament elections in Malta. In a surprise move that later had the Maltese media speculate and overestimate his probable success, thousands showed up for Nazzareno's mass meeting in preparation for the 2013 general election held front of the Parish Church in Żabbar, the town where he resides. He only received 47 votes, amounting to 0.02% of the Maltese electorate, in the 2013 election. He would receive 71 votes in the 2022 general election, amounting to 0.00019% of the Maltese electorate.
Janusz Korwin-Mikke unsuccessfully ran for President five times (1995, 2000, 2005, 2010 and 2015). He also unsuccessfully ran for Polish parliament nine times (1993, 1997, 2001, 2004 (two times, by-elections for Senate), 2005, 2007, 2013 and 2015), for European Parliament (2004, 2019), four times for regional assemblies (2002, 2006, 2007, 2010) and three times for President of Warsaw (2006, 2010, 2018). However, in 2014 he was elected for member of European Parliament and, in 2019, after a 26-year break, for member of Sejm, starting from Confederation Liberty and Independence list.
Kornel Morawiecki unsuccessfully ran for President three times in 1990, 2010 and 2015, achieving necessary 100,000 signatures to be registered as candidate only in 2010. He also unsuccessfully ran for Sejm in 1991, and for Senate in 2007. Eventually, he succeeded for the first time when he became an MP in 2015.
Corneliu Vadim Tudor, former president and founder of PRM, unsuccessfully ran for President five times in 1996, 2000, 2004, 2009 and 2014. His biggest score was in 2000 when he gained 33.2% in the second round against Ion Iliescu.
Bill Boaks contested general elections and by-elections for a period of 30 years under various descriptions, most famously under the "Public Safety Democratic Monarchist White Resident" banner. Boaks' main concern was public safety on the roads and believed that pedestrians should have the right of way at all times. In the 1982 Glasgow Hillhead by-election he received only five votes, one of the lowest recorded in a modern British parliamentary election. He died in 1986 from injuries sustained in a traffic collision two years earlier.
Charles Bellchambers contested the Division of Barton six times between 1966 and 1987, usually polling a negligible proportion of the vote.
Alex Bhathal, a social worker, has unsuccessfully stood for the Greens in the Division of Batman six times between 2001 and 2017, increasing the Greens' percentage of the vote from 4.60% in 1998 to 39.49% in 2017 (she did not stand in 2007).
Shirley de la Hunty (née Strickland), a multiple Olympic gold medallist in athletics, unsuccessfully contested six state elections in Western Australia and seven federal elections. Her candidacies spanned from 1971 to 1996 and included runs for the lower and upper houses at both state and federal levels. She stood a number of times for the Australian Democrats, while the rest of her runs were made as an independent candidate.
Pauline Hanson, founder and leader of One Nation, a right-wing populist political party had unsuccessfully contested state and federal elections before being election in the 2016 federal election. Ran in the 2001, 2004, 2007 for the federal Senate Queensland, Ran in the 2003 and 2011 for the NSW state Legislative Council, and 2009 and 2015 for QLD State election.
Saul Goldsmith contested ten city council and four mayoral elections, plus one council by-election, in Wellington over a 30-year period. He also stood in two general elections for the National Party as well as a by-election as an independent National candidate.
Vince Terreni (1931-2004) founded the frivolous Cheer Up Party and later joined the McGillicuddy Serious Party (another joke party). He stood in six general elections between 1978 and 1996, one parliamentary by-election in 1980 and two local by-elections for both the Auckland (in 1979) and Wellington ( in 2000) city council.
^Zeitz, Josh (February 8, 2015). "The Death of the Three-Time Candidate". Politico Magazine. Retrieved August 27, 2021. ...Harold Stassen is remembered as the "Grand Old Party's Grand Old Loser"—the onetime "Boy Governor" who ran for president 10 times between 1948 and 1992—a "perennial, never-say-die candidate" whose quixotic, lifetime quest for the White House obscured an otherwise brilliant public career.
^ abWeeks, Linton (September 23, 2011). "Also-Rans: What Drives The Perennial Candidates?". NPR. Retrieved August 28, 2021. For the purposes of this story, we are defining the perennial presidential candidate as someone who runs for — and loses — the race to the White House at least twice. And then runs again.
^Zeitz, Josh (February 8, 2015). "The Death of the Three-Time Candidate". Politico Magazine. Retrieved August 27, 2021. Henry Clay, whom Abraham Lincoln called his "beau ideal of a statesman," ran for president four times. No one remembers him as a joke. William Jennings Bryan was a three-time Democratic presidential nominee. Also not a joke. Adlai Stevenson, twice nominated. Hubert Humphrey, Stassen's fellow Minnesotan, ran three times. Ronald Reagan lost the GOP nomination in 1968 and 1976 before his victory in 1980. Definitely not a joke.
^"港报社评：宋楚瑜明知会输一定要赢" [Hong Kong Newspaper Editorial: James Soong knows he will lost, but he must win]. Hong Kong Economic Journal (in Simplified Chinese). Reuters. Retrieved August 28, 2021. 宋楚瑜这位人所称颂的「政治精算师」胜算渺茫，他自己肯定比谁都清楚，那他为什么还要明知不可为而为之？最合理的推测是宋楚瑜企图成为足以左右大局的关键少数派，选总统第四次落败不重要，重要的是利用曝光机会拉抬他一手创立的亲民党，争取最多的立委席位，假如下届立法院选举一如预料蓝营绿营皆不过半，高举非蓝非绿旗帜的第三势力有望荣膺造王者。(The winning odds of James Soong, a man praised by people as a 'political calculator,' are slim, and he certainly knows that better than any other person, but why is he doing what he knows cannot happen? The most reasonable assumption is he is trying to be a key minority. Losing the presidency four times is not important. The most important thing is he uses his exposure to lift the election results of the People First Party he founded, and win more parliamentary seats. If the next Legislative Yuan election does, as predicted, create a situation with neither the pan-blue and pan-green camps have a majority, the non-blue, non-green camp can become the kingmaker)
^Ludwig, Jonathan Z. (March 14, 2018). "The Illusion of Russian Elections and Russian Power"(PDF). SAGE International Australia. p. 2. Retrieved August 29, 2021. Perennial candidate and leader of the LDPR Vladimir Zhirinovsky, long thought to be funded by the Kremlin to make them look rational by comparison, is once again on the ballot.