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A perennial candidate is a political candidate who frequently runs for an elected office and rarely, if ever, wins. The term is the opposite of an incumbent politician who repeatedly defends their seats successfully.
Perennial candidates can vary widely in nature. Some are independents who lack the support of the major political parties in an area or are members of alternative parties (such as third parties in the United States). Others may be mainstream candidates who can consistently win a party's nomination, but because their district is gerrymandered or a natural safe seat for another party, the candidate likewise never gets elected (thus these types are often paper candidates). Still, others may typically run in primary elections for a party's nomination and lose repeatedly. Numerous perennial candidates, although not all, run with the full knowledge of their inability to win elections and instead use their candidacy for satire, to advance non-mainstream political platforms, or to take advantage of benefits afforded political candidates (such as campaign financing, name recognition, and television advertising benefits).
- José Saúl Wermus a.k.a. Jorge Altamira, leader of the trotskyist Workers' Party, has run for President five times (1989, 1995, 1999, 2003 and 2011). His best performance was in 2011, with 2.30% of the votes.
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.
- Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva ran for President of Brazil in 1989, 1994 and 1998, ranking second on each occasion. He ultimately won by landslide in 2002, and was re-elected in 2006.
- José Maria Eymael, a fringe political figure, ran for the Presidency five times (1998, 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018); he failed to reach 1% of the votes in any of those. He also unsuccessfully ran for mayor of São Paulo in 1985 and 1992, though he won two terms on the lower house of the National Congress of Brazil, from 1987 to 1995.
- Rui Costa Pimenta, leader and founder of the Trotskyist Workers' Cause Party, ran for the Presidency in 2002, 2010 and 2014 (his candidacy in 2006 was blocked by the Superior Electoral Court). He was last in all his runs, with his best performance being 0.04% of the votes in 2002.
- 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 3 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 reelected in 2006 but died in 2007 from a myeloid leukemia.
- Michael Baldasaro of the pro-marijuana Church of the Universe ran on numerous occasions for positions at various levels.
- Douglas Campbell has run as a fringe candidate for the House of Commons in the 1960s, the leadership of both the Ontario and federal New Democratic Party in the 1970s and 1980s, and Mayor of North York, Ontario. He ran for Mayor of Toronto in 2000, 2003 and 2006.
- Ross Dowson, leader of the Canadian Trotskyist group the Revolutionary Workers Party (later the League for Socialist Action) ran for Mayor of Toronto nine times in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. His best result was in 1949 when he won 20% of the vote in a two-man race. He also ran twice for the House of Commons of Canada.
- Terry Duguid is a Manitoba politician who has run multiple times for city council, mayor and MP in Winnipeg. He lost the 1995 Winnipeg Civic election and lost the 2004 and 2006 federal election in Kildonan—St. Paul before running and losing in Winnipeg South in 2011. He ran again in 2015, winning the seat with 58% of the vote.
- Henri-Georges Grenier ran 13 times for the House of Commons of Canada between 1945 and 1980 on the tickets of a variety of political parties, for each of which he was the sole candidate.
- Ben Kerr, a street musician, ran for Mayor of Toronto seven times between 1985 and his death in 2005. He was best known for his country music performances and for advocating the medicinal benefits of drinking a concoction that has cayenne pepper as its main ingredient.
- 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-homosexual platform. While campaigning in the 2008 election, he advocated the execution of homosexuals, which precipitated charges under Canada's hate crime laws.
- Naomi Rankin ran for the Communist Party of Canada in 2008, her eighth attempt at becoming an MP. She has also run six times for the Communist Party of Alberta, all of which were also unsuccessful.
- Alex Tyrrell, leader of the Green Party of Quebec, has run nine times between 2012 and 2018 for provincial general elections and by-elections.
- John Turmel is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the candidate who has the "most elections contested" and lost 84 as of August 2015 (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 the year 2000
- Don Woodstock of Winnipeg has contested several positions at all three levels of government. He unsuccessfully ran for provincial seats in 2007 and 2011 as a Liberal, and in 2016 as an independent. He ran federally in 2015 as a Green candidate, and received national attention after being called a "son of a bitch" by NDP incumbent Pat Martin during a televised debate. Woodstock ran for city council in 2014 and is running as a mayoral candidate in the 2018 election.
- Horacio Serpa Uribe, three-times Liberal Party´s presidential candidate (1998, 2002, 2006).
- Antanas Mockus, two-times presidential candidate (2006, 2010), one-time vicepresidential candidate (1998).
- Noemí Sanín, three-times Conservative Party´s presidential candidate (1998, 2002, 2010).
- Álvaro Gómez Hurtado, three times Conservative Party´s presidential candidate (1974, 1986, 1990).
- Enrique Peñalosa, five-times Bogotá´s mayor candidate (1994, 1997, 2007, 2011, 2015), one time senatorial candidate (2006), one time presidential candidate (2014).
- Otto Guevara, a five-time presidential candidate.
- Walter Muñoz, a five-time presidential candidate.
- Máximo Fernández Alvarado, a three-time presidential candidate.
- 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.
- Bruno Amoussou, leader of the Social Democratic Party, ran for President four times (1991, 1996, 2001 and 2006).
- Sheriff Mustapha Dibba, leader of the National Convention Party, ran for President four times (1982, 1987, 1992 and 2001).
- Ousainou Darboe, leader of the United Democratic Party, has run for President four times (1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011).
- Nana Akufo-Addo, flagbearer of the New Patriotic Party, ran for president in 2008, 2012 and 2016
- Edward Mahama, leader of the People's National Convention, has run for President four times (1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008)
- Raila Odinga leader of Orange Democratic Movement has been in the ballot five times—1997, 2007, 2013 and 2017 (both times) Kenya's presidential elections. Prior to that and under the old Kenyan Constitution, Raila was a Member of Parliament for the Lang'ata Constituency which includes Kenya's most impoverished and largest slum. Raila who is referred to as 'Baba' by his followers mostly from his Luo community has never conceded defeat and always claims that the elections were rigged in favor of the winning candidates. Such Claims after the 2007 Kenya Elections led to the 2007–08 Kenyan crisis witnessed in Kenya in early 2008 that leftover 1,300 people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.
- Abdoulaye Wade ran for Presidency seven times, and lost to incumbent president in 1978, 1983, 1988, 1993. He won in 2000 and 2007, and lost again most recently in 2012.
- Philippe Boullé has unsuccessfully run for President five times (1993, 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2015).
- Wavel Ramkalawan, leader of the Seychelles National Party, has unsuccessfully run for President five times (1998, 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2015), ranking second place every election with huge minority.
- Ibrahim Lipumba, leader of the Civic United Front, has run for President four times (1995, 2000, 2005 and 2010).
- Hakainde Hichilema, leader of UPND contested in the 2006, 2008, 2011, 2015 and 2016 elections.
- Godfrey Miyanda, leader of the Heritage Party, has run for President four times (2001, 2006, 2008 and 2011).
Asia and Oceania
- 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).
- Ben Buckley, a farmer, has unsuccessfully contested Gippsland in the House of Representatives on 11 occasions. He first contested the seat in 1984, and has contested every election since 2001. An independent on six occasions, Buckley ran as a One Nation candidate in 2004, and has run as a Liberal Democrat in the past four elections (2008, 2010, 2013, and 2016). His best result came in 2010 when he polled 5.52% of the vote.
- 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.
- Teresa van Lieshout, a resident of Perth, has unsuccessfully contested seven state and federal elections standing for various constituencies in Western Australia. She has stood for the Parliament of Western Australia as a One Nation candidate at the 2005 election, and as an independent at the 2006 Victoria Park by-election, 2013 state election, and 2014 Vasse by-election. For Federal Parliament, she ran as an independent at the 2004 election and 2014 special senate election, and as a Protectionist candidate at the 2013 election. In August 2015, she announced she would be contested the eighth election, the 2015 Canning by-election. Teresa stood for the Senate in NSW in the 2016 Federal Election, and as an independent in the 2018 Batman by-election.
- Kostas Kyriacou, otherwise known as "Outopos", has been a candidate for every presidential and parliamentary election since 1998 but has never gained more than 1% of the vote.
- Avery Ng
- Bull Tsang
- 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), Mar 2018 (Democratic Primary), Nov 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.
- Hotte Paksha Rangaswamy was a political leader from the Indian state of Karnataka, who had a penchant for contesting elections. He is a Guinness World Record holder for having contested the highest number of elections - he unsuccessfully did so 86 times.
- Kaka Joginder Singh (alias Dharti Pakad meaning "one who clings to the ground", earned after several unsuccessful runs for President of India) was a textile owner who contested and lost over 300 elections in India. Although his nomination papers were usually disregarded by the election commission, he reached his high-water mark during the 1992 presidential election, in which he earned fourth place in the polling with 1,135 votes, eventually losing to Shankar Dayal Sharma.
- 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".
- Prabowo Subianto, former Army lieutenant general, ran unsuccessfully as president and vice president 3 times: in 2009, as the running mate for Megawati Sukarnoputri, and in 2014 and 2019 as a presidential candidate.
- Mohsen Rezaee (see Electoral history of Mohsen Rezaee) ran for president 3 times, in 2005, 2009 and 2013. He was defeated twice and withdrew once. Rezaee ran for an Iranian Parliament seat once in 2000.
- Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf (see Electoral history of Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf) ran for president 3 times, in 2005, 2013 and 2017. He was defeated twice and withdrew once.
- Vladimir Herczberg, a nuclear physicist. Ran for Mayor of Beersheba and for a Knesset seat twice, and ran for the leadership of the Likud party in its 2012 leadership election. Also ran for the leadership of the Jewish Agency, World Jewish Congress, and the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress.
- Satoshi Akao ran in numerous elections for his Great Japan Patriotic Party until 1989, one year prior to his death.
- Mac Akasaka, real name Makoto Tonami, was a candidate for many political offices, especially the governor of Tokyo 2012, 2016 and mayor of Osaka in 2014.
- Yūtokutaishi Akiyama, an engraver artist, photographer, was a candidate for Governor of Tokyo 1975 and 1979, bringing pop art into the process.
- Teruki Gotō was a candidate for Mayor of Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo (2013), City Assembly of Chiyoda (2015), and the Governor of Tokyo (2016).
- Hideyoshi Seizo Hashiba ran in numerous elections from 1976 to 2011.
- Mitsuo Matayoshi (alias Jesus Matayoshi), leader of the World Economic Community Party and self-proclaimed Messiah, has run in at least nine local and national elections since 1997.
- Yoshiro Nakamatsu (alias Dr. NakaMats), inventor and perennial candidate in Tokyo, has unsuccessfully campaigned to be elected Governor of Tokyo numerous times since 1995, most recently in 2014.
- Pascual Racuyal unsuccessfully ran for President 11 times (1935, 1941, 1946, 1949, 1953, 1957, 1961, 1965, 1969, 1981 and 1986), although he was disqualified on all but two (1935 and 1969).
- Ooi Boon Ewe has applied four times (1999, 2005, 2011 and 2017) to run for President, all unsuccessfully. He had also tried to contest both the 2006 and 2011 general elections, both times of which he failed to be nominated.
- Zeng Guo Yuan
- Soong Chu-yu, Chairman of People First Party, ran for president four times (2000, 2012, 2016, and 2020) and for vice president once (2004).
- Pan Han-shen, leader of Trees Party and former leader of Green Party Taiwan, a five-time candidate of the member of the Legislative Yuan.
- Doğu Perinçek, President of Patriotic Party, ran for parliament nine times (1991, 1995, 1999, 2002, 2003 by election, 2007, 2011, 2015 (Jun) and 2015 (Nov)). He also unsuccessfully ran for presidency in 2018.
- Jana Bobošíková is known for a series of unsuccessful candidatures in various elections. She unsuccessfully ran two times for President of the Czech Republic (2008 and 2013), the Chamber of Deputies (2010 and 2013), the Senate (2010 and 2012), Mayor of Prague (2010) and general manager of Czech Television (2009).
- 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.
- 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 didn't 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."
- Arlette Laguiller, leader of the Workers' Struggle, a Trotskyist party, has been a candidate for President six times (1974, 1981, 1988, 1995, 2002 and 2007).
- Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, has been a candidate for President five times (1974, 1988, 1995, 2002 [in which he unprecedentedly finished second in the first round of voting, proceeding to the second round of voting which he lost to the incumbent, Jacques Chirac], and 2007).
- 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.
- Seán Dublin Bay Rockall Loftus, a longtime member of Dublin City Council (1974–1999), stood in 14 elections for Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Irish parliament, between 1961 and 1997. He was only elected once, in 1981, and served as a TD for just 8 months. He also stood unsuccessfully in two elections to the European Parliament.
- 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.
- 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 26-years-lasting 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.
- Gennady Zyuganov ran for President in 1996, 2000, 2008 and 2012. His biggest score was in 1996, when he gained 40.7% in the second round against Boris Yeltsin.
- Vladimir Zhirinovsky unsuccessfully ran for President of Russia six times: in 1991, 1996, 2000, 2008, 2012 and 2018. In addition unsuccessfully ran for Governor of Belgorod Oblast in 1999. Also, 2 times he participated in the election of the Chairman of the State Duma, in 2003 and 2011, but both times unsuccessfully.
- Lev Ubozhko unsuccessfully participated in elections of different levels. He ran for the special election to the Supreme Soviet of Russia in 1992 and 1993. He also ran for the State Duma in 1993, 1995 and 1998 (special election in single-mandate constituency). In 1994, at a special election, he unsuccessfully ran for the Federation Council from the Chelyabinsk Oblast. In 1996, he unsuccessfully ran for Governor of the Chelyabinsk Oblast. He ran for President in 1991 and 1996, but both times he was denied registration.
- Grigory Yavlinsky ran for President in 1996, 2000, 2012 (denied) and 2018.
- Oleg Bulayev about 40 times participated as a candidate in the elections in various regions of the country. For several years he tried to become an MP in North Ossetia, Udmurtia, Sakhalin Oblast, Saratov Oblast, Krasnodar Krai, Ulyanovsk Oblast, Smolensk Oblast, Arkhangelsk Oblast, Kemerovo Oblast, Yakutia, Kalmykia, Chechnya, Vladimir Oblast, Crimea, Mari El, Tatarstan and other regions. In 2013 he was elected as member of the Volgograd City Duma. In 2014 he ran for Governor of Volgograd Oblast, lost the election gaining 2.21%. In 2018 he ran for president, but withdrew.
- 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.
- Arthur Hunnable's name never appeared on a ballot paper, but he campaigned and announced that he would stand in almost every by-election from 1907 to 1909, and also in Jarrow at the 1918 general election.
- Winston McKenzie, who now stands as an English Democrats candidate, has previously stood since 2002 as an independent candidate in the Brent East by-election and in the 2008 Mayoral election, and for Veritas, UKIP, and founded his own Unity Party.
- David Sutch ran in 39 general elections and by-elections under the name Screaming Lord Sutch for the British House of Commons, and one election for the European Parliament, never winning much more than 1,000 votes. He first ran in 1963 on the National Teenage Party ticket for the seat left vacant by the resignation of John Profumo. He founded the Official Monster Raving Loony Party in 1983 and led it until his suicide in 1999.
- Sutch's successor as Monster Raving Loony Party leader, Alan "Howling Laud" Hope has contested 13 by-elections and five general elections between 2001 and 2016. His highest vote total has been 553, achieved at both Aldershot in the 2005 general election and the 2011 Leicester South by-election. The latter was also his highest vote share of 1.6%. Hope's highest placing in a parliamentary election has been fourth (of eight candidates) in Richmond Park in 2016. Hope has been elected (unopposed) to seats on parish councils in Devon and Hampshire and was mayor of Ashburton.
- John Peck ran in the constituency of Nottingham North from 1955 to 1987 and came last every time, bar 1979, in which he came second last. However, in 1987 he won the Nottingham Council seat of Bulwell East.
- Lindi St Clair ran in numerous elections for her "Corrective Party", on some occasions standing as "Miss Whiplash".
- Richard Huggett contested various elections under banners designed to imitate better-known parties, including as a "Literal Democrat" and a "Conservative" candidate. This eventually resulted in the Registration of Political Parties Act 1998 being passed to stop this practice.
- Nigel Farage has stood for election to the British House of Commons seven times, in five general elections and two by-elections, but has been unsuccessful each time. In the most recent election he declined to contest a seat. However, he was successful in being elected as a member of the European Parliament.
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- Nottingham Post, 13 May 2010