A statement by Robert Reich on Facebook makes the following claim:

America is the only democracy in the world where anyone can declare himself or herself a candidate for the presidency. Which makes it all the more important that we distinguish leaders from demagogues. The former ennoble our society. The latter degrade and endanger it. What do you think?

Is this true?

To clarify, the claim is that in the US, any (eligible) person can declare him or herself a candidate for president. That is to say, I believe, they needn't be nominated by a specific political party, or be the member of some other governing body (congress, parliament, etc).


3 Answers 3


No, this is not true. A counter-example is Ukraine.

My interpretation of the claim is that:

  1. America is a democracy where it is possible to self-nominate for Presidency, without having to get permission or pre-selection from existing parties, cartels or government bodies as part of the normal administrative process for candidacy, AND

  2. There is no other country with a democracy that has that property, for Head of State or Head of Government.

From discussion on the question and other answers, I see that some people challenge the former of these propositions. I am ignoring that and targeting the latter.

The President of Ukraine is:

elected by the citizens of Ukraine on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage by means of secret ballot for five years.

In 2014, Intefax reported:

a total of 23 candidates will take part in the presidential race, seven of them are nominated by political parties, 16 are self-nominees.

So, the electoral system support self-nomination, and everyone votes for the candidates directly.

Note that nomination requires the collection of massive numbers of signatures. I consider this to be merely administrative evidence that the potential candidate is a serious contender, as opposed to getting permission from a party, so I argue this still fits into the definition.

I understand Russia to have a similar signature-gathering hurdle. I suspect there are many more examples.

So the USA is not the only democracy in the world where anyone can declare himself or herself a candidate for the presidency.

  • 2
    If you like, and think it would help, feel free to edit into this answer any of the examples I found and make one answer that is better than the some of the parts. Nov 5, 2015 at 0:27
  • In Ukraine one also has to collect signatures. I think the original claim was that in the US one can write any name in the ballot list during votion. The same was in the USSR, by the way! But in both countries it was totally impossible to utilize this possibility.
    – Anixx
    Nov 5, 2015 at 13:51
  • @Anixx: Bah, you are correct. That puts Ukraine in the same boat as Russia, which I avoided using as an example because I didn't want to get bogged down in definitions - does this count as being able to self-nominate. After all, it isn't getting permission from a party, but just an early demonstration that you will get some votes from the public.
    – Oddthinking
    Nov 6, 2015 at 13:29
  • I've made a significant edit, thanks to @Annix's suggestion.
    – Oddthinking
    Nov 6, 2015 at 13:43
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    @SteveJessop: Yeah, these are the definitions I didn't want to get bogged down in. I think we agree on all the facts, it is just trying to glean the meaning of the words in the claim. I see your interpretation. I think you see mine (that signatures are just "pre-votes", and they can be from any voter, not from an "elite" group). There's no way of objectively deciding.
    – Oddthinking
    Nov 7, 2015 at 2:56

Let me first rephrase the claim as I understand it:

In the US, if you meet the individual eligibility requirements for President (the head of state and head of government) as outlined in the Constitution, there are no external hurdles other than administrative filing requirements in order to run for the office of President. For example, you don't need to be nominated by a party.

The US is the only country like this.

Here are some countries with similarly low barriers to candidacy.


To run for President (their head of state, not head of government), one only has to file nomination papers to the Independent Election Commission, who will check that the candidates meet Article 62 constitutional requirements. (ref, ref, ref)


To run for President (the head of state and head of government), one only has to file a Certificate of Candidacy with the Commission on Elections. While there is a space on the form to indicate a party affiliation, one can run as an independent. (ref)


This is more of a political claim than a factual claim, but let's try to examine it.

First thing to note is that it is an exaggeration that anyone can declare himself or herself a candidate for the presidency. Declaring yourself to be a candidate for the presidency does not necessarily get you on the ballot.

The presidential election ticket will not list every candidate running for President, but only those who have secured a major party nomination or whose size of their political party warrants having been formally listed.

A sampling of other countries reveals some with very similar qualifications to the US.

These countries typically have a larger field of candidates for electors to choose from than the US.

  • 4
    "appearances on the ballot by candidates other than the nomines of the two main parties are very rare" — What kind of non-crazy state are you living in? The 2008 presidential ballot in New Jersey had ten candidates (including a member of the "Vote Here" party), with another ten in 2012 (the "Vote Here" party apparently having been renamed "NSA Did 9/11").
    – jwodder
    Nov 5, 2015 at 2:18
  • 1
    Indeed, I usually see at least a few third-party candidates for President on the ballot in Tennessee, as well, though I don't think I've ever seen anyone run from the "vote here" party. - haha - Also, George Washington was elected President of the U.S. without even being a member of a major party, let alone being nominated by one. That was before the current system of electing the President was established, though.
    – reirab
    Nov 5, 2015 at 3:10
  • Edited the answer. Nov 5, 2015 at 4:01
  • States in the US do have different rules for getting on the ballot in elections. These mainly concern primary elections, in which a large field of candidates from one party are reduced to a manageable size. If you are unopposed in a primary, for instance, you may not get on the ballot. In theory, a state may even find it unnecessary to hold a primary, if there are no parties that run more than one candidate. The big parties would never let that happen, however.
    – Mohair
    Nov 5, 2015 at 13:52
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    At this time (October 2015), very few of the "candidates" have done enough to get their name on the ballot in many states. So your claim that "declaring yourself as a candidate" and "being on the ballot" are equivalent is false. Unless, you don't believe that all those people that we've been seeing on the debate stage are candidates. IMO, if someone formally files paperwork declaring themselves to be a candidate for president, even if in just 1 state and can now raise tax deductible contributions as a candidate then they are a candidate.
    – Dunk
    Nov 5, 2015 at 17:42

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