Ivo Josipovic plays keyboards at a pre-election rally in Zagreb, Dec. 22, 2009. (AP Photo/Pixsell)
Albania’s prime minister was a painter.
Edi Rama studied at the School of Fine Arts in Paris and became minister of culture when he returned to Albania in 1998. Rama, now 49, later became mayor of the Albanian city Tirana, where he found an outlet for his aesthetic instincts, ordering communist-era grey concrete buildings to be repainted in bright pink, yellow, green and violet.
Rama, who is also a former basketball player, told the BBC in 2004: "I'm not sure I am a politician. I would say that I am still an artist and I'm trying to use politics as an instrument for change." In a TED talk in 2012, he urged leaders to “Take back your city with paint.”
An apartment block in Tirana. (GENT SHKULLAKU/AFP/Getty Images)
Turkmenistan’s president was the personal dentist of his predecessor.
President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov, 56, took over from Turkmenistan's long-time authoritarian leader Saparmurat Niyazov after the latter's death in 2006.
The late dictator clearly trusted Berdymukhamedov. Before he was anointed presidential successor he once worked as Niyazov’s personal dentist. Berdymukhamedov received the post of health minister in 1997. Unfortunately, the closure of medical facilities during this term devastated Turkmenistan’s public health care system, according to the BBC.
Late President Saparmurat Niyazov, left, with Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov in the capital Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, in Nov. 2006. (AP Photo/Andriy Mosienko, Pool)
Rajoelina was prohibited from running in the country's next elections by a reconciliation deal after the coup. But he is unlikely to return to the music business anytime soon, having deliberately kept his political future open, according to Reuters.
Andry Rajoelina greets supporters at a rally in Antananarivo, Madagascar on Dec. 1, 2013. (RIJASOLO/AFP/Getty Images)
Bulgaria’s former prime minister was a personal bodyguard.
Boiko Borisov worked as a karate instructor and fireman before founding the private security company charged with the protection of the former communist leader of Bulgaria, Todor Zhivkov. Borisov later worked as the personal bodyguard for Bulgaria’s former king, Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, when the royal returned from exile. Borisov was rewarded with a government job, the BBC reports.
The former communist official and prime minister won the presidency in December 2012, amid widespread anti-austerity protests. His nationalist political rivals taunt him with the nickname “Barbie Doll.”
Borut Pahor gives a press conference on September 2, 2013 in Ljubljana, Slovenia. (Jure Makovec/AFP/Getty Images)
Australia’s prime minister was a trainee priest.
In his 20s, Tony Abbott trained to become a Catholic priest at Australia’s leading St. Patrick’s Seminary, but quit after three years. He is also a former boxer and the 56-year-old politician’s aggressive style of politics and religious past earned him the nickname “The Mad Monk.”
Abbott has championed socially conservative policies and his all-male-but-one cabinet led one Australian journalist to quip: “It is 26 years since Tony Abbott left the seminary, but in many ways he takes it wherever he goes.”
Tony Abbott attends a chapel vigil on October 17, 2010 in Sydney, Australia. (Craig Golding/Getty Images)
His own poetry, however, has not had an easy ride from the critics, one of whom said that the president “can be accused of crimes against literature.”
Michael Higgins speaks at the presidential palace during a visit to San Salvador, on October 24, 2013 (Jose CABEZAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Italy’s former prime minister was cruise ship singer.
Silvio Berlusconi is well-known as a man of many trades: prime minister, media tycoon, football club-owner, bunga-bunga lover. But Der Spiegel reports that Berlusconi's past included another role, that of professional crooner. In the 1950s and 60s, he sung and played double bass at the legendary Bar Kontiki on the Italian island of Elba, and performed as an entertainer on cruise liners in the Mediterranean.
Berlusconi, who stepped down from his third term as Italy’s prime minister in 2011, seems to never miss a chance to get back on stage. He recently wrote and recorded his own power ballads with singing partner Mariano Apicella.
Silvio Berlusconi (R) performs with Mariano Apicella during a private party at Berlusconi's summer residence in Sardinia, TV screen grab 22 September 2003 (ANSA/AFP/Getty Images)
Iceland’s last prime minister was a flight attendant.
Johanna Sigurdardottir broke a lot of new ground when she was elected prime minister of Iceland in 2009. She was the country’s longest-serving MP and the first openly gay premier in the world, according to the Guardian.
But her political career started at the country’s national airline, Icelandair, where she worked as an air stewardess for more than 30 years, the New York Times reports. She became a union organizer at the airline, launching her into the trade union movement, and eventually national politics.
Johanna Sigurdardottir in Reykjavik, Iceland, on February 1, 2009. (HALLDOR KOLBEINS/AFP/Getty Images)