(following quote:)

It was for the sake of this day that he had first decided to run for the presidency, a decision that had sent shockwaves of astonishment throughout the Imperial Galaxy.  Zaphod Beeblebrox? President? Not the Zaphod Beeblebrox? Not the President?  Many had seen it as clinching proof that the whole of known creation had finally gone bananas.

… Zaphod Beeblebrox, adventurer, ex-hippie, good-timer, (crook? quite possibly), manic self-publicist, terribly bad at personal relationships, often thought to be completely out to lunch.
No one had gone bananas, not in that way at least.
Only six people in the entire Galaxy understood the principle on which the Galaxy was governed, and they knew that once Zaphod Beeblebrox had announced his intention to run as President it was more or less a fait accompli: he was ideal presidency fodder.*
What they completely failed to understand was why Zaphod was doing it.
…President: full title President of the Imperial Galactic Government.
The term Imperial is kept though it is now an anachronism.  The hereditary Emperor is nearly dead and has been for many centuries.  In the last moments of his dying coma he was locked in a stasis field which keeps him in a state of perpetual unchangingness.  All his heirs are now long dead, and this means that without any drastic political upheaval, power has simply and effectively moved a rung or two down the ladder, and is now seen to be vested in a body that used to act simply as advisers to the Emperor—am elected governmental assembly headed by a President elected by that assembly.  In fact it vests in no such place.
The President in particular is very much a figurehead—he wields no real power whatsoever.  He is apparently chosen by the government, but the qualities he is required to display are not those of leadership but those of finely judged outrage.  For this reason the President is always a controversial choice, always an infuriating but fascinating character.  His job is not to wield power but to draw attention away from it.  On those criteria Zaphod Beeblebrox is one of the most successful Presidents the Galaxy has ever had—he has already spent two of his ten presidential years in prison for fraud.  Very very few people realize that the President and the Government have virtually no power at all, and of these few people only six know whence ultimate political power is wielded.  Most of the others secretly believe that the ultimate decision-making process is handled by a computer.  They couldn’t be more wrong. (Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, 1980, p. 37-8)

reference: Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, 1980 (a book everyone should read and also own)

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