8 Other World Leaders Who Got Divorced in Office

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By Keith Wagstaff

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he and his wife, Lyudmila, were getting divorced after 30 years. The media has been speculating over their marriage ever since rumors surfaced in 2008 of an affair with Alina Kabaeva, an Olympic gold medal–winning gymnast half Putin's age.

"It was a joint decision: We hardly see each other, each of us has our own life," Putin said on state television after attending the ballet with his wife. The couple were married in 1983 and have two daughters, Maria and Yekaterina.

While it's relatively rare for world leaders to get divorced in office, it has happened before.

1. President Nicolas Sarkozy, France

Nicolas Sarkozy became the first French president to get divorced in office when he separated from his wife, Cécilia, in 2007. It only took a year for Sarkozy to marry Carla Bruni, a singer-songwriter and former model who can count Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton as exes. The couple is still together, living in Paris with her son from another marriage and their baby daughter.

2. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Italy

Considering Silvio Berlusconi's legendary philandering and fondness for "bunga-bunga" parties, it wasn't a surprise when he got divorced from his wife, former actress Veronica Lario, in 2009. Earlier this year he blamed "feminist, Communist judges" for reportedly forcing him to pay Lario 26 million euros a year.

3. President Alvaro Colom, Guatemala

One of the only world leaders to be accused of a sham divorce, President Alvaro Colom filed for divorce from his wife, Sandra Torres, in March 2011. At the time, his opponents called it a "cynical political ploy" to skirt a law saying that close relatives of the president couldn't run for office. Despite the separation, the court ruled she was still violating the constitution when attempting to succeed her husband, paving the way for eventual presidential winner Otto Perez Molina.

4. President Nelson Mandela, South Africa

The 38-year marriage between Nelson Mandela and his wife, Winnie, survived apartheid but ended six years after he was released from prison. In a 1996 court preceding, the 77-year-old Mandela claimed Winnie was having an affair. The two had only been married for five years when Mandela was sentenced to prison in 1963 on political charges.

5. President Hugo Chavez, Venezuela

Hugo Chavez was known for having a string of mistresses, but he was only married twice. He divorced his second wife, Venezuelan radio journalist Marisabel Rodriguez, in 2004, with her blaming his infidelity and him blaming her bad temper.

6. Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, Greece

Before Andreas Papandreou took office, adultery was a crime in Greece. He promptly overturned that law, and, unsurprisingly, proceeded to divorce Margaret, his wife of 38 years, in 1989 to marry his mistress, Dimitra Liani, an air stewardess more than 30 years younger than him.

7. President Alberto Fujimori, Peru

It doesn't get much messier than this. Alberto Fujimori and his wife, Susana Higuchi, filed for divorce in 1995 after she accused his family of corruption and he accused her of "unloyalty and blackmail." The public fight included him locking her out of the presidential palace and telling the press he was looking for a new wife "who is intelligent and has beautiful legs." In 2006, he got remarried from his jail cell in Chile, where he was being held on corruption charges.

8. King Henry VIII, England

Perhaps the only divorce to spur an entirely new religion, Henry VIII split from Catherine of Aragon after falling in love with Anne Boleyn, the sister of his mistress, Mary Boleyn. After failing to get an annulment from Rome, Henry married Anne in 1533, paving the way for him to become the supreme leader of the Church of England. Boleyn was the second of his eventual six wives and the first one to be executed.

Sources: Associated PressBBC (2)(3)(4), The Guardian (2), The Huffington PostThe New York TimesReutersThe Telegraph


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June 7, 2013 - 1:00pm
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