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10 world leaders who divorced their wives while in office

Marriage is not a bed of roses. That must be one of the most overused clichés the world over. However those who have had some experience in matrimony know only too well how true the statement is.

The most curious fact is that marital conflict is not a preserve of a certain class of society. From the poor to the bourgeoisie, illiterate to the educated, models to athletes, all have had a dose of just how tough the going can get in marriage.

One class of people in particular has been unfortunate enough to have their dirty linen, in as far as spouses are concerned, washed and aired out in public: our politicians.

Below is a list of top world leaders who went through divorce while running their respective countries.

Nelson Mandela

Courtesy CAMERA PRESS, Gallo Images, Foto24

South Africa’s anti apartheid hero and the country’s first ever black President divorced his second wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in March 1996. This was two years into his five year term as President. The two who had two daughters together, Zeni and Zindzi, had however separated earlier in April 1992.

Silvio Berlusconi

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Italy’s controversial three-time Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi finalized his divorce from Veronica Lario, in 2014 leaving him free to marry a woman almost 50 years his junior.

It was however during his third term as Prime Minister in 2008 that Berlusconi was ordered to pay his ex-wife Veronica Lario $48 million a year in a divorce settlement. The two had three children together.

Prince Charles

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His divorce from the darling of the world Princess Diana was without doubt the biggest divorce story of the 20th century.

Charles, Prince of Wales is the eldest child and heir apparent of Queen Elizabeth II.

Charles and Diana officially separated in 1992 then divorced on 28 August 1996. Diana died in a car crash in Paris a year later.

Nicolas Sarkozy

Courtesy REUTERS

The 23rd President of France made history by being the first French leader to divorce, marry and have a child while in office, all within one term of his presidency.

On 25 May 2005, the Swiss newspaper Le Matin revealed that his second wife, Cécilia Ciganer-Albéniz had left Sarkozy for French-Moroccan national Richard Attias. In the meantime, Sarkozy was said to have had an affair with a journalist Anne Fulda.

Sarkozy and Cécilia ultimately divorced on 15 October 2007, soon after his election as President.

Alvaro Colom

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Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom and his wife Sandra Torres filed for divorce in 2011 so she could stand for election to succeed him.

This is because Guatemala’s constitution bans close relatives of the president from standing to succeed him.

Although the court granted the divorce, Guatemala’s Electoral Tribunal and courts considered the divorce a sham, and refused to accept her registration for the elections.

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin announces separation from wife Lyudmila - video
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In June 2013, Russian president Vladimir Putin and his wife of 30 years, Lyudmila went on TV to announce that their marriage was over.  In April 2014 the Kremlin confirmed that the divorce had been finalized.

Russia’s best-known couple had two daughters in their late 20s at the time of the announcement.

Putin had been linked by newspapers with other women, including gymnast Alina Kabayeva and ex-spy Anna Chapman.

Hugo Chavez

Courtesy REUTERS

Venezuela’s strongman Hugo Chávez married his second wife journalist Marisabel Rodríguez de Chávez after divorcing his first wife with whom they had three children. He separated from Marisabel in 2002 and divorced her in 2004. Allegations were made that Chávez was a womanizer, and had been throughout both his marriages, but these have remained unproven.

Alberto Fujimori

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Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori divorced his wife Susana Higuchi in 1994. The divorce happened in public, where the couple washed their dirty linen in front of many people, which damaged Fujimori’s image further.

His wife even called him a ‘Tyrant’ and revealed a lot of secrets about the man’s life. The revelations contributed to Fujimori’s prison sentence in 2009. He is currently serving a 25 year jail term for various offences.

Andreas Papandreou

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In 1989, Margaret Papandreou says signed a legal document ending her 38-year marriage to Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou of Greece. This was his second marriage having ended the first in 1951 in similar fashion.  That same year he married his third wife Dimitra Liani.

Fredrick Chiluba

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In 2000, then Zambian President Frederick Chiluba divorced his wife, former First Lady of Zambia Vera Tembo after thirty-three years of marriage. They had nine children together. The divorce case had initially been filed by Chiluba’s elder cousin to which Vera famously countered by saying she could not divorce a man that she had never been married to. The President was then forced to personally file the suit.

Sources: Wikipedia, Daily Mail, BBC,, The Independent










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