LOVE ME, LOVE MY JOB

For prime ministers and presidents, true love's course does not always run smooth
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The Independent Online
Yasser and Suha Arafat

Having always pledged that he was "married to the Palestinian people", it came as quite a shock to the occupied territories when, six months after the event, it was revealed that PLO chairman Yasser Arafat had taken a wife. Suha was a mere 26 (34 years her husband's junior) when they married in 1990, and with her Sorbonne education, wealthy upbringing and Christian beliefs, she seemed to many an unsuitable consort for a revolutionary. But she duly converted to Islam, and in July 1995 she gave birth to the couple's first child; last month she announced she was expecting a second.

Robert Mugabe and Grace Marafu

The 73-year-old President of Zimbabwe married his former secretary, a woman thought to be about half his age, in a church ceremony earlier this month. They were already married under African traditional law which allowed him to take her as a junior wife while his first wife, Sally (who died in 1991 of a chronic kidney ailment), was still alive, but the country's Catholic leaders disapproved. The relationship, which had already produced 2 children, has always proved a sensitive subject: 3 journalists were convicted of "criminal defamation" for reporting last year that the couple had been married in secret.

Carlos Menem and Zulema Yoma

The President of Argentina married Ms Yoma, a young woman from the same Syrian village as his father, in 1966; he precipitated scandals aplenty by appointing various undeserving members of her family to government posts. Years of marital turbulence came to a head in 1989, when Menem ordered soldiers to remove his wife from their official residence, and last year, the couple went through a messy divorce. Prone to sensational outbursts, Zulema described in a popular biography of the president how Menem beat her and threatened to kill her (she, in turn, publicly threatened to kill him on several occasions) and just last month was claiming that the death of their son last summer was not an accident, as was originally reported.

Omar Bongo and "les call-girls de luxe"

Last year an Italian-born fashion designer, Francesco Smalto, was fined pounds 78,000 for supplying prostitutes to the president of west African state of Gabon during sales trips there. The court was told that Smalto recruited women on several occasions between 1990 and 1993 to fly to Gabon, ostensibly for showings of clothes he hoped to sell to President Bongo, but their duties turned out to be more along the lines of removing them. Bongo did not deny Smalto's pimping, maintaining that it should be considered a private matter, but strenuously denied allegations that he was HIV positive and had refused to wear a condom.

Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari

The Pakistani prime minister's arranged marriage in 1987 to Mr Zardari, a Karachi playboy and property developer, created a deep rift in the Bhutto family. In 1989 Benazir's brother Murtaza warned Zardari that the Bhutto legacy was not to be sullied by an upstart, and that his business deals were undermining his sister's government. When it duly fell, Asif was jailed for 2 years, principally on corruption charges, but was freed after 20 months when Bhutto struck a peace deal with the new government. Bhutto was swept back into power in the election of October 1993, but Zardari still has to defend himself against opposition claims that he made his money through fraudulent means - he is nicknamed Mr Ten Per Cent.

Alberto Fujimori and Susana Higuchi

A long history of marital discord escalated when Higuchi, the wife of Peruvian President Fujimori, briefly moved out of their official residence in 1994, protesting against a law barring presidential relatives from running for office. Fujimori responded by stripping her of her role as First Lady, and then, piqued by her accusations that his government was corrupt, decided to keep her indoors. He then moved out himself, leaving her sealed inside a palace surrounded by military police. Later that year, Susana was disqualified from taking part in the election campaign against Alberto after electoral authorities found that she had failed to gather the 100,000 signatures required to register.

Scott Hughes

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