If breaking up is hard to do, when you’re a head of state, what comes after is even harder.
Whichever country you visit, presidential plus-ones are de rigueur. Who’ll accompany you to that state banquet now? Who’ll pose between you and your dog for the yearly greetings card? Who’ll high-five children with Michelle Obama or make quantum chemistry-based small talk with Angela Merkel’s other half when your leader pals come to stay?
You wouldn’t blame France’s newly single Francois Hollande for thinking that his is the only presidential suite to go unshared. But, strange as it may seem to Americans — who’ve only ever trusted one lifelong bachelor to run the country more than a century and a half ago — some voters do actually elect people to lead their nation when they’ve never led anyone down the aisle.
As Hollande comes to the end of his first week as an officially single commander-in-chief, here are the presidents, prime ministers and premiers who know what it’s like to rule without putting a ring on it.
1. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte
(ROBIN UTRECHT/AFP/Getty Images)
Bachelor Number One is Mark Rutte: jolly, 40-something, and prime minister of the Netherlands. (He was also, by coincidence, the first foreign leader Francois Hollande visited after the story broke about his alleged affair.) Ironically, he was born on Valentine’s Day — though to parents who well knew the complications of marriage. His father’s first wife died during World War II and he then married her younger sister, meaning that Rutte’s half-siblings are also kind of his cousins. Yikes.
He almost never speaks about his private life and isn’t known to have any prospective first ladies — or gentlemen, for that matter — in sight. Instead, he’s reputed to be a boyish bachelor who vacations with his mother and takes the king’s wife to formal functions as his strictly platonic date. He could make a solid wing man for Hollande — if he weren’t, you know, younger and better looking.
2. South Korean President Park Geun Hye
(STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
Park Geun Hye is in the unusual position of having served as both first lady and president (daughter of ex-President Park Chung Hee, the 22-year-old Park stepped into her mother’s shoes when she was assassinated by North Korea). Ever since then, she’s been going steady with South Korea. Park said she hasn't taken a husband because she’s already married to her country — a slightly creepy metaphor that some of her supporters made that much creepier by making mock wedding invitations ahead of Park’s inauguration in February 2013.
To misquote another woman in charge, we suspect the lady’s not for marrying.
3. Bolivian President Evo Morales
(MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
It’s fair to say that Evo Morales is happily unmarried. He’s rumored to be something of a flirt, he’s known to have children with two different mothers (just like Hollande, in fact), and he’s occasionally heard to make some, er, revealing comments about his love life.
Such as: “A man’s ideal woman is a surrogate mom,” i.e., someone who is “loving, cares about food and looks after you.” Right. Remind us again why you’re single, Evo? It’s certainly not for want of asking. Women would invariably decline his proposals, telling him that “‘either they’re going to throw you in jail or take you to the cemetery, and I don’t want to be a widow or to suffer,’” the president related to one interviewer last year. He says he gave up on the idea of a Mrs Morales some 20 years ago.
4. Philippines President Benigno Aquino III
(TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)
If Mark Rutte is too clean-cut and Evo Morales too… Oedipal, Francois Hollande could do worse than “Noynoy” Aquino for his companion on a boys’ night out. Ever since splitting from glamorous girlfriend Shalani Soledad two years ago, the president and his love life have been the subject of frenzied speculation in the Philippines’ press (fuelled, no doubt, by his penchant for taking attractive young women out for late-night dinners tête-à-tête). So fascinated are Filipinos by their playboy president that they’ve even come up with an outline of his ideal woman: “10 to 20 years younger than him, smart, pretty and curvy, with a taste for Chinese, Japanese and Filipino food and music,” according to one account. Well, that’s specific. Though according to the “astrological researcher” consulted recently by one leading newspaper (yes, really), the all-eating-all-dancing lady in question isn’t fated to show up for another two years at least.
Aquino is apparently a little fed up of the whole business. “If ever I get the chance to go out on a date, it seems I invited the entire Filipino people to join me on that date,” he lamented in 2011. If two’s company and three’s a crowd, 96 million has got to cramp your style.
5. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite
(LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)
Anyone who lures Lithuania’s Dalia Grybauskaite out of singledom will be lucky indeed. The “Steel Magnolia” is fluent in four languages, has a PhD in economics, won the so-called “Oscar of politics” and — here’s the clincher — is a black belt in karate.
Like many a single woman, Grybauskaite has had to field intrusive questions as why she remains unwed. No, she’s not a joyless blue-stocking. No, she’s not a lesbian. Is it so far-fetched that the president — gasp — might just like being unattached? According to one recent poll, single Lithuanians reported being the happiest of any demographic. Perhaps their president is the ultimate proof.
6. President of Botswana Ian Khama
(Monirul Bhuiyan/AFP/Getty Images)
Easily the most eligible head of state in all Africa is Botswana’s stately president. He’s got the pedigree (his father was the country’s first post-independence president, his forefathers paramount chiefs), the military bearing (he was trained at Britain’s top officer school) and — alleged cronyism notwithstanding — the political creds. Khama has won international respect as a steady-handed leader and unrelenting critic of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe when other neighbors are too busy making nice. And there’s nothing sexier than standing up to dictatorship, am I right? Oh, and did I mention that he occasionally plays with cheetahs?
All that’s why ladies love cool Khama. Take Berry Heart, for instance, a headline-courting performance poet almost 40 years the president’s junior. She’s gained notoriety in Botswana for her ballad ‘I Have A Crush On Ian Khama,’ whose lines not only propose marriage but tell the head of state exactly where he can put his mustache. To date, Khama has not responded to the offer. Though he does claim his ideal wife would be “tall, slim and beautiful,” and that presidential aides have been dispatched to find her. Good luck with that.
7. Russian President Vladimir Putin
(Alexey Druxhinin/AFP/Getty Images)
Of all the single leaders whose sympathy Hollande might seek, only Vladimir Putin knows what it’s like to find yourself a singleton again after long years of coupledom. Putin split from wife Lyudmila last year and instantly became Russia’s most eligible bachelor. In the weeks after the break-up, the presidential torso could be seen gracing magazine covers sans shirt, along with quotes from female celebrities who attest that “Any girl would marry Putin.”
Not quite any, but at least one in five: a pre-divorce poll found that 20 percent of Russian women asked would accept Putin’s proposal on the spot, while a further 14 percent would need a little time to think it over. That leaves 66 percent who’d turn him down outright. Not that that’s likely to bother the bare-chested one: his minions have stated categorically that “there is no other woman in the president’s life.” No other woman but perhaps, just perhaps, a newly single bro to take out huntin’, shootin’ and mannin.’