Earlier this month Sandra de Colom, Guatemala's first lady, announced her intention to run for presidency [EPA]

A court official has said Guatemala's first lady is ending her eight-year marriage so that she can seek to succeed her husband as president.

Divorce proceedings between president Alvaro Colom and his wife, Sandra Torres de Colom, began on Monday, Edwin Escobar, spokesperson for the judiciary said.

The divorce was filed to avert a constitutional flap over her eligibility to run for office, officials said. The country's constitution prohibits members of a president's extended family from running for the presidency.

The divorce papers were filed on March 11 in family court, Escobar said.

Torres announced earlier this month that she will be the presidential candidate of the governing National Unity for Hope (UNE) party in the September election.

Incumbent president Colom, who assumed office in 2008, cannot run for re-election.

Divorce a 'fraud'

Torres is supported by an alliance of the UNE party and the right-wing Grand National Alliance (GANA).

In a statement released to the newspaper Prensa Libre, Otto Perez Molina, the main right-wing opposition candidate, called the divorce a "fraud". "We will not allow them to mock the law with this move," Molina said.

According to the constitution, close blood relatives of the president and those of "second level of affinity" are banned from running for office.

The divorce papers, which indicated a mutual desire for separation, came despite previous comments from the president that divorce was not an option and that his wife was eligible to run.

If both parties agree, the divorce could be final in about a month.

In her announcement of her candidacy, Torres said she decided to run "for the people, for my country, for the elderly, children, disabled, abandoned, orphaned, for all the needy in Guatemala".

Source: Agencies