Greece’s politicians break the mould by choosing first female president

By Elena Becatoros, Associated Press

Greece’s politicians elected their country’s first female president, with an overwhelming majority voting in favour of high court judge Katerina Sakellaropoulou.

Speaking after being formally informed of the parliament vote, Ms Sakellaropoulou said she would aim for the “broadest possible consensus” in the course of carrying out her duties.

In her first comments as president-elect, the judge noted the “difficult conditions and challenges of the 21st century, including the financial crisis, climate change, the mass movement of populations and the consequent humanitarian crisis, the erosion of the rule of law and all manner of inequalities and exclusions”.

Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (Petros Giannakouris/AP)

The country’s prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis nominated Ms Sakellaropoulou as a non-partisan candidate who would enjoy broad support from across the political spectrum.

All major parties voted in favour of the nomination, with Ms Sakellaropoulou being elected to the largely ceremonial post in a 261-33 vote, well above the 200 votes required.

Six politicians were absent.

Greece has a historically low number of women in senior positions in politics, and Mr Mitsotakis had been criticised for selecting a nearly all-male Cabinet after he won general elections in July 2019.

In the current Greek cabinet, all but one of the 18 senior positions are held by men.

Speaking after the vote, Mr Mitsotakis described Ms Sakellaropoulou, 63, as a “great jurist, a great judiciary personality who unites all Greeks from the minute this procedure began”.

He said he sought to nominate a candidate who would “symbolise the youth of the Greek nation, and I am glad that the result confirmed that on the big issues, we can finally agree”.

European officials congratulated Ms Sakellaropoulou, with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen welcoming the election of Greece’s first female president in a tweet that said the country was “moving ahead into a new era of equality”.

European Council head Charles Michel also tweeted congratulations, saying it was “a great signal to elect the Republic’s first female head of state”.

Ms Sakellaropoulou, who has headed the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, since 2018, is to begin her five-year term in March, when the term of the current president, veteran conservative politician Prokopis Pavlopoulos ends.