In a historic first, the Greek parliament has elected its first female president. Greece's parliament on January 22 elected Katerina Sakellaropoulou, a senior judge with an expertise in environmental and constitutional law.
Nominated by the ruling conservative New Democracy party, Katerina managed to secure the backing of the main opposition party Syriza and the centre-left Movement for Change. In a rare display of unity between the members of parliament, 261 MPs out of the 300 voted for 63-year-old Katerina to become the ceremonial head of the country. Although a nominal post, the president confirms governments and laws and has the power to declare war in conjunction with the government.
Her selection breaks away from tradition because she is a political outsider; she is the first elected President with no affiliation to any political parties.
Katerina was also the first female in the country’s 200-year history to be elected as the president of the Council of State, the country's top administrative court. Elected in 2018 by ruling left government at the time, she held that position for 15 months until Wednesday's election.
She will succeed President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, a 69-year-old conservative politician, lawyer and academic. She will formally take up the position on March 13 when she takes the oath of office.
“I look forward to a society which respects rights … heals the wounds of the past and looks with optimism at the future,” said Katerina after her election to the post.
Katerina, the French educated jurist completed her postgraduate studies at Paris’ Sorbonne University. An ardent human rights advocate, she is known for standing her ground. Two decades ago, she was instrumental in removing religious affiliation from civilian identity cards, a move opposed by the country’s Orthodox church. With Greece at the centre of the refugee crisis, she has been vocal about granting citizenship to migrant children.
The country is gradually beginning to come out of a decade long economic and political turmoil and Katerina’s election is a sign of optimism. “Today a window to the future has opened,” said Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
(Disclaimer: Additional background information has been added to this PTI copy for context)
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)