With a Nod From Parliament, Greece Gets First Female President

January 22, 2020 Updated: January 22, 2020
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Top judge Katerina Sakellaropoulou became Greece’s first woman president on Jan. 22 when lawmakers elected her head of state in a rare display of unity.

Sakellaropoulou, 64, has been president of the Council of State, Greece’s top administrative court. She will succeed Prokopis Pavlopoulos, whose five-year term expires in March.

In an unusual demonstration of harmony in the fractious world of Greek politics, the conservative party nominee was backed by opposition parties, including the leftist Syriza party which lost power in an election last July.

She was backed by 261 MPs in the 300-member parliament.

parliament- Athens, Presidential Election
Greek Prime Minster and ministers of the government applaud after the announcement of the results of a presidential vote at the parliament in Athens, Greece, on Jan. 22,2020. (Costas Baltas/ Reuters)

Sakellaropoulou, from the northern city of Thessaloniki, became the first female head of the Council of State in 2018, supported for that position by the then leftist government.

A divorcee who lives in central Athens and is active on social media, Sakellaropoulou has written numerous papers on environmental protection and chairs a society on environmental law. She is also an avid cat-lover.

For decades, failure by parliament to elect a president in Greece could lead to a snap election. Following a recent reform, the process to select a president can go up to five voting rounds in parliament with the threshold starting at 200 votes and gradually falling to the majority of those present in the room.