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Greece to elect its first female president

EPA-EFE//ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (L) and the outgoing President of the Republic, Prokopis Pavlopoulos (R), at the Presidential Mansion in Athens.

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On the afternoon of January 15, political correspondents covering the activity of the Greek government were notified on WhatsApp that Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the country’s prime minister, was due to address the nation later that night.

Soon afterwards Mitsotakis’ aides stopped answering text messages and phone calls. This was a clear indication that Mitsotakis was going to announce his pick for the Presidency of the Hellenic Republic.

Over the past months, there had been speculation about Mitsotakis’ intentions. The position is mainly ceremonial, without vast executive powers, however, there is enough room for some political symbolism with the selection of the president.

Prokopis Pavlopoulos, the President of the Republic since 2015, is from Nea Dimokratia, the ruling conservative party. Pavlopoulos was an MP for many years and a Minister in ND governments. However, in 2015, Mitsotakis was the only ND MP, who did not vote for Pavlopoulos, when he was proposed by Alexis Tsipras, the former Greek Prime Minister.

Despite the positive comments for Pavlopoulos’ tenure over the past years, Mitsotakis did not propose a renewal of Pavlopoulos’ term. For his replacement, he proposed Katerina Sakellaropoulou, the President of the Council of State, Greece’s Administrative Court. Sakellaropoulou, 64, if elected, will be the first female and the youngest p to be elected since 1974, when the Greek Republic was re-established after a 7-year military junta.

Taking also into consideration her environmental concerns and her year-long efforts to harmonise judicial decisions with environmental parameters, the desirable political signals for Mitsotakis are all there.

Sakellaropoulou is also appreciated across the aisle. She will be voted in by the 158 ND MPs, while she also holds the approval of the 22 MPs of the centre-left KINAL. SYRIZA’s MPs will also vote for the new president, thus leading to a 266 votes super-majority. The threshold at the first vote is 200 MPs, 2/3 of the total number of MPs in the Parliament.

It was a tough choice for SYRIZA as Pavlopoulos will not be a candidate again after not being granted a second term by Mitsotakis. The main opposition party was rooting for the Pavlopoulos, but on the other side, it was SYRIZA, as a governing party, who proposed Sakellaropoulou to become the President of the Council of State.

Mitsotakis had predicted the impasse for the opposition parties some weeks ago, talking to the weekly newspaper To Vima. Then, he underlined that both SYRIZA and KINAL would have to explain why they would not vote for his pick. Taking into consideration Sakellaropoulou’s centre-left political origin and the SYRIZA-proposal in 2018, MItsotakis’ prediction proved to be correct.

The process for the election of the new president will be initiated on January 15. According to the figures available, a second vote, will not be necessary, since the 200-vote threshold will be easily surpassed given SYRIZA’s consent.

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