Follow Us:

Madam President

Albeit a decidedly depleted inheritance, unmistakable is the element of pregnant symbolism in the decision to nominate the 62-year-old Katerina Sakellaropoulou, rated as a progressive judge, as the next President not the least because of the divisiveness of partisan politics.

SNS | New Delhi |

Viewed through the prism of gender equality, Greece has scripted history. Having contended with “poor economics” for the past several years, the country is poised to get its first woman President after the centre-right Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, took the unprecedented step of proposing a progressive female judge to assume the role of Head of State.

Albeit a decidedly depleted inheritance, unmistakable is the element of pregnant symbolism in the decision to nominate the 62-year-old Katerina Sakellaropoulou, rated as a progressive judge, as the next President not the least because of the divisiveness of partisan politics.

“The ‘time has come for Greece to open up to the future,” was the Prime Minister’s succinct summing up of the political and economic convulsions that the nation has weathered. It is pretty obvious that the choice of a lady as the next resident of the presidential palace in Athens is expected to showcase unity and progress.

Indeed, last Wednesday’s breaking news that a “cosmopolitan jurist” would be the head of the republic is said to have caught many off guard, not the least in Mitsotakis’ own New Democracy party. Her views have often run counter to the establishment. In a salutary development, less than 24 hours after the announcement, Opposition parties, in a rare display of unity, have backed the proposal, lending a groundswell of support for the next President.

The former Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, described the decision as an “act of responsibility.” The centre-left Kinale also expressed support, giving Sakellaropoulou’s election the blessing of at least 266 deputies in the 300-seat Parliament. The historic step will hopefully help redress Mitsotakis’ poor record of appointing women.

Just five were given cabinet positions when his New Democracy party ousted Syriza in July, a decision for which the leader was criticised both at home and abroad. Ms Sakellaropoulou belongs to a minority of judges in Greece who have always taken a courageous stance on civil rights. Reacting to her nomination for the country’s highest office, Ms Sakellaropoulou described it as “honouring both justice and the modern Greek woman. I accept the proposal and, if elected, will devote all my efforts to serving this high duty, as set out by the Constitution”.

The Sorbonne-educated judge broke the mould when she was elevated as the first woman to the helm of the country’s highest court in October 2018. Her sensitivity to civil liberties, ecological issues and minority rights, prompted the then leftwing administration to propel her to the post. At a time when the climate emergency is becoming ever more acute, her track record in protecting the environment and economic growth will be crucial as the country emerges from a period of political and economic crisis… almost bankruptcy.