Greece’s Top Judge Set to Be Country’s First Woman President

Sotiris Nikas and Paul Tugwell

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has nominated Aikaterini Sakellaropoulou for the largely ceremonial post of Greek president, the first time a woman has been proposed for the role.

With Greece entering a renewal period after years of economic crisis, the country’s president should be a figure who reflects that progress, Mitsotakis said in a televised address.

“It’s time our country got an honorable Greek woman for its highest political position,” the prime minister said.

Sakellaropoulou, 63, is president of the council of state, Greece’s highest court, the first woman to hold the position. Her nomination as president must be approved by lawmakers.

The choice for the country’s highest office “honors both justice and the modern Greek woman,” Sakellaropoulou told state-run Athens-Macedonian News Agency.

Main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras said Thursday his Syriza party will vote for Sakellaropoulou so she can be elected with a large majority as befits “the person who for the next five years expresses the unity of the people and of the republic.”

While the position carries little political weight, the Greek president can serve as a unifying force. The president is also commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces and is responsible for the formal appointment of the prime minister.

Sakellaropoulou was born in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city, in 1956, and completed her studies at the University of Athens Law School in 1978.

She studied at Paris’s Sorbonne during a leave of absence from the council of state, and has made a name for herself by focusing on environmental issues. Author of several books, she speaks English and French.

Sakellaropoulou will be elected under a new voting process designed to ensure that failure to win majority support doesn’t trigger a snap ballot as happened in December 2014, which led to Syriza winning national elections at the start of the next year. Given the support of the main opposition party, she is set to be elected in the first round of voting.

(Updates with opposition in 6th paragraph)

To contact the reporters on this story: Sotiris Nikas in Athens at snikas@bloomberg.net;Paul Tugwell in Athens at ptugwell1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net, Jerrold Colten, Andrew Blackman

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