On Wednesday, January 15, 2020, the Greek government historically announced that the nominee of the incumbent ruling party for President of the Hellenic Republic is a woman, Ekaterini Sakellaropoulou.
The move, long overdue, comes ahead of the deadline that the government had to put forth a name for the Greek presidency, with some thinking that President Prokopis Pavlopoulos might be retained for a second term. Instead, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis selected Sakellaropoulou, who was the head of Greece’s highest administrative court and was a politically sound pick because she was nominated to that position by former premier Alexis Tsipras and his SYRIZA government and because Mrs. Sakellaropoulou is not a member of Mitsotakis’ ruling New Democracy party.
New Democracy had been correctly criticized soon after its elevation to power last July due to the lack of gender diversity at the upper-echelons of the Greek government structure. Mr. Mitsotakis with this nomination and possibly when he reshuffles his cabinet looks to put to bed accusations that his party is the major party in Greece which most marginalizes women.
There can be no question that this is an historic announcement, pending parliamentary passage, that Greece is finally ready to join, to some degree, the 21st century when it comes to gender equality. The country has a long way to go, but this is certainly a massive step forward.
President Pavlopoulos will be remembered as a competent, no-frills president who commonly spoke without prepared remarks to great effect. As a student of the ancients, President Pavlopoulos often invoked great philosophers and poets of different times to illustrate his point, which is exceedingly rare in Greek politics. The beginning of his tenure was fraught with division and chaos as Alexis Tsipras and his opposition party chose political expediency and personal ambition instead of patriotism, toppling the Samaras government in 2015 at a time when the Greek economy was just seeing its very first uptick during the years of the crisis.
By nominating someone for the presidency that was appointed to a post by his predecessor, Mr. Mitsotakis has essentially killed two birds with one stone. He is working to dispel the notion that he doesn’t value women in leadership roles and he has tied Mr. Tsipras’ hands because the latter cannot seriously criticize this person that he himself elevated to an important post citing her judgement and impartiality.
May the political games that plagued the last presidential elections not resurface and political stability in Greece continue. I will add that as Hellenes, we owe a measure of thanks to outgoing President Prokopis Pavlopoulos for his service to the nation.