On January 22, 2020, the news broke that Katerina Sakellaropoulou had been elected as Greece’s first female president by parliament after receiving support from almost every seat, 261 out of 300 to be exact. She had been nominated by the ruling party, the New Democracy party, but had managed to receive support from the main rivaling party, Syriza, and the Movement for Change. She will be assuming office on March 13, 2020, and will be the 13th president of Greece. It should be noted, that the president’s role in Greece is different than an American president’s role. Greek presidents serve as head of state with “limited political power, as most power lies with the government,” according to the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. The president takes on the role of commander-in-chief and is tasked with officially confirming law and declaring war in conjunction with the government if necessary. The Prime Minister is the head of the government and he, or possibly in the future she, will then appoint the president who will be elected in by parliament. To better understand, think of it as a similar process to the American’s system of appointing Supreme Court Justices, in that they are appointed by the president but then must be approved by congress.
So, what exactly are some good things to know about her as we enter a new era of Greek politics? Well for one, she is smart. She attended the Paris-Sorbonne II, one of France’s first law universities, for two years of law studies where she focused on environmental and constitutional law. She is also extremely progressive, pushing for civil rights, refugee rights, gay marriage, and environmental protections within Greece. She has published numerous papers on environmental protections in academic journals and chairs a society in environmental law. Having been a high court judge and human rights advocate, breaking gender barriers has been a common theme throughout her political career. In fact, she was the first woman to serve as the president of the Council of State, the country’s top administrative court, and held that position until Wednesday when she was elected. Electing a woman shows extreme progress towards gender equality within the country. For a nation that has long kept conservative gender roles and an entrenched patriarchy, this is almost symbolic. It is a symbol of the future after escaping its worst economic crisis.
Previously, Greece had been far behind other European countries when it came to issues surrounding feminism and gender equality. In 2017, it was ranked at the very bottom of the gender equality index issued by the European Institute for Gender Equality. Even today, only 5 women hold cabinet positions and as of 2017, the pay gap between men and women is 12%. But, Greek female MPs have voiced hope that the president-elect could turn into a role model for young generations and catapult true change towards gender equality in a country just beginning to dip its toes into these ideas.
Courtesy: The Post