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Top judge elected as Greece's first female president

Greece’s lawmakers elected their country’s first female president Wednesday, with an overwhelming majority voting to give high court judge Katerina Sakellaropoulou the largely ceremonial post.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis nominated Sakellaropoulou as a non-partisan candidate who would enjoy broad support from across the political spectrum. All major parties voted in favor of the nomination, with Sakellaropoulou being elected on a 261-33 vote, well above the 200 votes required. Six lawmakers were absent.

Sakellaropoulou, who has headed the Council of State since 2018, is to begin her five-year term in March, when the term of the current president, veteran conservative politician Prokopis Pavlopoulos, expires.

Greek Prime Minister kyriakos Mitsotakis applaud during a parliamentary session to vote for the new Greek President, in Athens, on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2019. High court judge Katerina Sakellaropoulou has been elected at Greece's first female president with an overwhelming majority in a parliamentary vote. (AP PhotoPetros Giannakouris)

Greece has a historically low level of women in senior positions in politics, and Mitsotakis had been criticized for selecting a nearly all-male cabinet after he won general elections in July 2019. In the current Greek cabinet, all but one of the 18 senior positions are held by men.

Speaking after the vote, Mitsotakis described Sakellaropoulou, 63, as a “great jurist, a great judiciary personality who unites all Greeks from the minute this procedure began.”

He said he sought to nominate a candidate who would “symbolize the youth of the Greek nation, and I am glad that the result confirmed that on the big issues, we can finally agree.”

Greek Prime Minister kyriakos Mitsotakis, front, applauds with other members of the government during a parliamentary session to vote for the new Greek President, in Athens, on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2019. High court judge Katerina Sakellaropoulou has been elected at Greece's first female president with an overwhelming majority in a parliamentary vote. (AP PhotoPetros Giannakouris)

European officials congratulated Sakellaropoulou, with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen welcoming the election of Greece’s first female president in a tweet that said the country was “moving ahead into a new era of equality.”

European Council head Charles Michel also tweeted congratulations, saying it was “a great signal to elect the Republic’s first female head of state.”

Greek lawmakers applaud during a parliamentary session to vote for the new Greek President, in Athens, on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2019. High court judge Katerina Sakellaropoulou has been elected at Greece's first female president with an overwhelming majority in a parliamentary vote. (AP PhotoPetros Giannakouris)