The decision by Alexis Tsipras and Fofi Gennimata to endorse Katerina Sakellaropoulou for the position of president of the Republic guarantees that the senior judge will be elected with a comfortable majority to the highest position of state in the first vote to be held in Parliament six days from now.
Barring an isolated differentiation (a prospect that seems unlikely at the moment), the current president of the Council of State, which is Greece’s top administrative court, will garner at least 266 votes in the 300-strong House. The number of votes could grow further should more parties endorse her candidacy.
This show of political consensus comes at an appropriate time for the country: Turkey is disputing the sovereignty of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, while it is sending troops to Libya in support of the Tripoli-based government and granting energy exploration and drilling licenses in the Eastern Mediterranean. We simply cannot afford to be caught up in meaningless division and confrontation.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitstakis has made a sound choice. Sakellaropoulou, who would be the first female president of Greece if elected by lawmakers, is a dignified and moderate person, a renowned judge who has strong opinions but who is also able to strike a balance where necessary; she is a person who steers clear of partisanship and who has a progressive political background.
Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the leftist opposition, reacted appropriately. He mentioned that Sakellaropoulou had been selected by his SYRIZA administration as the first female head of the Council of State. He described her as an exceptional judge, saying that she had served passionately in the defense of fairness, individual rights and the religious neutrality of the state. The former premier did what was right.
He also criticized Mitsotakis and his government, noting that the decision not to re-elect incumbent Prokopis Pavlopoulos was contradictory and amoral. But criticizing is pretty much part of the job description. As long as it does not regress into populism, opposition is healthy and a useful instrument in keeping government power in check.
The leaders of Greece’s two main parties (which represent about three-quarters of the Greek people) have formally thrown their weight behind the next president of the Republic. Sure, they’re doing so from different starting points – but this is expected.
In a similar vein, Gennimata, leader of the center-left Movement for Change alliance (KINAL), endorsed Sakellaropoulou’s candidacy, praising her “integral democratic ethos, particularly during the years of the crisis.”
And with these announcements prolonged speculation about the country’s next president is finally coming to an end, in the best possible manner: with a nominee who will be a credit to the post, and with the political class displaying the warranted seriousness and responsibility on a very important matter.
One can only express the hope that, over the next five years, Sakellaropoulou will embody the unity of the Greek people, a much needed component for the smooth functioning of Greek democracy, especially in the present circumstances.