Maybe it is because we are so accustomed to division and dysfunction that whenever a Greek does well abroad, or whenever our politicians, state machinery or institutions get something right, we break free of our malaise and are overwhelmed by joy and optimism.
In the case of athletes, artists and academics, their success often has little to do with the collective virtues of the Greeks or state support, depending mostly on their own talent, efforts and sacrifices. The many revel in the exploits of the few. But when our politicians and state representatives surprise us with consensus and seriousness, contrary to the dominant culture of conflict and obstructionism, the victory belongs to us all.
On the face of it, the broad support for Katerina Sakellaropoulou’s candidacy for the presidency may not look like cause for excessive optimism. Of course, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was wise to propose the president of the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court; as the SYRIZA government had appointed her to that leading role in the judiciary it would be difficult for the main opposition party to reject her candidacy.
But how many of us, though, would have been surprised if SYRIZA and KINAL had voted against her, as the smaller parties are planning to do? SYRIZA and KINAL’s support suggests that Sakellaropoulou will be elected with around 266 votes (out of 300) in the first round of voting in Parliament on January 22. This consensus, though, might not have been possible if the Constitution still stipulated that failure by Parliament to elect a new president with at least 180 votes would lead to national elections. This change was one of the positive results of SYRIZA’s term in government.
Sakellaropoulou’s election is a big deal. Not only because she is the first woman president, and an excellent choice with broad support, but because it shows that our political system is capable of solving problems, of adapting.
Devotion to democracy and a display of unity by the great majority of our politicians (as we saw also in the prime minister’s recent briefing of political party leaders) is the strongest message that our country can send out at this time.
After so many years of crisis and difficulty, despite the plague of division, while other countries move toward autocracy, we shore up democracy and its principles. This is our strength and our hope.