The fact that the new president of the Hellenic Republic is both a woman and a judge with a long and positive presence in the public eye raises hopes that the election of Katerina Sakellaropoulou will be not only a symbolic turning of the page for the country but a substantial step toward the maturing of our politics and modernization of our society.
If this seems an impossible burden for one person, let’s look at the current situation, social dynamics and citizens’ needs, to see whether there is any hope of our covering the distance between the present and a better future.
Things are difficult today – in Greece, in the broader region and across the globe. As many commented after Sakellaropoulou was nominated by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the presidency is ceremonial and the country has serious problems in the functioning of democracy, in gender equality, and so on.
This is so. Sakellaropoulou, though, will be successful because of her abilities, and regardless of her gender, like so many other women in the past and today. The fact, though, that she will hold the nation’s highest office will show children, in the best possible way, that all people are equal. We expect that legislators, state functionaries, employers and spouses will get the same message.
Change has come at a time when the river of political energy is rising, when all citizens have a voice on social media. The president will be a daily reminder and challenge to people to get involved in politics. Political parties will be forced to join the 21st century, unless they want to be left behind by society.
The fact that the three largest parties voted for Sakellaropoulou underlines the political significance of her election.
In her statement after Parliament’s vote was delivered to her, the new president said that she looks toward “a society that, on the basis of its long democratic tradition, heals the wounds of the past, deals with present challenges and gazes upon the future with optimism.”
Sakellaropoulou recognizes the fact that the wounds remain open, that they undermine the present and the future. As a judge, she will be aware that one deep wound is citizens’ complaint of inequality before the law, of the lack of fair opportunities, of the strong gaining at the expense of the whole, of big words and false promises.
If the president’s presence, her gaze, judgment and comments can inspire citizens’ trust in politics and the state, her contribution will be truly revolutionary.