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With a nod from parliament, Greece gets first female president

epa08131091 (FILE) - Ekaterini Sakellaropoulou, speaks during a plenary session of the Supreme Court, in Athens, Greece, 10 January 2020 (issued 15 January 2020). Ekaterini Sakellaropoulou, the first woman to become president of the Council of State, is Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' candidate for President of the Greek Republic, as he announced at a televised address. EPA-EFE/PANTELIS SAITAS

ATHENS, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Top judge Katerina Sakellaropoulou became Greece's first woman president on Wednesday when lawmakers elected her head of state in a rare display of unity.

Sakellaropoulou, 64, has been president of the Council of State, Greece’s top administrative court. She will succeed Prokopis Pavlopoulos, whose five-year term expires in March.

In an unusual demonstration of harmony in the fractious world of Greek politics, the conservative party nominee was backed by opposition parties, including the leftist Syriza party which lost power in an election last July.

She was backed by 261 MPs in the 300-member parliament.

Sakellaropoulou, from the northern city of Thessaloniki, became the first female head of the Council of State in 2018, supported for that position by the then leftist government.

A divorcee who lives in central Athens and is active on social media, Sakellaropoulou has written numerous papers on environmental protection and chairs a society on environmental law. She is also an avid cat-lover.

For decades, failure by parliament to elect a president in Greece could lead to a snap election. Following a recent reform, the process to select a president can go up to five voting rounds in parliament with the threshold starting at 200 votes and gradually falling to the majority of those present in the room. (Editing by William Maclean)

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