Greece’s first female president, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, was sworn in for a five-year term on Friday at a ceremony scaled down due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Sakellaropoulou, 64, an ex-president of the Council of State, Greece’s top administrative court, will succeed Prokopis Pavlopoulos.
Sakellaropoulou took a religious oath at a ceremony confined to a limited number of lawmakers and other officials as Greece has cancelled public gatherings and closed schools and theatres to stem the spread of the virus.
As the country grapples with over a hundred coronavirus cases, handshakes were excluded from the ceremony on Friday. Sakellaropoulou was elected by parliament in January by 261 out of 300 lawmakers, one of the broadest cross-party majorities in Greek history. She has set out her priorities as tackling the economic crisis, climate change and mass migration.
The daughter of a Supreme Court judge, Sakellaropoulou completed postgraduate studies at Paris’s Sorbonne university. She was the first woman to lead the Council of State. Although the president is nominally the head of the Greek state and commander-in-chief, the post is largely ceremonial. Greek presidents confirm governments and laws and technically have the power to declare war — but only in conjunction with the government.
In an unusual demonstration of harmony in the fractious world of Greek politics, Sakellaropoulou, the conservative party nominee, had been backed by opposition parties, including the leftist Syriza which lost power in an election last July.
Greece has so far announced 117 cases of coronavirus, one of whom died on Thursday after ten days in hospital. Three people are in intensive care and the government has shut down schools and universities, courts, cinemas, gyms and other indoor public gathering areas for two weeks in an effort to curb the outbreak.