Veteran conservative Pavlopoulos elected Greek president
ATHENS, Greece – Greece's parliament on Wednesday, February 18, elected pro-European conservative Prokopis Pavlopoulos as the country's new president, a move calculated to bolster the hard-left government in its critical EU bailout talks.
The former minister and expert in public law was put forward for the post in a bid to draw much-needed cross-party support as debt-laden Greece races to negotiate a new loan deal with its international creditors.
Pavlopoulos, 64, who takes up a largely honorary post, was elected to a five-year term with 233 yes votes in the 300-seat chamber. He had to secure over 180 votes to win.
His election "shows a desire for national unity regarding (Greece's) creditors," political expert Elias Nicolacopoulos told Agence France-Presse.
He was considered a safe choice, being largely untainted by the controversy surrounding the country's loathed bailout obligations, agreed to by the former conservative government.
While Pavlopoulos did not vote against austerity measures brought in by his New Democracy party, he distanced himself from stringent austerity measures many Greeks said were strangling the economy and punishing the poor.
"He took a critical position on the memorandum," the hated deal which laid down the bailout rules, Nicolacopoulos said.
Parliament broke into applause when the results of the election were announced.
It was the country's failure to elect a president in December that triggered the snap poll that brought the radical left Syriza party to power last month.
His nomination was delayed earlier this week reportedly after disagreements within Syriza about the choice of candidate.
The government's choice of Pavlopoulos puzzled some within the party, as his legacy is inconsistent with the new hard-left government's pledges to revolutionize political life in the country.
But Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had said the new president had "a proven democratic sensitivity, a high feeling of national conscience, and... enjoys broad approval in society and parliament."
His career has not been entirely devoid of controversy, however.
Pavlopoulos was accused by critics of filling thousands of public sector jobs with friends and supporters of New Democracy during his stint as interior and public administration minister from 2004 to 2009.
His reputation was hit again by the 2008 riots that broke out on his watch after the death of a 15-year-old Greek student, Alexandros Grigoropoulos, who was shot by police in Athens.
More recently, the mild-mannered Pavlopoulos was criticized for not lifting a finger to help a female Communist lawmaker, who was struck in the face by a neo-Nazi politician during a morning talk show in 2012.
But supporters applaud Pavlopoulos's diplomatic finesse and legal expertise. – Rappler.com