Sakellaropoulou, 63, is the current president of the Council of State, Greece’s top administrative court. When she was elevated to the post in 2018, she became the first woman to head the country’s highest court.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis made the announcement in a surprise television address on Wednesday.
“It’s time our country got an honorable Greek woman for its highest political position,” Prime Minister Mitsotakis said.
He then went on to say the choice embodies “unity and progress.”
In less than twenty-four hours after the announcement, opposition parties had backed Sakellaropoulou’s nomination. She is expected to secure more than 260 votes out of a 300-seat parliament. Only 200 votes are required to elect a new president, who serve set five-year terms.
Sakellaropoulou is not a member of any political party, and is well-known for her championing of environmental issues and human rights law. She has also served as President of the Hellenic Society for Environmental Law since 2015.
While the role of president carries little political weight in Greece, the president is commander in chief of the Greek armed forces and is responsible for the formal appointment of the prime minister.
The term of incumbent President Prokopis Pavlopoulos ends in March.
Sakellaropoulou’s nomination for president is a significant move for Prime Minister Mitsotakis, who has a poor track record of appointing women to senior roles.
As of 2019, Greece ranks last in the European Union on the Gender Equality Index with a lowly 51.2 out of 100 points. Gender inequality is most pronounced in the domain of power, where Greece scores 24.3.
According to the Greek Reporter, recent research found that three out of four Greeks believe more women are needed in politics.