ATHENS, Aug 27 (Reuters) - Greece has its first female prime minister - if only for just over three weeks.
Top Supreme Court judge Vassiliki Thanou, 65, will be sworn in on Thursday to head a caretaker government that will lead the country to elections expected on Sept. 20
A vocal anti-austerity advocate, she made a name for herself as a judge who openly battled against wage cuts imposed on the Greek judiciary to appease European and International Monetary Fund lenders.
She argued that competitive salaries were essential to uphold the integrity of court officials and also openly decried as illegal an unpopular property tax first introduced in 2012 under the bailout programme.
Thanou’s main task as caretaker prime minister will be to ensure Greece is safely taken to elections within roughly three weeks, leaving her without any mandate to implement the anti-austerity agenda that she has openly espoused.
“The wrong economic policy which was implemented in the past five years, in line with the bailouts that were imposed by the (lenders) and failed, have led to a deeper recession, unemployment and the impoverishment of most of the Greek people,” Thanou wrote in an open letter to her European counterparts in July.
In another letter to the president of the European Commission in February, Thanou - who was vice president of the Supreme Court at the time - called on Jean-Claude Juncker to help the “Greek people regain their dignity”.
She was appointed president of the Supreme Court by the government in June after her precedessor retired, days before a referendum on an EU-backed bailout programme was held.
Her appointment at the time drew fierce criticism from the main opposition, the conservative New Democracy party.
According to the Greek constitution, the role of caretaker prime minister can be assumed by the presiding judge at one of the country’s top three courts - the Council of State, the Court of Auditors and the Supreme Court. Thanou secured the post because the presiding judge position at the other two courts is currently vacant, the presidency said in a statement.
Thanou, who speaks Greek, English and French, has spent her entire career in Greece’s judiciary. After studying law in Athens and Paris she became a judge in April 1975. In 1992, she was appointed president of the First Instance Court and in 2005 of the Appeals Court.
She is married and has three daughters. (Editing by Deepa Babington/Jeremy Gaunt)