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Greece appoints first female prime minister

A monumental moment in Greek politics happened Friday when Vassiliki Thanou, president of the country's Supreme Court, was sworn in as the first female prime minister in the nation's history. The 65-year-old justice was named to head a caretaker government until the country holds early elections next month.

After a final effort to get political party leaders to form a coalition led by former Energy Minster Panagiotis Lafazanis failed, President Prokopis Pavlopoulos was obligated to appoint a caretaker administration.

The date for Greece's general elections—the fifth in six years—is to be officially announced in the next few days, but it is likely to be scheduled for Sept. 20, according to Greek political analysts.


Vassiliki Thanou (L) stands in front of Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos (R) during her swearing in ceremony as prime minister in Athens.
Alkis Konstantinidis | Reuters
Vassiliki Thanou (L) stands in front of Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos (R) during her swearing in ceremony as prime minister in Athens.

The snap election follows the resignation of Alexis Tsipras last week. After just seven months in office, he faced a rebellion in his radical left Syriza party led by Lafazanis over the austerity terms he agreed to with the European Union in order to secure Greece's third international bailout.

Syriza hard-liners were up in arms over the deal that demanded even harsher spending cuts and tax hikes than those Tsipras vowed to abolished when he was elected in January. The deal was approved with support from pro-European opposition parties, who now accuse him of rushing to call elections before voters are hit by the full force of the new tax measures.

Thanou's next move will be to appoint a Cabinet that will be sworn in and confirm the election date. Thanou is a critic of the European bailout program in Greece, according to The Telegraph newspaper in Britain.

Pavlopoulos announced Thanou's appointment after parliament's three largest parties failed to find coalition partners. The last to hold the mandate to form a government was Lafazanis, who created the new Popular Unity Party last week after splitting from Syriza, which he co-founded. This week, 53 of the 201 members of the Central Committee of Syriza submitted their resignations and joined Popular Unity. These dissidents have vowed to reject the new rescue agreement.

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It's expected that after the elections, Lafazanis will become the regulator of the political developments, as he will be the main critic of the austerity program, especially if his party takes third place in the elections.

Currently, there are no credible opinion polls in Greece to gauge how the political landscape will shift after the elections. Many political analysts predict that the New Democracy Party and Syriza will compete for first place. Regardless, Lafazanis, will be an ardent political opponent of the new Greek coalition government.

In an exclusive interview with CNBC, Lafazanis discussed his political views. "We aim to continue the radical commitments of Syriza," he said. "We are against privatizations, tax increases and pension cuts. If it is necessary to leave the euro zone and re-establish a national currency to end European subordination we will."

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The top of the party's agenda is to restore salaries and pensions to levels before 2010, as well as nationalize banks and private monopolies.

The factions that have emerged in Parliament threaten to gridlock the political process in Greece. Although Tsipras is expected to win the next election, it is unclear if he can secure enough parliamentary seats to govern alone. He has ruled out a coalition with any centrist opposition parties including PASOK and New Democracy, or the new Popular Unity Party.

—With additional reporting by Nasos Koukakis, special to CNBC.com