Veteran conservative Pavlopoulos elected Greek president

ATHENS (AFP) - Greece's parliament on Wednesday 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.

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 Pavlopoulus did not vote against austerity measures brought in by his New Democracy party, he distanced himself from stringent measures many Greeks said were strangling the economy and punishing the poor.

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 the following month that brought the radical left Syriza party to power.

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 revolutionise political life in the country.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had however said the new president had "a proven democratic sensitivity, a high feeling of national conscience, and... enjoys broad approval in society and parliament."

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