Cyprus elects its 1st-ever female parliament speaker

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Newly elected Cypriot President of parliament Annita Demetriou addresses to the parliament after her elected in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Thursday, June 10, 2021. Cyprus' lawmakers elected Demetriou to the country's second most powerful political post since its founding as an independent republic in 1960, in a move seen as a major step in leveling the political playing field for women who have been traditionally under-represented in politics. (AP Photo/Philippos Christou)

NICOSIA – Lawmakers in Cyprus on Thursday elected a woman to the country's second most powerful political post for the first time since its founding as an independent republic in 1960.

Annita Demetriou was elected parliamentary speaker on the second ballot with 25 votes in the 56-seat parliament. The choice seen as a major step in leveling the political playing field for women in the divided eastern Mediterranean island, who have been traditionally under-represented in politics.

The 35-year-old lawmaker said that she assumes the post “with a deep sense of responsibility" and pledged to work with “impartiality and objectivity."

Political leaders and colleagues praised Demetriou, the only female among other six other male rivals for the position.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said he’s “particularly pleased” with Demetriou’s election because a woman now holds the country’s most powerful political post behind the presidency.

“What's most important is that a strong message is being sent out to all women of Cyprus, to all citizens of Cyprus, that women can and must strive for such positions because they deserve them," Anastasiades told reporters.

Demetriou belongs to the center-right Democratic (DISY) Party that Anastasiades previously led for many years.

There have been a number of notable female politicians in the country's 61-year history since gaining independence from British colonial rule. But the proportion of women to men holding top positions has been dismal.