The inner cabinet on Tuesday approved a draft bill executing the Constitution, which allows Greeks resident abroad to vote in Greek elections from their place of residence, during a session chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. Presenting the proposed legislation, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos urged the political parties to cooperate in passing the bill into law.
“We cannot deprive expatriates of their right to participate in the political life of the country. It is dictated by the Constitution but is also our obligation towards them when we know how much we owe them and how much they can renew the political life of the country through their participation and their ideas,” he underlined.
The minister explained that the government and political parties, in a discussion also initiated via the foreign ministry, had arrived at certain general guidelines that were included in the present draft legislation to be tabled in Parliament.
This gives the right to vote to Greeks that are permanently resident abroad and those that are stationed abroad, either working for Greek foreign services or as employees of international organisations. These will be included in special electoral rolls to be compiled and regularly updated by Greek consulates.
Unlike the draft legislation originally proposed by the government, however, they will not be able to vote for candidates standing for election in Greece but for candidates running specifically as representatives of Greeks abroad, who will be included each party’s list of state. Every party can name up to three such candidates in its state deputies list, while they must all be permanently resident abroad for at least 10 years.
According to Pavlopoulos, this avoids problems involving the removal of seats from regions in Greece while ensuring representation of Greeks living outside the country.
The minister clarified that the proposed bill will be transitional, since this would be the first time that the Greeks abroad would vote in elections. Once it had been tested in practice, the government would then examine the possibility of representation for specific regions abroad and ways in which the Constitutional provision for a postal vote might be implemented in practice.
He also explained that the votes of expatriates participating in the elections would be added to the total of those voting throughout the country and in this way, their percentage would also be taken into account when calculating the allocation of seats in Parliament to each party.
By tabling the draft bill in Parliament, the government was fulfilling the pledge it had originally made in 2004 to bring a draft law executing the Constitution and thus give Greeks abroad the chance to vote, Pavlopoulos stressed.
Pointing out that the first attempt presented in 2006 had been blocked by the opposition parties – since the bill requires a two-thirds majority in order to be passed by Parliament – he stressed that everyone in Parliament must now be held responsible for their actions. (Source: ANA-MPA)
In favor of a postal and consulate vote is main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou who also supports the creation of separate districts for the Diaspora in order to ensure genuine representation of the expatriate vote in the Greek Parliament.
According to information, he is against the government proposal and does not want to involve the expatriates in a petty politicking treasure hunt.