The World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) expressed its approval in principle of the interior ministry-sponsored landmark draft law granting to Greek expatriates living permanently abroad the right to vote in national elections in Greece from their country of residence. The positive opinion was expressed in principle by SAE President Stefanos Tamvakis, and Regional Coordinators of SAE USA Teo Spyropoulos, SAE Canada Costas Menegakis, and SAE Africa-Near/Middle East Charis Gouvelis in the joint meeting of the parliamentary committees on Public Administration, Public Order and Justice and Greeks Abroad held on Wednesday.
“These are historic moments,” the SAE President stressed, pointing out that the draft law “allows us to vote in national elections in Greece from our country of residence and that’s why we accept the vote we are being given.”
He also called for the option of voting by mail, apart from ballot box, as well as for the immediate registering of overseas Greeks in voting lists.
On SAE’s demand to establish expatriate electoral districts, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos stressed that a Constitutional amendment should precede such a decision considering that currently there is no such provision in the Constitution.
“For this reason we resorted to an indirect representation through a nationwide ballot (epikrateias) that will allow each political party to elect up to three expatriate MPs,” the minister stressed. Pavlopoulos also stated that a transitional clause could allow a future government to issue a presidential decree giving expatriates the vote by mail option.
Pavlopoulos pointed out that the positions of SAE should not serve as the field for confrontation between political parties.
The negative stance adopted by main opposition PASOK was criticized by Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis, responsible for Greeks Abroad, reminding that when the government tabled the draft law had invited indirectly all political parties to present their proposals to be included in the draft law in the form of amendments during its discussion in the parliament’s plenary session.
On his part, SAE Africa-Near/Middle East Regional Coordinator Charis Gouvelis stressed “the need for the options of ballot box and vote by mail and suggested the establishment of expatriate electoral districts to elect representatives in Parliament adding that the registration of the Greeks abroad should proceed.”
SAE USA Regional Coordinator Teo Spyropoulos underlined that “we support the draft law while the mail vote option and the establishment of electoral districts can be discussed in the future. I believe that the political parties in Greece will consider the specific need of the Greek expatriates.”
SAE Canada Regional Coordinator Costas Menegakis stated that the draft law meets the expectations of the Omogeneia in Canada considering that it guarantees the right to vote from their country of residence. He also called on the political parties to consider in the future the option of election of Greek expatriate representatives from their own electoral districts in their countries of residence through ballot box and mail vote.
On his part, main opposition PASOK representative Tilemachos Hytiris underlined that his party’s positions coincide with the positions heard “namely, the vote by mail, the electoral districts, the representation in the Greek Parliament and the voter registration that needs to be done.”
“However, the proposed draft law does not refer to all that,” he said, accusing the government of sketchy work.
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) representative Antonis Skyllakos stated that his party is not opposed to the Greek expatriates’ right to vote if they are registered voters and is in favor of large electoral districts adding, however, that the political life of Greece cannot depend on people who might not even speak the language.
SYRIZA representative Nikolaos Tsoukalis stressed the need for electoral districts and accused the government of being in a hurry to get the vote of the expatriates without the necessary preparation.
Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) representative Adonis Georgiadis was in favor of the expatriate vote and accused PASOK of hiding behind the positions of SAE for election campaign purposes.