Process to allow Greeks abroad to vote in general elections set in motion

In a bid to put an end to a debate that has dragged on for decades, the interior ministry has set in motion a process to give Greeks living abroad the right to vote in elections held in Greece, setting up an expert committee to discuss the various aspects involved.

The committee held its first meeting last Tuesday and is called to provide an opinion on three key issues: who will be given the right to vote, who they can vote for and how they will vote. In an address at this first meeting, Interior Minister Alexis Charitsis said that, while the law allows five months for the committee to deliver its final conclusions, the ministry is aiming to bring this forward to January, given that 2019 is an election year. This will allow a period of dialogue between the political parties, allowing a bill on the overseas vote to be passed by the current parliament.

Speaking to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency, a member of the committee said the first of these issues will be tackled at the next meeting, while noting that this raised a number of thorny constitutional issues – such as whether there will be different treatment of those that have lived permanently abroad for more than a certain number of years.

The second question concerns whether those voting overseas will vote for the candidates standing in the electoral district where they are registered, state deputies or special ‘overseas voters’ candidates.

The third and possibly simplest problem is whether Greeks abroad will be required to cast their vote at the nearest consulate or through a postal vote.

Deputy Foreign Minister Terens Quick for overseas Greeks, in statements to the ANA, expressed his personal satisfaction over the launch of this process and forecast that Greeks living abroad will have the right to vote in the next elections, providing the opposition does not “torpedo” the procedure.

“I am very happy that the bill for the formation of the committee that will give the vote to Greeks resident abroad also bears my signature…Ten days ago I paid a visit to Interior Minister General Secretary Kostas Poulakis, who assured me that the committee’s proposal, so that we can immediately proceed with the final draft legislation, will be ready within the foreseen deadlines and possibly before the end of the year,” he said.

If the process was not mired by delays and groundless objections by the opposition, especially in Parliament, he added, then Greek nationals resident abroad will be able to vote in their place of residence in the next elections in September 2019, he added.

Asked why the government was taking this initiative at this time, Quick noted that it had been part of his agenda from the first day that he was elected as deputy minister.