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Parliament Approves New Law Easing Vote for Greeks Abroad

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A total of 208 MPs – eight more than the constitutional requirement – backed the new law. Credit: A. Makris / GreekReporter

Parliament has approved a new law easing the requirements for Greek citizens residing abroad wishing to vote in Greek elections.

A total of 208 MPs – eight more than the constitutional requirement – from ruling New Democracy, PASOK-Movement for Change, Niki and Course of Freedom backed the bill, while lawmakers from the main opposition SYRIZA and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) voted against it.

The far-right Spartans and Greek Solution parties abstained.

The new law will apply to both Greek nationals living permanently abroad as well as to Greeks who happen to be abroad on election day.

Some of the restrictions the bill abolishes include the length of stay in Greece (2 years during the last 35 years) before voting and to have filed taxes during the current year or the previous one from the year of elections.

These restrictions prevented the majority of voters abroad from participating in elections. The constitution provides the option of introducing voting restrictions on voting from abroad but does not mandate them, leaving that right to Parliament’s discretion.

Easing restrictions for Greeks voting from abroad “should unite us”

The lifting of restrictions was an election pledge by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Speaking during the parliamentary debate on Monday the Greek premier called on all parties to support the bill.

“We are dealing with an issue that is above party lines. It is an issue that should unite us. The first bill that lifts all restrictions to the right to vote by Greeks who live outside Greece.”

Mitsotakis said that the government had made two attempts in 2019 to give registered Greek voters abroad the option of voting in Greek elections from their place of residence – an area where Greece lagged compared to most advanced countries – before arriving at a compromise.

The time was now ripe, he added, to “make the great leap forward” and pass legislation that corrected observed mistakes and errors in this legislation.

“We are bridging our relationship with the Greek diaspora in every corner of the globe. We have the opportunity to promote a bold measure without party colors and a national stamp. A victory of parliament, a victory of democracy. I call on you all to together approve the lifting of all obstacles to voting by registered voters abroad from their place of residence,” the prime minister said, concluding his address to Parliament.

Although Greeks nationals were able to exercise their right to vote from abroad for the first time in the 2023 general elections in May and June, critics pointed out that the Greek diaspora was mostly absent.

Only 22,816 out of millions of Greeks residing all over the world were entitled to vote – an enormous gap from the 300,000 citizens that Greek officials had previously estimated that they wanted to have a say in the next election.

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