The bill on postal voting for Greeks living abroad was approved for the European elections but rejected for national elections during a parliamentary vote on Wednesday. It was supported by the governing New Democracy party (ND) but was opposed by opposition parties.
Out of 200 MPs, 158 all belonging to ND, voted in favor of postal in European Parliament elections in Greece and national referendums. Another 135 rejected it while six deputies voted “present.”
However, The amendment allowing Greeks living abroad to vote in national elections was rejected because it did not collect the required majority vote of two hundred. A total of 158 deputies voted for it, 135 rejected it, and 6 deputies voted “present.”
“For the first time in the history of the Greek state, postal voting is introduced,” said Interior Minister Niki Kerameus. “The removal of all practical barriers for our fellow citizens in Greece and abroad to exercise their voting rights. Our democracy is expanding.”
The provision was initially expected to pass by an overwhelming majority, but a surprise amendment introduced by the Interior Ministry, extending postal vote abroad also to national elections, triggered the outrage of opposition parties.
Kerameus vowed to reintroduce the amendment on the postal voting bill to include national elections until the required two hundred parliamentary votes are secured.
SYRIZA leader Stefanos Kasselakis criticized the government bill for not granting diaspora Greeks the right to run for office.
“Once again the New Democracy government is refusing to give you seats in Parliament. Refusing to give you the right to run for office and to represent your community from where you live,” Kasselakis, who until recently lived and worked in the US, said in a social media post addressed to “Greek experts and the Greek diaspora all over the world.”
Postal voting follows diaspora voting from country of residence
Announcing postal voting last November, Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis said, “It is a brave reform, it widens the electorate that participates in elections and is the most powerful answer to abstention and inaction.”
He pointed out that many groups of citizens, including the elderly, students, and seasonal workers far from their place of residence, can participate in the election procedure through the postal vote. Furthermore, he added that the activation of this possibility in the elections for the European Parliament this spring would be followed in the national elections.
The PM said that postal voting is a “brave institutional reform’ that follows his government’s initiative in 2021 to allow the diaspora to vote without having to fly back home.”
Until then, Greece was the only country in Europe—and perhaps the entire Western world— where full citizens living abroad were denied the right to vote in Greek elections from the country of their residence either by casting a ballot at the Greek embassy or through postal voting.
Two main requirements were accepted and imposed by the opposition in 2021. Those eligible to vote must have had a two-year stay in Greece in the last thirty-five years, which is difficult to prove, and those over thirty must be tax-registered in Greece.
The bureaucratic conditions imposed and the cumbersome process of finding and certifying the required documents have been discouraging for most of the diaspora.