Do you remember the Greek elections of January 2015? It seems like it was decades ago, the way Greek politics work. But I remember it as if it was yesterday. Because I have rarely felt so useless and helpless.
At that time, I had been in Australia for two months, my relocation being a direct result of the crisis looming in Greece. I had seen three governments in four years, I wanted a say in the next one. I was furious that I couldn’t.
I remember when the election date was set. I was in a tram in the CBD, reading the news on my phone. I reached for my wallet and took out a small plastic card; on one side, it bore the image of a parliamentary debate taking place in Athens’ old parliament; on the other, my details, along with my electorate number.
I don’t think I had ever held a more useless official document. Here was a card that was issued to help me vote, but instead it was a symbol of how I was unable to do so in my place of residence.
I wanted to go to the consulate and scream at somebody.
In hindsight, I’m glad I wasn’t able to vote. Seeing how things in Greece have unfolded, I’m relieved that I had no involvement in it, that I’m not even remotely responsible for Greek politics and for decisions that affect the lives of people in Greece. And I certainly don’t want to have any such responsibility in the future.
As a journalist, working for a Greek newspaper, I live and breath Greek politics; at times, I feel that I’m addicted to Greek politics. I have strong opinions on people and situations – and these opinions are formed from (fairly recent) personal experience.
But that doesn’t mean I should get to vote.
It certainly doesn’t mean I should have a say on who should be the next PM.
In fact, anyone who has ever attended a civics lesson, should know that in the elections you don’t actually vote for PM – you vote for the legislative body, which then decides who should get to form a government. It is one of the tasks of the MPs, but not the only one.
These are the people who create the legal framework the country runs on.
Voting in parliamentary elections means having an opinion on who should be a lawmaker, what kind of laws should be voted, how the lives of Greeks should be regulated.
I don’t want to have this responsibility. Because my own life is now regulated by another legal framework.
It is been less than four years since I left the country that I had lived in all my life. I know what it means to live in Greece – and at the same time, I have no idea.
I may have family and friends there, I may be in contact with them, and share their stories, but I really don’t know what it is like living in Greece now. I can imagine, but I really have no idea what my life would be like if I had stayed there.
How could I possibly be asked to decide on other people’s lives? How can people who have been living in Australia for 10, 15, or 20 years – if not more – claim to know how it is to live in Greece?
As someone addicted to politics, I’m up for a roller-coaster ride, with the Victorian state elections coming up at the end of 2018, and a series of elections scheduled for 2019: for federal parliament here, for the Hellenic parliament, the European Parliament, you name it. I won’t be able to vote for any of these.
Greek laws prevent me from voting for the EU and Hellenic parliaments ,and I’m not an Australian citizen yet.
I’m in voting limbo. I don’t like it. But it’s better this way.
I’d rather wait and contribute responsibly to the country I live in than project my views on a ballot that decides how people will live 15,000 km away from where my family and I are staying. It’s the responsible thing to do.
Any discussion on how to regulate voting rights for Greeks abroad should start by setting a limit as to the length of stay abroad – how long someone has to be living away from Greece, before they lose their voting rights. I’ve been living abroad for less than four years – but I feel my voting rights have already expired.