Greek citizens who do not live permanently in Greece will no longer have to travel back to the country during elections in order to cast their votes.
Greek Interior Minister Takis Theodorikakos announced on Monday that the Greek government will publish its bill giving Greek citizens abroad the right to vote from their place of residence. The new bill, set to be published in October, will allow Greeks of the diaspora to cast their ballots without having to be physically present in Greece on the day of the election.
Mr Theodorikakos’ announcement comes following a speech made by the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the 84th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF). In statements made during the PM’s annual press conference, Mr Mitsotakis said that the government would not give expatriate Greeks any additional rights or enlarge the electorate. “We are simply facilitating those that are already registered on an electoral roll to be able to vote in their place of residence. We are also examining the possibility of a postal vote,” he said.
Mr Theodorikakos said that an ‘absentee ballot’ would be introduced.
Over the coming weeks, Mr Mitsotakis will hold a series of meetings with all party leaders of Greek Parliament in order to draw up a bill that the Greek government hopes will be unanimously voted on.
“We are informing Greeks all over the world about the determination of the Greek government on this issue; when the time comes, we will also inform them about the decision of the House to facilitate them to be able to vote from their place of residence,” Mr Theodorikakos said.
“When the time comes we will inform them Greeks abroad on the parliament’s decision to facilitate them on voting from the country of their residence. It is time for Greece to enter the club of the civilised and advanced countries in terms of the elections procedure and this will be achieved in 2019 as the prime minister announced,” Theodorikakos said, speaking to SKAI radio.
Earlier this year, Greek Community of Melbourne President Bill Papastergiadis held a series of meetings with Greek ministers and the prime minister concerning the Greek vote and other issues. During those meetings, both Mr Mitsotakis and Mr Theodorikakos had pledged to support the vote for Greeks abroad.
Mr Papastergiadis expressed his pleasure during the latest development. “It is pleasing to see that the Prime Minister’s promise to me in our meeting has been kept,” he told Neos Kosmos. “The Prime Minister and Minister Theodorikakos both expressed to me the need for engagement with the diaspora. I made the point that Greece was the only country in the western world which did not afford its citizens abroad the right to vote. More importantly, I said that the right to vote was symbolic of a greater an deeper bond between the diaspora and Greece.
“This government has pledged to act quickly on key reforms. We are pleased to see that action and not words are now at the centre of the Greek Parliamentary process.”
Up until now, Greek citizens have only been able to vote from other European countries during EU elections. They have done so by visiting Greek embassies and consulates inside the EU.