According to the Greek Constitution, Greeks living abroad already have the right to vote in Greek elections but it was only in 2019 when this was – to some extent – facilitated by allowing them to vote at centres from their country of residence though the new rules fell short of giving them postal voting rights.
Lesbos deputy of the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Yiannis Bournous and Greek Communist Party (KKE) deputy Manolis Syntihakis focused on the government’s decision to facilitate the right of Greeks to vote abroad from their place of residence with an amendment to a 2019 law allowing for polling centres to be created in foreign countries for the first time. The measure required at least 200 votes in the 300-member Greek Parliament but fell short with just 190 votes.
Lesbos deputy of the Radical Left Coalition Yiannis Bournous and KKE Manolis Syntihakis both spoke in a derogatory way in reference to Greeks living in other countries during their discussion on the Greek diaspora while speaking on a panel on Greek channel Kontra 24 which went to air on Thursday, 27 May.
Both deputies stressed their conviction that Greeks abroad should not vote, nor should people get the vote “when they don’t even know where Greece falls on a map”.
Mr Bournous said, “There are rules, there are laws. You lost. People who don’t know where Greece is, will not vote.”
Mr Syntihakis also agreed with this position, calling on the Greek government’s efforts to facilitate the right of Greeks abroad to vote as “political show”.
“We were not swept away by the political game which you are playing against us in the ND effort for all to vote, without limits and criteria, even those who happen to have a distant ancestor in Greece and doesn’t even know where Greece is,” Mr Bournous said.
Speaking to Neos Kosmos in September 2015 when he headed SYRIZA’s political secretariat for foreign affairs, European policy, defence, international relations and Diaspora Greeks, Mr Bournous had said he was in favour of helping Greeks abroad vote, bearing in mind the fact that they are already able to vote in Greek elections were they to physically present themselves in the country to cast their ballot.
“We support the right of Greeks of the diaspora to vote, and those who are permanent residents abroad, registered on Greek electoral roles who wish to vote from their place of permanent residence but with certain preconditions to ensure this,” he had said.
Up until December 2019, Greek citizens permanently living abroad, who were on the electoral roll of Greece, could only vote in a national election if they were to travel to their country of origin. However, as a result of a rare consensus, and an overwhelming parliamentarian majority, where out of a total of 296 MPs present in Parliament, 288 voted in favour of granting the right to vote to Greek citizens living abroad. According to law 4648/2019, voters living abroad can exercise their right only in person; that is in the polling stations which will be set up in embassies, consulates and suitable venues of Greek diaspora organizations. For a polling station to be set up a minimum of forty registered voters is required.
In countries like Australia, Canada and the United States where there are large Greek communities, it is not practical for people to travel vast distances to get to a polling booth so an amendment was presented to Greek Parliament to make it more practical for Greek voters abroad to cast their ballot.
Greek lawmakers voted against the amendment of the 2019 law which will facilitate the right of polling booths to be created in countries outside Greece.
A large number of Greeks in Greece are opposed to giving Greeks abroad more than just lip service as far as exercising their constitutional right to vote, concerned that Greeks abroad – even those with property rights in the country – would be “uninformed” when casting their ballots.