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Expat Greeks Miss Out on Voting Rights

A common theme in the news over recent months has been the number of expats missing out on the chance to vote in their own elections. We recently reported, for example, that many Romanian expats had failed to vote due to technical problems. The UK’s Conservative government is also making strides to over-rule the current voting rules, which prevent expats who have been abroad for over 15 years from voting on UK matters. Now, however, it seems we can Greece to this list of disgruntled expat voters.

Greece’s new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is already turning heads with his full-frontal attack on the Greek way of life. For one, a key aspect of his election manifesto involved renegotiating the painful debt repayments that Greece is still repaying after the collapse of their economy in 2010. He maintains that while Greece will not default on the sums owed, he does plan to re-negotiate the terms of the agreement. Austerity measures have been extreme in Greece, and many Greek nationals feel they have been unfairly treated by the rest of Europe.

However the result of the election could have been very different if the estimated 7 million Greek expats spread around the world had been able to vote. Whether or not Greek expats should be allowed to vote has been a long-contested subject, subject to much debate both within and without Greece.

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in the favour of Greek expats unable to vote in the past, and most recently the Greek Parliament voted to approve expat voting rights once and for all. Finally, it seemed, a resolution had been met. Once sworn onto the statute books, Greek expats around the world would be legally entitled to vote on matters of national importance.

Sadly though, it seems the roll-out has been too slow to allow voting at the recent Greek elections.

The new legislation was tabled for discussion in December, whereupon this relatively simple change should have rapidly been adopted and incorporated into the Greek statute. As the policy was generally supported by all parties, the motion should have passed reasonably easily. Expats around the world had hoped therefore that by 2015 they would be fully entitled to vote on matters of Greek politics.

Sadly, it seems that the collapse of the New Democracy government late in 2014 has led to some significant changes in parliament. With the turmoil that this collapse led to, it was essential to elect a new government as soon as possible; something that has taken priority of expat voting rights.

And so it was that a new government is now in office, without any of Greece’s millions of expats around the world having any say in the matter.

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