Parliament approved by a simple majority on Thursday night the government’s proposed changes to the electoral system, with 179 votes in favor, 86 against and 16 MPs voting "present," meaning that 17-year-olds will be able to vote in the next general elections but also that the 50-seat bonus for the winning party will remain in place for now.
The coalition needed the backing of a minimum of 200 MPs for the bonus to be scrapped immediately, rather than after the next elections. However, this target never appeared to be within Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s grasp and he had to settle for support just from 15 Communist Party lawmakers, the nine MPs of the Union of Centrists and two independents, beyond the votes from SYRIZA and Independent Greeks deputies.
The debate ahead of the vote was marked by strong exchanges between the government and the opposition, which accused Tsipras of trying to push through a system of proportional representation because he fears losing the next elections and wants SYRIZA to have greater influence if it comes second.
New Democracy chief Kyriakos Mitsotakis accused Tsipras of “political cynicism” and argued that proportional representation would cause political instability. He repeated his pledge to change the electoral system if he wins the next elections and forms a government.
To Potami leader Stavros Theodorakis focused on the government’s refusal to consider the centrist party’s proposal to allow Greeks living abroad to vote in national elections. He also pointed out that under proportional representation, up to five parties could have to work together to form a government. “Is there such a level of convergence in today’s Parliament or is it just us who cannot see it?” said Theodorakis.