Campaign rules and electoral system to change for March 7 national elections

Quite apart from the especial interest caused by the political factors shaping these elections, the electoral system itself has been revamped for the upcoming national elections. Voters, parties and candidates will cast their ballots and run campaigns under new conditions. New amendments have been passed on the conduct of pre-election campaigns. At the same time, there have been changes in the electoral districts and in the electoral body, which is the most multitudinous ever to take part in any election. The first pre-election package of measures, which were implemented in the second week in February, is characterized by restrictions on the activities of parliamentary candidates. Thus, the pre-election period began with no election booths, with leading names absent from television talk shows and essentially without political advertisements. Billboards, banners trailed by airplanes, and giant posters have been ruled illegal. Offenders will be fined, while MPs exceeding election funding limits or operating election centers are threatened with the forfeiture of their seat in Parliament. Political offices have replaced election centers, which may not number more than three per candidate, cannot be on the ground floor, and, above all, cannot be decked with flags, banners and posters. The only thing allowed is one photograph per candidate, magnified, of course – 3 by 1 meters, as the relevant circular stipulates. But there are also changes to voting procedures. Two firsts mark these elections: The electorate will not need electoral booklets to vote, while for the first time voters registered in another municipality can vote in their place of residence. Although the measure will be in force for the first time, of a total 450,000 voters registered outside their place of residence, one-third will be voting where they live. The overwhelming majority of this third will be casting their ballots in Attica (104,905) in a total of 194 electoral wards. The largest single section of these voters come from Aitoloacarnania. All voters registered elsewhere will vote at 404 special electoral wards, of which 298 will be solely set aside for such voters. The electorate The electorate has also changed considerably as it has the greatest number of new voters. Voters number 9,749,549, an increase of 818,459 over the parliamentary elections of 2000. Women voters (at 5,077,041) outnumber men, while newly registered voters account for 548,404. Eleven electoral districts (Arcadia, Athens’s First Electoral District, Viotia, Grevena, Ileia, Karditsa, Lasithi, Rethymnon, Trikala and Fthiotida) have shed voters. The greatest drop in the electorate has been seen in Athens’s First Electoral District, which was reduced by 19,693 voters, while the greatest reduction percentage-wise took place in Karditsa (11,645). By contrast, Athens’s Second Electoral District (by 223,373) shows a large rise in the number of voters, as does the Laconia prefecture (by 37,907). These changes in the electorate reflect the changes in the real populations of the prefectures, alterations which – according to the last census (2001) – changed the distribution of parliamentary seats in the electoral districts. The conclusions of the last population census have resulted in a total of 20 parliamentary seats in 13 electoral districts being transferred. The winner from this reshuffling of seats is Athens’s Second Electoral District, which will send to Parliament four more MPs; the district of Attica, which will have three more MPs and the First Electoral District of Thessaloniki, which gains two. Two new single-seat districts have been created, since Thesprotia and Fokida lose a seat each. They have been added to the six single-seat districts of Evrytania, Lefkada, Grevena, Samos, Zakynthos and Cephalonia. Six electoral districts – the First Electoral District of Piraeus, Fthiotida, Messinia, Magnesia, Arcadia and Pella – will lose one seat each, while the First Electoral District of Athens will lose two, electing 17 deputies instead of 19. Athens’s Second Electoral District will get the lion’s share of these seats, electing 42 instead of 38 deputies, followed by Attica, which will elect 12 deputies instead of nine, the First Electoral District of Thessaloniki, which will elect 16 deputies instead of 14 and the Dodecanese, which will increase its seats by one, to have five deputies.