OPINION

Diaspora vote is not an issue to fight over

diaspora-vote-is-not-an-issue-to-fight-over

After decades of debate, unnecessary sparring and much inertia, Greece’s Parliament in December 2019 passed a law giving Greeks abroad the right to vote in our national elections. Not everyone agreed on everything; there were different approaches, obstacles and arguments in favor of one side or the other, over what conditions need to exist, how close to Greece those seeking to vote actually are, etc.

In order to address these differences and give the initiative a sense of cross-party consensus, certain limitations were agreed, which are now viewed as “unjust and degrading” by some, but were not seen as such at the time. In any case, they were part of the law ratified in late 2019 for registering diaspora Greeks on the local electoral roll.

Beyond the statements of ministers and other officials and the divergence of views not just between the government and the opposition but also among the opposition parties, the law was at long last passed.

Is it a perfect law? Of course not. Can it be improved? Undoubtedly. Will everyone agree on a better version? Not likely.

In any case, the law that was passed must be put into force even as a first step in a process of deepening ties between Greece and diaspora Greeks by giving the latter a voice in Parliament in Athens – either as is or by removing the prerequisite of having had resided in Greece for two consecutive years. If this is the biggest obstacle to the legislation, then a viable compromise would be to keep the requirement of candidates having spent time in Greece but not the demand that it be continuous. Time spent in the country for holidays or other reasons could count towards that.

Petty partisan interests aside, the expectation is that the albeit small presence of diaspora representatives in the House will prove extremely useful as long as they act in the interest of the nation more than in the interest of the party, which is so often the case with their local colleagues.

The enduring bond between the two facets of Hellenism – those inside Greece and those outside – must be safeguarded by staying as far away as possible from partisan bickering.

Given that governments in Greece will change, but the close and nationally beneficial cooperation of each with the diaspora must carry on, the diaspora vote legislation should have enjoyed more cross-party support. Yet, once again Greece’s political parties managed to turn even that into a fight.