The Greek Constitution gives the right to Greeks living abroad to vote remotely if they are enrolled to vote in Greece. However, for decades, the Greek Parliament did not implement a procedure for Greeks abroad to vote. At the last elections, New Democracy promised to implement voting by mail for Greeks abroad.
After the elections, the ND government was blackmailed by the communist KKE and leftist SYRIZA parties, resulting in burdensome conditions for remote voting. So, for those who can vote without restrictions by traveling to Greece, the parties of the left have taken away the right to vote unless the voters have filed taxes recently in Greece or lived in the country for two of the last 35 years.
Additionally, the present law requires that Greeks abroad vote at Greek consulates, even if they live thousands of miles away. For example, the closest consulate to Montana is in San Francisco, 1,200 miles away.
It is obvious that these conditions were created with the aim to reduce both the eligible number and the actual number of Greeks voting remotely, especially in the US. The recent governmental proposal to abolish these restrictions is clearly in the right direction – but not sufficient. The simple and fair solution is the establishment of voting by mail for all Greeks abroad who are enrolled in the voting registry in Greece, as is done in many European countries and the United States.
Greece’s relationship with the diaspora
For those who emigrated from Greece, the solution is voting by mail. However, this group is a small minority of the Greek diaspora, where most are of second or older generations. Some speak Greek, some don’t. Some know their Greek ancestry, some are looking for it. Greece had abandoned them for generations.
The present government is attempting to create a bridge with them through the Ministry of Greeks Abroad. It is no easy task. In that respect the Greek-American organizations, even though they are small, can help the Greek government in getting in touch with the diaspora. There is a need to create activities that would bring a glimpse of Greece to third and earlier generation descendants of Greek immigrants.
The geopolitical position of Greece, especially in the presence of instability during the last decade, requires a strong presence and promotion of its positions in the USA. This means that Greece needs a strong lobby of non-Greek professionals that would promote Greek positions and foreign policy, help the mass media publish articles that are friendly to Greece as well as articles criticizing Turkish positions and policies.
You may ask, is it not enough for the archbishop to represent us, that the White House invites bouzoukia to celebrate Greek Independence Day, or that we embrace the president’s nickname with a Greek ending (“Bidenopoulos”)? Unfortunately, these are quite insufficient. The archbishop has other important duties and responsibilities. The bouzoukia, the familiarity, and the Greek surname assigned to the president create the illusion of success.
However, the support of the USA is as important to Greece today as was the support of England, France, and Russia in 1821. Despite Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s many gaffes and his policies that clearly violate the principles of the NATO alliance, given the geopolitical balance, the USA has not decided to fully support the Greek positions.
This is why Greece needs to maximize its effort in influencing the United States. Greece needs to spend money, to hire non-Greek professional lobbyists, to create a pro-Greek influence in the US media, in the US deep state, and the United States government. Turkey spends over $100 million per year on lobbying in the United States. It is imperative that we imitate Turkey in this.
Nicholas Economides is professor of economics at Stern School of Business, New York University.