The Greek diaspora and the right to vote

The Greek diaspora and the right to vote

The debate on the right of Greeks abroad to vote in national elections has come back to the forefront following the proposal tabled by New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Unfortunately, once again, nothing came of it. 

It is inconceivable that a country like Greece that boasts internationally (and rightly so) about its large diaspora – often describing it as a second Greece that lives outside the country’s borders – does not grant it the right to vote. 

“Small” Greece inside its national borders becomes larger, ecumenical, when it is supplemented by the other Greece that is present all over the world, and especially in some of the most powerful countries on the planet, starting with the superpower. 

Greeks abroad should be heard and, yes, influence Greece’s course. How they should go about it and to what extent should be examined by the experts who deal with electoral processes.

Should they vote for specific seats, for all of them, for the state list, or for districts as Greeks living in the country do?

Should criteria be introduced on time spent abroad, property owned in Greece or some other elements specifying who is entitled to vote? All these are issues that need to be discussed.

Many ideas have been offered. Experts should examine them, weigh up the pros and cons, and settle on a fair, practical and functional procedure. The point is to give them the right to vote, one way or another.

As for the argument that many of those who live outside of Greece are not interested in the country, a view that one could not describe as absurd, I think even here there is a simple answer: Those who are not interested in what is happening in Greece and who governs the country would probably not vote anyway. 

Greeks abroad – I feel like one of them – exert their influence and help Greece, beyond and above political parties. Just the other day, I was talking with a man in Washington who has access to power centers in the US, and who is far from being a leftist but has helped the current Greek government and would happily do so again.

But, as he emphasized, “I would do the same for [main opposition leader] Kyriakos [Mitsotakis]. Whoever is the prime minister of Greece, he will have our support.”

Perhaps it is a bit difficult for people addicted to petty party politics to understand this logic, but there are people, and there are many within the diaspora, who see the wider picture in Greece.

And this is the mentality they would vote with, if they had the right. Is that bad? I don’t think so. On the contrary, it is rather useful for the country to infuse the electoral process and more generally the political system of Greece with cross-party influences and choices based on national interest. 

The diaspora is an important part of Hellenism. It should have a say, among others, in the ballot.

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