SYRIZA shifts on diaspora vote

SYRIZA shifts on diaspora vote

Following a session of its political secretariat Friday, the main leftist opposition SYRIZA party shifted position on New Democracy’s initiative to grant full voting rights to diaspora Greeks, indicating that it could compromise on the basis of proposals made by the Communist Party (KKE) and the MeRA25 party of former leftist finance minister Yanis Varoufakis.

Last week SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras had rejected ND’s initiative, chiefly its premise that diaspora Greeks’ votes should be equal to those voting in Greece, arguing that it would “distort the country’s political balance.”

The center-left Movement for Change (KINAL) as well as nationalist Greek Solution backed the initiative, with KKE and MeRA25 supporting aspects of it with some reservations.

With SYRIZA on board, the government would come close to its goal of getting most of Greece’s 300 MPs behind its bid to grant voting rights to diaspora Greeks.

It appears that the key incentive behind Tsipras’ decision to change tack was the fear of political isolation and of losing potential votes from abroad when the new system comes into effect.

He was also drawn by certain proposals by KKE and MeRA25, including that only diaspora Greeks who have been absent from their homeland for less than 30 years should have the right to vote.

The proposal is attractive to SYRIZA as more Greeks emigrated during the decade of the financial crisis than the preceding two decades and could be a potential reservoir of new voters.

Interior Minister Panagiotis Theodorikakos on Friday sent the parties a draft agreement. It foresees granting the right to vote to those who have been away from Greece for less than 30 years and have a tax registration number, and that voting rights will be exercised in embassies and consulates, with the right to a postal vote being granted in certain cases.

It also proposes increasing the number of MPs elected from a state list to 15 from 12. However, it also sets as a key precondition the equal status of diaspora Greeks’ votes.

Although this was originally Tsipras’ chief objection, sources have indicated that the party might be flexible on this point too.

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