SYRIZA Won’t Back New Democracy Greeks Abroad Voting Plan

(Photo by Eurokinissi/Yiannis Panagopoulos, FILE)

ATHENS – Having driven thousands of Greeks to other countries to escape crushing austerity measures, the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition has refused to support a proposal by the major rival New Democracy to let Greeks abroad vote in elections.

The Conservatives proposal would let citizens already registered in any of Greece’s electoral districts would be allowed to vote for candidates on a single nationwide ticket. Polling would take place at embassies and consulates.

New Democracy leader’s call to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to back the proposal in Parliament was snubbed. A two-thirds majority would mean the measure would apply in the next national election.

The new rejection means some 400,000 Greeks living abroad still don’t have the right to vote in elections in their homeland. The proposal requires the vote of 200 of the 300 Members of Parliament.

New Democracy said it now would only agree to government plans to break up Athens’s second electoral district into smaller divisions if the coalition that includes the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) adopts the Diaspora vote.

“This is the only just (thing) that the government has implemented,” New Democracy said in a swipe at SYRIZA campaign slogans without mentioning that while in power the Conservatives didn’t give the Diaspora the right to vote in Greek elections either.

A New Democracy proposal in 2008, when the Conservatives were in power, never got off the ground although it seemed certain to be approved at one point but opposition from the now-defunct PASOK Socialists – who later served New Democracy in a coalition – derailed the proposal.

In 2009, PASOK was unhappy that its plan for a postal ballot to be included was not allowed and killed the bill by withholding its support, as SYRIZA – which also objected to the idea nine years ago – is again doing now.

The Socialists also wanted constituencies to be created for Greeks abroad so that they can directly elect MPs to Parliament. The Communist Party at the time also expressed its opposition to the bill, saying that it would have a disproportionate effect on the election result.