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In Surprise, Tsipras Backs Greeks Abroad Voting Rights

Αssociated Press

(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

ATHENS - Only a few days after rejecting a call by the major rival New Democracy to let Greeks abroad to have the right to vote in elections, Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said he now supports it.

But he took a shot at his rivals, blaming them for an austerity crisis he has continued and for an exodus of Greeks, many of them young, fleeing the country in search of work and a better life elsewhere.

"We will give the right to vote to overseas Greeks, where the (previous) New Democracy government sent our young people," Tsipras said in Parliament,  in a stunning turnaround the business newspaper Naftemporiki said.

He didn’t mention those who have continued to leave during his 3 ½ year reign in which he has reneged on anti-austerity promises and put more punishing measures on workers, pensioners and the poor and not helped cut joblessness significantly, particularly among those under 25, where it has hovered during the 8 ½-year-long crisis.

With is popularity plummeting for breaking his word, Tsipras had been reluctant to let Greeks abroad have the vote, those who are still registered in their homeland on election rolls who would be eligible to vote in Greece. Unlike American citizens living in Greece, Greeks living in other countries don’t have that right.

New Democracy chief Kyriakos Mitsotakis said they should but his party, while in a ruling coalition with the then-PASOK Socialists who have morphed into a center-left coalition after backing austerity couldn’t get it done when its junior partners rejected it unless a provision for voting by mail was allowed.

The process would require setting up ballot boxes in Greece's diplomatic missions, election committees' oversight and other issues. The newspaper said leftist politicians have been loathe to give Greeks abroad the right to vote believing they are opposed to their policies and would back other parties, primarily New Democracy.

Tsipras responded to Mitsotakis’ proposal to extend the right to vote to Greeks living abroad - in the place of residence - by saying that "the children of brain drain have the right to vote in their countries of residence,” outside Greece.