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Politics

Greek Interior Minister Kerameus Visits US, Canada on Postal Vote

ATHENS – The Greek Minister for the Interior, Niki Kerameus will be in the United States and Canada for a week, beginning March 21, to inform Greek-Americans about the new postal voting system and other initiatives to help bring the Hellenic Homeland closer to the Greek Diaspora.

Before departing for the United States – her first stop will be San Francisco, followed by Los Angeles, Montreal, Toronto, Massachusetts, and New York – Kerameus offered an interview to The National Herald in which she referred to her upcoming trip and broader issues, including postal voting.

The interview follows:

The National Herald: What is the purpose of your trip to the United States and Canada?

Niki Kerameos: The trip to the U.S. and Canada is part of the informational effort we are making in countries that contain a significant number of our compatriots, in order to inform them about postal voting. Greek citizens living far from our country can now exercise their constitutional right to vote [in the upcoming European Parliamentary elections] from wherever they are, without the need to travel, without spending time and money. A request the Diaspora has been making for decades has been fulfilled. The initiative began last summer with the lifting of all legal obstacles to the exercise of voting rights by expatriates and continues now with the removal of all practical obstacles through postal voting. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and we at the Ministry of Interior, including Alternate Minister Theodoros Livanios, consider it our obligation to meet our compatriots abroad in person, to inform them about the postal voting process, and to encourage them to utilize this opportunity to make their voices heard, to strengthen our Democracy.

TNH: So far, how has the implementation of postal voting been received? What is the current situation in terms of numbers, both for voters within Greece and abroad?

NK: The platform for registration for the European Parliament elections with postal voting closes on April 29. In its first month of operation, before the relevant informational campaign began, over 33,000 voters have registered, of which 43% are Greeks living abroad, from 95 different countries. Postal voting has already achieved its goal: it gives Greek citizens, both within and outside the country, the opportunity to participate in the European elections, people who due to distance, health issues, personal, or professional obligations, or any other reason, cannot or find it difficult to vote in person. Consider that people have registered in countries where there are a limited number of Greeks, where it would not be possible to set up a polling station – those people would not have been able to vote, countries such as Papua New Guinea, Angola, Kazakhstan, Cambodia. Postal voting facilitates the exercise of the right to vote by eliminating every practical obstacle.

TNH: Do you believe that postal voting is the ‘remedy’ for high abstention rates?

NK: Postal voting is not intended to solve the problem of abstention, which, in my opinion, is a multifactor phenomenon with international dimensions. However, postal voting has been a request of the global Greek community for decades, which today becomes a reality and certainly also constitutes another valuable institutional tool to facilitate participation in elections. It is the duty of every democratic State to exhaust all means to ensure the unimpeded exercise of the constitutional right to vote by all its citizens.

TNH: Are you optimistic that this measure will be applied to national elections as well?

NK: The intention of the Government is for the measure to be extended to national elections. For this measure to apply to national elections for Greeks living outside the country, 200 votes in the Hellenic Parliament are required. As Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis clarified, we will address the issue after the European elections – because it is not logical in 2024 for a Greek citizen, residing for example, in Papua New Guinea, to be able to vote from his home in the European elections, but in national elections he has to has to travel for hours, by plane, spending significant amounts of money, to go to another country to exercise his voting right.

TNH: What else can the motherland do to bring expatriates closer to it?

NK: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has developed a comprehensive four-year plan with specific objectives and axes of action to strengthen Greece’s relations with the Greek diaspora. The strategic objectives of the plan include, among others, supporting and developing networks and organizational structures in the Greek diaspora, promoting Greek language and culture, strengthening ties with the ecclesiastical institutions of the Orthodox Church, and upgrading services provided to Greeks abroad. Each objective includes specific actions such as the creation of a registry of Diaspora organizations and a website for the Greek diaspora, educational exchange programs, hosting programs and internships in Greece for young people of the diaspora, the expansion of the digital platform for learning the Greek language – staellinika.com – and the continuous digitization of services provided to Greeks abroad. Facilitating the exercise of voting rights through postal voting is part of the Government’s overall efforts to support the Greek diaspora, to make the voice of Greeks in every corner of the Earth louder and to be heard.

TNH: Do you have a special message for Hellenes abroad?

NK: A big ‘thank you!’ for keeping Hellenism so alive, literally, at the ends of the Earth. Thank you for your decisive contribution to the preservation and dissemination of our language, history, culture, customs, and traditions. The motherland owes you a lot, and I assure you that we will always be by your side, fighting for the unimpeded exercise of your rights, to bridge every distance, no matter how far away you are.

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