ATHENS – Greece’s Minister of the Interior Niki Kerameus spoke to The National Herald regarding the postal voting measure that will be implemented for the upcoming European Parliament elections in June 2024 and which fundamentally changes the electoral landscape, both for expatriates and residents of Greece.
Kerameus called the law a “major, democratic, reformist step” that opens the a window for national elections in the near future, and she emphasized that there is should be no concern regarding the security and transparency of the electoral process.
The full interview follows:
The National Herald: What prevented us for so many years from proceeding with postal voting, which has been in force in many countries for years?
Minister Niki Kerameus: Major reforms happen when political and social conditions ripen. For Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the New Democracy government, lifting restrictions and facilitating the vote of expatriates has always been a priority. Last July, we proposed the law that abolished all legal restrictions for expatriate voting, during the discussion of which we stated that we are also considering the issue of postal voting. We moved quickly, studied the best international practices, and settled on the best procedure, with safeguards ensuring confidentiality and identity verification, and we are now proposing a comprehensive plan six months before the European elections, to allow necessary time for consultation with parties and for citizens in Greece and abroad to be fully informed. Postal voting abolishes all real and practical barriers to participation in the electoral process. It might have been late, but it is now a reality, deepening democracy and constituting a significant, substantive move towards increased participation and the limitation of abstention.
By introducing postal voting for European elections and referendums, we are taking a major, democratic, reformist step in the voting process. We will outline how it will work and open discussions with parties about the next steps. At this moment, what is crucial and definitive is that in the 2024 European elections, fifty years after the restoration of Democracy [in Greece], there will be no obstacle to the participation of everyone, in Greece and abroad, in the electoral process.
TNH: Do you believe that the measure will significantly enhance voter participation?
NK: Postal voting creates incentives for greater participation in elections for Greeks living abroad as well as in Greece. Everyone, through a simple and easy process, will now be able to vote. Greeks abroad will no longer be required to travel to another city where there was a polling station. Seasonal workers in Greece, students in the midst of exam periods, the elderly, or citizens with health issues, will all be able to vote from their homes, without traveling, without spending money, without inconvenience.
TNH: Regarding expatriates, if the postal vote is eventually implemented in national elections, do you estimate that postal voting will be the key to overcoming low voter participation, as recorded in recent elections?
NK: Facilitating the exercise of voting rights for Greeks registered on electoral rolls and living abroad is a matter of respect for the most fundamental democratic right of every citizen: participation in elections.
Expatriate Greeks are the soul and voice of Greece worldwide. We have a duty to facilitate their exercise of voting rights. We did so by initially lifting legal barriers and now removing practical obstacles to their participation. We hope and expect that participation in the European elections will be greater, thus confirming the strong interest and connections that bind expatriate Greeks to Greece.
TNH: To those expressing genuine concerns about the integrity of the process, what is your response?
NK: The secrecy of the vote, the security of the process, as well as transparency, are ensured based on the best international practices. There are security measures concerning identity verification, receipt, and safekeeping of the ballots in a special secure area, as well as the opening of the ballots the day before the European elections by judicial authorities and placing the voting envelopes in ballot boxes for collection by the election committees the following day. Naturally, representatives from the parties will oversee the entire process.
TNH: How do you respond to the initial negative reactions from a section of the opposition? For example, the Communist Party (KKE) spoke of an “operation to alter the election outcome.”
NK: The announcement of our initiative for postal voting and the presentation of the process seem to have been positively received by opposition parties. In the dialogue we will start in the coming days, I believe we will address any genuine concerns, and we are ready to discuss and incorporate any proposal that could further improve the process. Postal voting enhances participation, which is a significant goal globally. Therefore, not only does it not distort, but on the contrary, it ensures the highest possible representativeness of the election results and strengthens democracy. Obviously, each party has its opinions. However, allow me to observe that any stance in favor of postal voting deepens democracy, whereas any stance against it narrows it. There is no room for narrow party approaches in this matter. I fail to understand how one can have a negative stance on the prospect of increased citizen participation in the electoral process. Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the New Democracy government are making a significant, democratic change. We hope its implementation will occur in an atmosphere of consensus, with the positive attitude and positive vote of the political parties.