The COVID-19 pandemic gave cover to Greek politicians who elect chronic apathy when it comes to expanding the rights of the Greek Diaspora. However, due to the interview conducted in Ethnikos Kirikas by Vasilis Koutsilas with SYRIZA MP Theodora Tzakri, they could no longer ignore the issue.
The limitations posed on the Greek Diaspora’s right to vote are insulting, degrading and a clear violation of democratic norms in a Western country. Indeed, the way that Greeks suppressed the Diaspora’s right to vote strongly resembles the way that the GOP in the United States has sought to, over time, suppress and throw out the votes of minority voters in the United States, a practice that is getting worse to this day.
Much like voter suppression in the United States, the suppression of the Diaspora’s vote in Greece is not a new phenomenon. However, after Antonis Diamataris was appointed as Deputy Foreign Minister for Greeks Abroad, he made sure that the issue took on great importance and the skeleton legislation proposed in 2019 would not have been brought to parliament for a vote had it not been the culmination of more than 40 years of activism on behalf of the Greek Diaspora from his former position as Editor & Publisher of Ethnikos Kirikas.
It was just one month ago that in a state of union, love and friendship Hellenes all over the world joyously celebrated the 200th anniversary of the start of the Greek Revolution. A revolution that simply would have been impossible to get underway but for the time, treasure, public relations campaigns and coordinating done by the Greek Diaspora and Philhellenes in the years prior, and during the revolution. It is therefore not a stretch to say that without the Greek Diaspora, there would be no Hellenic Republic. From Kapodistrias, to Benakis to Dracopoulos, the Greek Diaspora have shown us what raw love for Hellenism can achieve and yet the Greek ruling class and politicians alike for decades on end have continued to stifle the Diaspora’s vote.
Why? The answer is simple: fear. Fear of the status quo being upended, a clearly dysfunctional and ineffective status quo that resulted in Greece being perpetually bankrupt and socially divided which solely benefitted the politicians and the top 1%. Their calculus is that if everyone is fighting each other, they may not remember to fight them.
The Diaspora generally speaking are economically in good shape, have education and a profound love of Greece, our culture, our heritage and defend Greece in their daily lives. They routinely are the only people in villages in Greece doing any kind of home improvement projects, thereby increasing the surrounding area’s value, they donate philanthropically to the places they hail from and to Greece generally, come and spend money while on vacation, send money to their families in Greece year-round and yet, despite all that, some Greeks believe that members of the Greek Diaspora should spend all of that capital, have properties and in some cases own businesses in Greece, pay high taxes and still not get the right to vote.
In the United States we fought the American War of Independence because we believed, “taxation without representation is tyranny”. The same thing has been happening in Greece, the Greek Diaspora is often told to shut up and pay without ever actually receiving anything in return. For too long our voice has been silenced, no more.
We are Greeks. Last time I checked parliament was named the Parliament of the Hellenes, not the Parliament of Only Those Who Live in Greece.
*Eraklis A. Diamataris’ article was published in the weekly newspaper "Parapolitika" on Saturday 17 April 2021