Expatriate Vote: The journey of expatriate Greeks continues

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By Anastasios M. Tamis*

The vote of the citizens of a country-state in theory, at least, is a prerequisite of democracy. The participation of the people in the emergence of a government characterizes democracy and parliamentarism. The people theoretically elect those who wish to govern them. However, whether the citizen’s vote has the power to determine the will of the people must be interpreted cautiously as a fair and proper procedure. The mosaic of the “democratic” regimes of the planet generally shows that the citizen’s vote, where there is a citizen’s vote, is distinguished by its epiphatic and phenomenal character. In other words, it is often used as a cover to have in practice, in essence, authoritarian, totalitarian regimes such as in Turkey, Russia, Belarus, Hungary, etc. In these countries the citizen’s vote is used to establish curious coalitions and strange party alliances, and partnerships on which the voter has usually no say or opinion. If to these political alchemy we add the fact that in the Government that will emerge essentially only the Prime Minister governs (who government Minister or MP  dares to ever resist, disagree or differentiate his position from his Prime Minister or even worse, what decision of the Prime Minister had the ratification of the people before it was implemented), then we have a government of parliamentary autocracy, and therefore the phenomenology of the citizen’s vote does not matter much.

Historically, at least, diasporic democratic countries-states, Italy, Greece, Israel, etc. in their effort to utilize in their favour their human potential, had the foresight and thoughtfulness to include their brothers, their expatriates in the electoral process. In their Constitutions they imposed specific articles, but also in their Parliaments they often-densely hosted debates (sometimes stormy), to find a way and method, in order to “exploit” or “ill-use” or “colonize” the vote of their expatriate compatriots. In Greece, lately, the vote of the expatriates occupied the party palaestras, various schools and theories emerged, even conspiracy theories, somewhere party gangs appeared and even chose the representatives they would promote on the various continents, to represent them in the Greek Parliament.

The Constitution of Greece expressly enshrines in Article 51 para. 4 the possibility of providing by law for the exercise of the right to vote by voters outside the Greek territory. The adoption of this law has occupied the public debate persistently and continuously since the late 1970s, without, of course, finally coming to fruition. However, the Constitution talks about “voters” outside the territory, or citizens-voters who for some reason are residing outside the sovereign territory.

The Constitution, as well as the substance of the electoral laws that followed, as well as the debates in the Greek Parliament and its galleries, as well as in the halls of the party gangs, nowhere rightly refer to the expatriate body of Greeks who have been living outside the Metropolis-Greece for 3,000 years and essentially constitute about 40 percent of the total number of people who make up the entire nationhood of Greeks. The ostensibly electoral laws do not have  relation to what we call and identify tautologically as the Greek Diaspora. They do not refer to the 4,500,000 people of Greek descent who have been living in all neighborhoods of the world for hundreds of years now and identify themselves as Greeks in ancestry and culture.

The legislators also decided to have specific restrictions, specific prohibitive safeguards that in essence alienate the legislation from the body of the Greek Diaspora.  For the expatriate to have the right to vote, he/she must make a declaration of change of his/her constituency, from the county in which he/ she votes, to the special constituency abroad.  Also, the beneficiary must have a residence of at least two years in Greece during the last 35 years, with appropriate public evidence such as a certificate of attendance a school of any level, or a document certifying certain contributions and insurance payments and finally a proper certificate of military service fulfillment). Also, to submit a document confirming that within the last two years, he/she had submitted in Greece any category of tax return to any Tax Office. Dependents are exempted if they have not reached the age of thirty and if they have submitted a tax return of a first-degree relative.

In response, I call on our Ministers, Mr. Dendias and  Mr. Voridis, and of course our Prime Minister and the leaders of the Greek Parties, to establish and legislate (a) a Ministry for Hellenes Abroad, as this operates in Cyprus, Israel, Armenia and even in totalitarian regimes; (b) to establish Departments and Chairs for the Study of Greeks Abroad in the main Universities of Greece;  (c) To establish and operate within the Ministry of Hellenes Abroad, Directorates and Secretariats of Investments, Education, Culture and Inter-Hellenic Cooperation.

Metropolitan Greece must and has a duty to respect the Greeks abroad. To keep him intact and away from any political conflict that characterizes Grecian Greece, to let expatriate Greeks and their children keep their Greek consciousness in their hearts, without party identity, only national and panhellenic.

READ MORE: The two promises we did not honour as Greek immigrants.

*Professor Anastasios M. Tamis taught at Universities in Australia and abroad, was the creator and founding director of the Dardalis Archives of the Hellenic Diaspora and is currently the President of the Australian Institute of Macedonian Studies (AIMS).

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