The Hellenic-Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (HACCI) National Federation has sent an open letter to the political leadership of Greece regarding the effective right of Greek citizens in Australia to exercise their vote.
In the letter, the HACCI National Federation is calling for the Greek government to establish at least one voting centre per state in Australia, as well as for the new Government resulting from the elections to review the electoral law regarding citizens residing abroad.
Full Open Letter below:
The signatories of this letter represent the Hellenic Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (HACCI) National Federation in Australia (HNF), our members being HACCI Victoria, HACCI Western Australia, HACCI Northern Territory, and HACCI South Australia. Together, we speak with a unified voice and represent the Greek professionals and entrepreneurs in Australia.
According to the 2021 Australian census, 92,314 residents were born in Greece, while 229,643 residents indicate that they speak Greek. The census does not record the hundreds of thousands of second and third generation Greeks who speak limited Greek but hold Greek passports, have investments or property in Greece.
The new Greek electoral legislation recently placed into effect sets out how Greeks living abroad can exercise their constitutional right to vote in the upcoming parliamentary election. This is a first in the history of Hellenism, and this change was widely welcomed by our members and other Greek bodies of the diaspora.
However, the criteria set by the law are so restrictive, that in practice the right to vote is denied to most Greeks living abroad, despite having financial interests in Greece and strong ties to the homeland. That is the case despite the fact that the right to vote is one of the most important constitutional rights, and the Constitution makes specific mentions to the protection of Greeks in the diaspora and their rights.
In our opinion, every adult Greek citizen, regardless of which country they live in, should have an equal right to vote and not be deprived of it, due to technicalities, such as having lived abroad for 34 instead of 33 years, or because their personal information on the e-taxis platform is not aligned to the electoral rolls data, or because they cannot afford to pay for airline tickets and accommodation in another city, where a voting centre will operate.
Moreover, even for the few citizens who do meet the requirements of the law, the process of transferring to the new overseas electoral rolls was extremely difficult, resulting in many of our members abandoning the process. For instance, the system requires the connection of the user’s profile in e-taxis with the profile in the existing electoral register, while in many cases the name does not coincide, as one of the two platforms had historically fewer characters, resulting in the full name not matching.
There is no provision for an alternative ID verification option (e.g. via the Consulate) and in this case, the interested party is required to change their details at the Tax Office in Greece, through a representative in Greece. However, not all Greeks in Australia have this option. As a result, only a very small number of the Greek Australian community members (just a double-digit number!) have managed to successfully register in the electoral rolls.
For those who eventually managed to complete the registration process, there was yet another “surprise”: A few days ago, members of the Greek Australian community in all States except Victoria
and New South Wales, who managed to successfully register, received the following update via email from the Ministry of Internal Affairs:
“We would like to inform you that, according to the registration applications for the special electoral rolls abroad and subject to the final determination of the overseas electoral districts, which will soon be made by the Ministerial Decision provided for in paragraph 1 of Article 7 of Law 4648/2019, there is no electoral district expected to be established in the city where you have requested to vote for the elections of May 21, 2023, due to a limited number of applications, or other special conditions in your diplomatic region. You can find out which city you can exercise your voting rights on the website of the Ministry of the Interior and specifically at the address https://www.ypes.gr/ekloges/aitiseis-eklogeon-eksoterikou/pinakasantistoichisis-poleon-ekloges.
However, if you prefer to exercise your voting rights in Greece, you can electronically submit a request for suspension or deletion of your registration in the special electoral lists for overseas voters through the platform https://apodimoi.gov.gr. Specifically, according to the provisions of article 101 of law 5003/2022 “Suspensions or deletions of applications that take place within a period of less than three (3) days before the proclamation of the elections, are recorded in the special electoral lists for overseas voters after the conduct of the elections.”
Given the above, Greek citizens with voting rights abroad, who were successfully registered in the system and happen to reside in Perth, Darwin, or Adelaide, are called to vote in Melbourne, thousands of kilometers away (note that Melbourne is 3,420 km away from Perth and 3,775 km away from Darwin). Similarly, citizens of Brisbane are called to vote in Sydney. That is even though there are Consulates of Greece with sufficient consular staff in all the aforementioned States. Greek citizens are essentially deprived of their right to vote due to technical issues with the system adopted or are called to travel thousands of kilometers to exercise their vote.
For all these reasons, we kindly request from the Greek Government to:
- Establish at least one (1) voting centre per State in Australia, even with a limited voting timeframe on election day, especially where there are operating Consulates of Greece; where necessary, ensure these Consulates are appropriately supported.
- If the establishment of one (1) voting centre per State is not possible, establish voting centres at such distances so that the nearest centre is not more than 300 km away from the residence declared by voters. Otherwise, the Greek Government is to cover the cost of transportation and accommodation to enable citizens to exercise their voting right.
- The new Government resulting from the elections to review the electoral law regarding citizens residing abroad, following dialogue and cooperation with the Consulates, Greek Communities and Chambers of Commerce abroad.