President of the Greek Orthodox Community in Melbourne, Mr Bill Papastergiadis, recently sent a letter to the Prime Minister of Greece, Mr Kyriakos Mitsotaki, regarding the current restrictions of the diaspora vote that are affecting Greek Australian citizens.
Mr Papastergiadis believes that this legislation is a positive one and congratulated both the government and the political parties on the agreement of the vote. However, Papastergiadis added that alterations to the agreement are necessary to properly convey the voices of Greek’s living abroad.
Despite being positive and congratulating both the government and the political parties on the agreement of the vote, Papastergiadis believes that alterations to the agreement are necessary to properly convey the voices of Greek international people.
The main concerns Papastergiadis raises with the proposed legislation are:
• It excludes the majority of expatriates from voting.
• It does not practically accommodate expatriates in the election process
• Creates two categories of Greek citizens
• Does not provide a ballot vote, forcing expatriates to travel long distances to vote at consulates, embassies or elsewhere. We, as expatriates, propose the universal introduction of the postal vote for Greeks both within Greece and those abroad.
• It creates contradictions. On the one hand, Greece forces and trusts a Greek-born foreigner to serve as a soldier and to protect the homeland, and on the other it restricts the right to vote because they have not been in Greece for two consecutive years.
Mr Papastergiadia continues to explain that because of these voting restrictions, instead of helping expatriates on the issue of voting, the legislation poses a number of obstacles that will ultimately have the opposite effect of what is expected.
“Greeks abroad, and especially in Australia, are fighting for Greece’s national issues and for its economic development, and we are trying to promote the interests of Greece in the governments of the countries where we live.”
In Australia, Greeks must visit the nearest Greek Consulate or Embassy to vote, however due to Australian cities such as Sydney and Melbourne having very large perimeters, some voters may have to travel up to 120 kilometres to vote.
“Even if ballots are eventually erected elsewhere, such as Communities, etc., in the event of multiple registrations from certain areas, the problem is not resolved. There will also be Greeks who will not be able to visit these centres.”
The president of the Greek Orthodox Community voiced that the criterion of requiring 35 years of residence abroad automatically deprives those living outside Greece more years to vote. Additionally, he argues that the criterion of a two-year stay in Greece prevents the majority of Greeks (up to 90%) from voting.
“Most Greeks return to Greece for holidays and stay from two weeks to three months…. As employees, having businesses and families abroad, we are unable to stay two years in Greece. Only a very small percentage may meet this criterion.”
Mr Papastergiadis requests that Prime Minister Mitsotaki reviews the presented concerns and finds a suitable solution that accommodates the Greek Australian community.