Watching the Greek elections unfold from her London office left Zoe Spiliopoulou frustrated. Like thousands of expatriate Greeks she was prevented from voting in Sunday’s polls after the Athens parliament failed to pass a law in time to overturn a longstanding ban. “It is really unfair being in London. I am still interested in Greek politics. But to vote means taking time off work and buying a plane ticket back to my town, which is two hours from Athens,” said Spiliopoulou, an urban designer who has spent the last three years in the UK. “Some people I know looked and return tickets cost £300. The airlines put the prices up when they know there is an election because they know flying is the only way many people can get back to the place where they are registered. And for some people it would be a seven-hour trip from the airport to get back to vote.” … In 2010 the European court of human rights ruled in favour of two Greek nationals working at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg who were unable to vote in the 2007 Greek parliamentary elections. The Greek ambassador to France had previously rejected their application, saying there was no legislation providing for “special measures […] for the setting up of polling stations in embassies and consulates.”
The Greek constitution, adopted in 1975 after the fall of the generals, says there should be legislation allowing voting rights for expatriate voters. However, MPs have never given it priority. The ECHR ruled that after 35 years, when it was already in the constitution, it was unfair to treat expats any differently to residents.
Last year the Greek parliament voted on a bill to approve expat voting rights. It was hoped that the first reading in December would get the legislation on the statute books for the next election, but the collapse of the rightwing New Democracy government meant elections took place before the law could be passed.
A longstanding rule in the UK bans expat Britons from voting in domestic elections once they have been out of the country for 15 years. France and Italy have members of their national assemblies exclusively elected by expatriates.