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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • What is the Parliament
The parliament is the collective political institution that represents the people. The Parliament (and the President of the Republic) are the legislative branch. The government relies on the confidence of the Parliament and should it not enjoy it then government has to resign.
  • What are the Parliament’s role and responsibilities
Parliament revises the Constitution, enacts laws, declares a state of emergency ("state of siege"), decides whether to proclaim a referendum, elects the President of the Republic and the elected Parliament agencies and organs, provides a vote of confidence to the government and scrutinizes its activities, adopts the state budget and performs certain quasi-judicial duties.
  • When was the Hellenic Parliament established?
All forms of government in modern Greek history have been representative. Parliament, in its current more or less organization, dates back to 1844, the time of the Constitutional monarchy, but mostly to 1864, when a crowned democracy was established. As for the parliamentary principle, that was established in 1875.
  • Why do some countries have a bicameral system (a House and a Senate) and others do not?
The House and the Senate are both legislative bodies which coexist in several countries (e.g. in Italy and the USA). Having two legislatures at a time, complementing the work of one another, often depends on a country’s political history, and especially the form of political representation. Moreover, when a state is federal, there is a second legislature to represent not the citizens but the states of the federation (i.e. in the USA). There was a Senate in Greece between 1844 and 1863 and during the Second Republic (1927-1935).
  • How many MPs are there?
Currently there are 300 MPs. The Constitution stipulates there can be no less than 200 MPs and no more than 300. Their exact number is determined by law.
  • How does Government secure the Parliament’s confidence?
Every new government must appear before Parliament and ask for its vote of confidence, which it gets as long as it gets the vote of the absolute majority of MPs who are physically present at the time (it is not imperative that all 300 MPs attend the voting procedure). Still, this cannot possibly be a majority of less than 2/5 (120 votes in total).
  • How does someone become an MP?
By being first a candidate at the general election, which in principle and as a rule is held every four years, and by subsequently being elected by the people.
  • Are ministers MPs?
Ministers are MPs as long as they stand for elections and are elected by the people. Yet, there may be Ministers who are not MPs.
  • Who has the right to run for MP office?
Greek citizens who have the right to vote, are at least 25 years of age on the day of the general election and who are not impeded by any of the hindrances (eligibility impediments) set forth in the Constitution (art. 56) may stand as candidates.
  • Do all MPs represent specific constituencies?
No, there are the State Deputies who are elected throughout Greece at large in proportion to the overall electoral strength of the party of their affiliation. State MPs cannot be more than 1/20 of the total number of MPs in the Hellenic Parliament (currently, no more than 15).
  • Why do MPs ‘represent the country and the nation’ and not their electors?
MPs vote freely (conscience vote). They simply do not represent those who voted for them or the members of their constituency (district) only. They are under no obligation to subscribe to the views of their electors or else Parliament would not be a representative institution of the people but rather an institution representing special or local interests and lobbies.
  • Who has the right to vote in the general elections?
Greek citizens who are at least 18 years of age, who have the right to exercise legal capacity and who are not subject to irrevocable criminal conviction for felonies, i.e. penalties which would, among others, deprive them of their right to vote.
 
  • When are general elections held and how often?
Normally, there is a general election every four years as the parliamentary term (maximum time in office) is four-years. Yet, Parliament is dissolved, the parliamentary term is brought to premature end and elections are called when no government that has the confidence of the Parliament can be formed. A government itself may call an election, by getting the President of the Republic to dissolve Parliament, when faced with a highly critical issue of national significance. In order to deal with such an issue, the government must ensure it has the popular vote giving it the mandate to still be in office. Yet, Parliament cannot be dissolved for the same reason twice. The President of the Republic may also dissolve Parliament and call an election before the expiration of the four-year term, if two governments in a row resign or fail to get the Parliament’s vote of confidence, and obviously Parliament composition does not guarantee government stability. Last but not least, Parliament is dissolved and elections are called if after three rounds of voting, the Parliament is still unable to elect the President of the Republic (by virtue of article 32 of the Constitution which sets forth the Parliament’s special powers).
  • How are laws voted on?
Legislation is introduced in the form of Bills and Law Proposals. When they regard issues which can solely be dealt by the Plenum, Bills and Law Proposals are first examined (debated and voted) by the competent parliamentary committee and then introduced to the Plenum, which in turn debates and votes so that legislation eventually passes or fails. Should Bills and Law Proposals not fall within the scope of the exclusive competence of the Plenum, they are processed, debated and voted by the appropriate parliamentary committee and then introduced to the Plenum which should also debate and vote so that eventually they pass or fail, but at a given point in time and within a certain deadline.
  • What are amendments and additions?
Amendments and additions are legal provisions, articles and clauses the original wording of which was changed or to which new clauses were added while being considered by Parliament. Following the Constitutional revision of 2001, amendments and additions are not up for discussion unless they were introduced at least three days prior to the start of the parliamentary debate on that particular piece of legislation.
  • When is a law voted by Parliament enforced?
In their overwhelming majority, the date as of which Bills shall be in force is stated therein and, in principle, legislation is officially in force upon publication in the Government Gazette. Should there is no reference to a date in the Bill, then the new legislation is effected within ten days from its publication in the Government Gazette.
  • Is there a difference between Parliamentary Committees and Parliamentary Groups?
Committees are collective parliamentary instruments established in proportion to the parliamentary representation of each party. They perform legislative and control duties. Parliamentary Groups are composed by the totality of MPs affiliated with the same party, which means that all MPs in office who were elected with the same party form a group of their own.
  • Can an MP not be affiliated to a political party?
A candidate may run without being a member of any party and a newly elected MP may declare his independence in writing to the Speaker or by simply making a statement about no longer being a member of the party that had him or her nominated.
  • How does the Speaker of the Parliament get elected?
The Speaker is elected by secret ballot in a plenary session at the start of the parliamentary term (full 4-year term) and assumes office for the entire term. The same goes for the Deputy Speakers while the rest of the members to the Presidium (Deans and Secretaries) are elected at the onset of regular sittings.
  • Is there a difference between the Presidium and the Conference of Speakers?
The Presidium consists, by comparison, of relatively few members, exercises general managerial duties and is, by and large, responsible for the Parliament’s organizational and operational affairs. The Conference of Speakers has a wider synthesis, including, for example standing committee Presidents and former Speakers who are still active MPs. It is responsible for the weekly scheduling of sittings, the daily parliamentary agenda and the programming of Parliament’s works, plus the appointment of members to boards of independent authorities, as well as for electing the President, the Vice President and two of the members of the Board of the National Statistical Agency of Greece. It moreover gives an opinion on jurists appointed to the Statistical Agency of Greece, as well as jurists and judges bound to assume top justice posts.
  • What exactly is a Recess Section?
Between two regular session periods, normally in the summer period, Parliament is still in operation as MPs are at work convening in Recess Sections.
  • What is the difference between a Bill and a Law Proposal?
When the government assumes a legislative initiative it is generally called a Bill, but when it is introduced by MPs it is called a ‘Law Proposal’.
  • What type of majority is required for enacting Law Proposals or Bills?
An absolute majority of members present in the Plenum should suffice, just as long as it is no less than ¼ of the total number of MPs (that is 75 votes).
  • In what way can Parliament oversee Government?
Parliament exercises its control powers over the government by means of petitions filled by citizens, agencies and bodies that MPs endorse, applications to submit documents, questions, current questions, interpellations and current interpellations. In some cases special control means and procedures are activated, such as when investigation committees are established to look into a matter. Parliament also scrutinizes and oversees government work through motions of censure or confidence.
  • What is the difference between questions and interpellations?
MPs table questions to get information on specific issues while interpellations are a means of criticizing government actions or possible omissions.
  • What is the difference between current questions and current interpellations from the rest of parliamentary control means?
Current questions and current interpellations touch on current affairs only.