Members of Parliament (MPs)
The electorate elects MPs at a general election by direct, universal and secret ballot (article 51 par. 3
of the Constitution). The Constitution does not determine the total number of parliamentarians (article 51 par. 1
), but does stipulate that there shall be no less than two hundred (200) or more than three hundred (300). Since 1952 the overall number of Hellenic Parliament MPs has been 300. Members of Parliament get their title and privileges on the day they are elected. Part of those 300 MPs, no more than 1/20, may be elected not in a specified constituency but rather throughout the country at large. These are the State Deputies, whose exact number actually depends on the total electoral strength of each party (article 54 par. 3
of the Constitution).
Standing for Elections
To run for Hellenic Parliament office, candidates must have the right to be elected (passive electoral capacity), they must be Greek citizens, preserve their right to vote, be at least 25 years of age on the day of the election and not fall under any of the disqualifications criteria provided by the Constitution (article 55).
Disqualifications to stand for Elections
Should individuals have assumed certain capacities linked to disqualifications to stand for elections, they cannot be nominated as candidates. The purpose of restricting eligibility for membership in Parliament is to ensure that candidates who stand for election will not abuse their power as holders of certain public offices. Such impedements, specified in article 56
of the Constitution, may be grouped into three categories: absolute, relative and local.
An absolute impediment excludes an MP from holding office for a certain period of time, even if he has in the meantime resigned from the post that leads to their disqualification. Hence, civil servants and military personnel, who are bound by law to remain in service for a specified period of time, can neither stand for election nor be elected in Parliament until this period expires. The provision also includes elected high-ranking officials serving in single-member local government agencies (heads of regions, for example).
A relative impediment makes it imperative that a candidate resign from public office before being nominated. This regards, among others, civil servants, military personnel, directors of public sector agencies or public sector enterprises etc.
The local impediment hinders the nomination of any individual who, for the past 18months of the last 4-year parliamentary term, held public office, or exercised public authority, in the same constituency (electoral district) they intend to stand for election. This category includes, among others, secretaries (general or special) of ministries or of independent general secretariats and regions, members to independent agencies, senior and top-ranking officers of the armed forces and the ‘security corps’ (police, fire department and coast guard), managing or executive directors of legal entities of public law and public sector enterprises etc.
Incompatibilities of Members of Parliament
Incompatibilities arise after the election to the office of MP. They are linked to certain capacities or duties that are not compatible with holding office so as to eventually assure that no one shall abuse their status as MP to serve private interests. Among others, provision has been made so that the duties of MPs are incompatible with their capacity as owners, shareholders or directors of enterprises that undertake public works or studies and of enterprises which own or manage radio - television stations or publish newspapers of country – wide circulation (Article 57
of the Constitution).
Loss of parliamentary office
There are many reasons why an MP may forfeit from office, such as decease, resignation, the termination of a parliamentary term, the annulment of their election by virtue of a Special Highest Court ruling and the forfeiture from parliamentary office. MPs forfeit from office when they no longer fulfill one or more of the requirements granting them the right to be elected, when an impediment or a parliamentary incompatibility arises, when there is proof of exceeding the maximum limit for electoral expenses or when there exists any other precondition of forfeiture as provided by art. 29 par. 2
of the Constitution. In either case, instances of forfeiture from office are ascertained by decisions of the Special Highest Court. Once an MP is disqualified, the seat goes to the next candidate, the second-best, of the same party who stood for elections in the same constituency (electoral district).
MPs represent the Nation and they vote according to conscience (articles 51 par. 2
and 60 par. 1
of the Constitution), meaning they are neither bound to act on the instructions of their electorate nor do they stand exclusively for the constituency where they were elected. They shall not be prosecuted or interrogated for a vote they cast or an opinion they express while performing their duties, with the exception of libel, and only after leave has been granted by Parliament (articles 61 par. 1 and 2
of the Constitution). MPs are granted ‘parliamentary immunity’, i.e. they can neither be prosecuted, unless they were caught in the act of committing a crime, nor be arrested or incarcerated while holding office without the Parliament’s consent (article 62
of the Constitution).