The Parliament : The Political System


Today, in a representative democracy such as the Hellenic Republic and also in all democratic countries, it is the people that rule and exercise power by means of elections. It is thus the electorate that elects representatives who, throughout their term, shall carry out specific duties and assume responsibilities under the articles of the Constitution, the Standing Orders of the Parliament and the Standing Orders.

Statutes and laws on parliamentary elections
Click to download Presidential Decree 26/2012 in .pdf format
The Electorate
The electorate consists of all Greek citizens who have the right to vote. This right is granted to individuals who are at least 18 years of age, or shall turn 18 on the year of the election, have the capacity for legal act and are not the subject of an irrevocable criminal conviction for felonies listed under article 51 par. 3 of the Constitution. Eligible electors must be registered in the electoral roll to exercise their voting right. [Let us nonetheless point out that the aforementioned apply to national elections. As for European Parliament elections and municipal elections citizens of the European Union and immigrants who reside legally in Greece, may, under certain conditions, also be part of the electorate].

Principles governing the electoral process
Α) Universal ballot- according to this principle, only citizens that do not fulfill the minimum requirements provided by the Constitution may be excluded from the electorate. The ordinary lawmaker may not provide additional reasons to deprive an individual of the right to vote;
Β) Equal ballot- a principle of dual significance, i.e. i) one citizen -one vote and ii) all votes are legally equal;
C) Direct ballot- according to this principle, there should be nothing standing between the voter and the outcome of the electoral process. In other words, it is not possible for voters to choose electors to elect MPs;
D) Secret ballot- a principle to ensure that the intent of the voter shall not be made known to others;
Ε) Compulsory ballot- according to this principle the exercise of the voting right is compulsory. Let it be noted nonetheless that the Constitutional revision of 2001 removed a clause by virtue of which penal sanctions could possibly have been imposed by law on constituents who failed to take part in the electoral process;
F) Simultaneous conduct of elections throughout Greece- Revised article 51 par. 4 of the Constitution refers to possible exceptions to this rule in case constituents (voters) are abroad, as long as all votes are counted simultaneously and the outcome of the electoral process is publicized at the same time everywhere;
G) The principle of exercising one’s voting right in person, making the physical presence of a voter imperative, currently applies to voters who are on Greek territory. Revised article
51 par. 4 of the Constitution offers Greek voters abroad an option to exercise their right to vote in absentia ‘through postal and/or other appropriate means’.

The electoral system
The electoral system is the method through which votes cast determine the allocation of parliament seats. Thus the will of the electorate, as expressed through the electoral process, determines the outcome. There are many systems and even more variations. Still, there are basically two electoral systems: the majoritarian system (which designates the candidate or political group (i.e. the party) who got the majority of the votes cast in one constituency) and the proportional representation system (which allocates seats per constituency proportionally to the votes each candidate or party received). Both electoral systems have actually been used in Greece. In the period between 1844 and 1923 general elections were held on a majority election system (there were actually no ballot papers or lists but rather ballot boxes divided in two sections, one black for ‘nays’ and one white for ‘yeahs’, and voters cast little marbles made of iron on either side.) Both systems were also used in rotation from 1926 through 1956 when the proportional representation system was opted for, in its various forms. Let it be noted that by virtue of art. 54 par. 1 of the revised Constitution, the electoral system is determined by law, i.e. a statute which applies only once the next elections have been held, unless provision is made for an immediate enforcement of the electoral law just as long as a 2/3 parliament majority adopts it. Any appeal referring to breaches or violations of the electoral law during the national elections is tried before the Supreme Special Court (articles 58 and 100 of the Constitution).
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