Elections in Greece

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Elections in Greece gives information on elections and election results in Greece.

Election of the legislature[edit]

The Greek Parliament (Vouli ton Ellinon) has 300 members, elected for a four-year term by a system of 'reinforced' proportional representation in 56 constituencies, 48 of which are multi-seat and 8 single-seat. Seats are determined by constituency voting, and voters may select the candidate or candidates of their choice by marking their name on the party ballot. However, the party receiving the largest number of votes receives a 50-seat premium, which is filled by candidates of that party not declared elected on the lower rungs (the constituencies).

Greek citizens aged 18 and over on the year of the election are eligible to vote, and at the age of 25 and over are also eligible to be elected to Parliament. Women's suffrage was adopted in 1930.

Constituencies[edit]

Constituencies in Greece have traditionally been multi-seat, and they mostly coincide with prefectures. The number of seats is adjusted once every ten years, following the decennial population census. Prefecture constituencies may not be deprived of representation, nor may they be merged with another prefecture; they may however be split into smaller constituencies if their population increases disproportionately: nevertheless this has not been done since 1967. Population changes have left eight (Kefalonia, Lefkas, Eurytania, Grevena, Samos, Thesprotia, Phocis and Zakynthos) prefectures with a single parliamentary seat each, whereas some urban or suburban constituencies have seen large increases in their seat allotment over the years.

For example the "Athens B" constituency (which includes the major part of the Athens metropolitan area but excludes the Municipality of Athens itself, which forms the "Athens A" constituency) encompasses almost 15% of the country's electorate and consequently elects 42 members of parliament. The "Athens A" constituency elects 17 MPs, "Thessaloniki A" elects 16, Attica (excluding the four Athens and Piraeus A and B constituencies) elects 12, and the remaining constituencies elect single-digit numbers of MPs.

Voting[edit]

Polling takes place in school buildings on a Sunday, a festive occasion for students who are then given a four-day weekend off. The procedure is run by a presiding judge or attorney-at-law appointed by the local Bar association, and secretarially assisted by local citizens selected by lot in a process resembling jury duty. Local police are available too. Local party representatives are allowed to monitor tallying; their theoretical role is to ensure transparency.

Traditionally, voting takes place "from sunrise to sunset" but times are usually rounded to the nearest "top of the hour" (e.g., 7 am to 8 pm). Individual precincts may prolong voting time at the judge's discretion, if there are still voters queueing up to vote. Voters identify themselves by their ID cards and are given the full number of ballot papers for the constituency plus a blank ballot paper and an empty envelope. Then they withdraw to a secluded cubicle equipped with a lectern, pen and waste basket, where they select the ballot paper of their choice, if any, and mark the candidate(s) of their choice, if any; they cast the sealed envelope with the ballot paper in the ballot box and are given their ID card back.

Voters may select specific candidates within the party list of their choice by marking a cross next to the candidate name or names. The maximum allowable number of crosses on the ballot paper depends on the number of seats contested. Signs other than crosses next to a candidate name may mark the ballot as invalid during tallying, as such findings may be construed to violate voting secrecy. Ballot papers with more crosses than the maximum number allowed, or without any cross, are counted in the total party tally but are disqualified during the second part of tallying, i.e. the determination of which individual candidate is elected to a seat already won by the candidate's party.

Once on-the-spot tallying is over and the tallies reported officially, the ballots are sealed and transported to the Central Election Service of the Interior Ministry. There ballots are recounted, mainly in order to ascertain the validity or invalidity of the few ambiguously marked ballot papers. Any unresolved matters following this recount are referred to the specially convened Eklogodikeion (Court of Election), which adjudicates and then officially publishes the names of elected MPs, so that the new Parliament may convene. The Court of Election may reconvene at any time in order to discuss appeals by candidates who failed to be elected, and also to fill seats that become vacant in the case of death or abdication of an MP. Such seats are filled by going down the preference tally of the party list that won the seat in the first place (there are no by-elections in Greece unless a party list is exhausted: an extremely rare occurrence).

Greek citizens permanently living in European Union countries are allowed to vote in European Parliament elections; nevertheless very few of them actually vote as they have to do so in person at their local Greek embassy or consulate.

Electoral system[edit]

The electoral system used is referred to as "reinforced proportionality". This is a form of semi-proportional representation, with two important modifications: (1) a party must secure at least 3% of the vote to be represented in parliament, and (2) the party that wins a plurality of votes cast is awarded an extra 50 seats. The law helps the party or coalition that wins a plurality to achieve an absolute majority (151 out of 300 parliamentary seats); this is intended to enhance governmental stability.

The current electoral law was used for the first time in the May 2012 election. It reserves 50 parliamentary seats for the party or coalition of parties that is supported by a plurality of votes cast. If the largest party or coalition has won at least 40.4% of the vote, these extra reserved seats will be sufficient to ensure it a majority in parliament. The remaining 250 seats are divided proportionally according to each party's total valid vote percentage; this is slightly higher than the raw percentage reported, as there is always a small number of invalidated or "blank" votes (usually less than 1%), as well as the percentage of smaller parties that fail to surpass the 3% threshold, all of which are disregarded for the purpose of seat allotment. The previous law (used in the 2009 legislative elections) was less favorable for the plurality party, as only 40 additional seats were reserved for them.

A rather complicated set of rules deals with rounding decimal results up or down, and ensures that the smaller a constituency is, the more strictly proportional its parliamentary representation will be. Another set of rules apportions the 50 seat premium for the largest-tallying party among constituencies. Individual seats are apportioned by "cross of preference". Voters mark a cross next to the name of the candidate or candidates they prefer, the number of crosses varying from one to five depending on constituency size. Ballots with no crosses or more crosses than allowed, count for only the party but not the individual candidates. Tallying is done manually in the presence of representatives of all contesting parties. Party tallying, which is easier, is done first so that returns may be announced quickly. Individual candidate tallying is done next and can take several days. Once the number of seats per party and constituency is determined, the seats are filled on a top-down basis from the individual cross-of-preference tallies. Party heads and acting or past Prime Ministers are exempt from cross-of-preference voting: they are automatically placed at the top of their party list and are elected, provided their party achieves at least one seat in the particular constituency.

By constitutional provision, the electoral law can be changed by simple parliamentary majority, but a law so changed comes into effect in the next-but-one election, unless a two-thirds parliamentary supermajority (200 or more votes) is achieved. Only in the latter case is the new electoral law effective at the next election. A case in point is the current electoral law, which was passed in 2007. Because this law was passed by a simple majority, it was not used for the subsequent 2009 election, but was then used in the 2012 election.

Greek electoral laws since 1974
Law's "trademark" Passed in Passed by Applied in (election year) Approximate nationwide vote percentage needed for an absolute majority of seats in Parliament for the first-past-the-post party Threshold
Reinforced proportionality 1974 New Democracy (Greece) '74, '77, '81, '85 (the premium of seats was reduced) in almost any case (40% and a clear advantage were necessary in '74 elections) none for the first seat allocation (in prefectures), but 17% for the second one in peripheries (this threshold was not in force during '85 elections)
Simple proportionality 1989 Panhellenic Socialist Movement '89 (June), '89 (November), '90 47%+ none
Reinforced proportionality 1990 New Democracy (Greece) '93, '96, '00, '04 in almost any case 3%
Reinforced proportionality
2004 Panhellenic Socialist Movement '07, '09 41.5%+ 3%
Reinforced proportionality
(current)
2007 New Democracy (Greece) '12 39%+ 3%

Electorate[edit]

All Greek citizens aged 18 or over in the year of the election are eligible to vote, provided they are on the electoral register, unless:

  • they are imprisoned for a criminal offence and they have been expressly deprived of the right to vote by judicial decision (this happens only in the rare cases of high treason or mutiny). Incarcerated persons vote in polling stations specially set up inside prisons
  • they are mentally incapable of making a reasoned judgement, according to a judicial decision. In practice, this applies only to a percentage of institutionalised mental patients

In the past, citizens who reached adulthood had to register and were issued an "election booklet" with which they voted. Nowadays, registration for voters is not needed: it is done automatically as each citizen comes of age. Identity is proved by state-issued ID cards or passport. Special registration is necessary only for absentee voting, which is done at the place of a voter's temporary residence on election day. Many Greeks choose to retain their voting rights in their family's original home, sometimes by reason of tradition, sometimes by reason of patronage. The Constitution provides, following the amendment of 2001, for the right of Greek citizens living abroad to vote for the legislative elections. Nevertheless, no law implementing the constitutional provision has yet been passed.

Compulsory voting is the law in Greece but is not enforced. In the past a citizen had to present an up-to-date election booklet in order to be issued a driver licence or a passport, or else justify why they did not vote (e.g. because of absence, infirmity, or advanced old age). Nowadays the civic duty of voting is still considered "mandatory" but there are no sanctions for failing to vote. Turnout is usually high, typically between 70 and 80% for legislative elections and slightly lower for local administrative and European Parliament ones.

Party system[edit]

Before 1910, Greece lacked a coherent party system in accordance with the traits of the modern representative democracy. The political formations of the 19th century lacked a steady organizational structure and a clear ideological orientation. Sometimes, they constituted just the incoherent and ephemeral escort of a prominent politician.

The first Greek parties with an ideological background, conforming to the modern conception of a political party, appeared after 1910, when Eleftherios Venizelos rose to predominance in Greek political life and founded his Liberal Party. The liberal wave of Venizelism resulted soon in the reaction of the "old-system" political leaders, who formed the core of an opposing conservative movement, which used the monarchy as its main rallying banner. Thereby, the two biggest ideological movements, the republican centrist-liberal and the monarchist conservative, emerged and formed massive political organizations. The centrist and the conservative parties bitterly confronted each other in the ensuing legislative elections for many decades, until metapolitefsi. After the metapolitefsi of 1974, the leftist-socialist movement supplanted the centrists and took the main part of their electorate. A smaller part of erstwhile centrists, along with most conservatives, affiliated themselves with the centre-right New Democracy party, which self-defined as a liberal party and drafted the republican Constitution of 1975.

Until recently, Greece has had a two-party system, i.e., there were two dominant political parties, the liberal-conservative New Democracy (ND), and the center-left Panhellenic Socialist Movement). Other parties won far fewer seats.

The left is represented in Parliament by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the coalition of radical left party (SYRIZA) and and the centre-left Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK). To the right of ND, the Independent Greeks and Golden Dawn, has a small Parliamentary group.

Opinion polls suggest a different line-up for the 2012 election. PASOK and ND have both lost support and neither is likely to achieve a parliamentary majority. Indeed, the most likely post-election government is a coalition of the two parties. On the left a new party, Democratic Left, is challenging KKE and SYRIZA in the polls. On the right, Independent Greeks and Golden Dawn seem likely to enter Parliament for the first time.

Greek parties in government since 1974
Parties '74 '77 '81 '85 '89 '89 '90 '93 '96 '00 '04 '07 '09 '11 '12 '13 '14
New Democracy (ND) X X X X X X X X X X X
Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) X X X X X X X X X X X
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) (as part of Synaspismos) X X
Synaspismos (SYN) X X
Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) X
Democratic Left (Greece) (DIMAR) X
Agreement for the New Greece (SNE) (as part of PASOK after 22/08/2014) X

Latest election[edit]

European[edit]

For more details on this topic, see European Parliament election, 2014 (Greece).
e • d Summary of the results of Greece's 25 May 2014 election to the European Parliament
← 200920142019 →
National party European party Leader(s) Votes  % +/– Seats +/–
Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) PEL Alexis Tsipras 1,518,608 26.57 21.87 Increase
6 / 21
5 Increase
New Democracy (ND) EPP Antonis Samaras 1,298,713 22.72 9.57 Decrease
5 / 21
3 Decrease
Golden Dawn (XA) ENF Nikolaos Michaloliakos 536,910 9.39 8.93 Increase
3 / 21
3 Increase
Olive Tree – Democratic Alignment (ELIA DA) PES Evangelos Venizelos (PASOK) 458,403 8.02 28.62 Decrease
2 / 21
6 Decrease
The River (TO POTAMI) None Stavros Theodorakis 377,438 6.60 new
2 / 21
2 Increase
Communist Party (KKE) None Dimitris Koutsoumpas 349,255 6.11 2.24 Decrease
2 / 21
0 Steady
Independent Greeks (ANEL) None Panos Kammenos 197,701 3.46 new
1 / 21
1 Increase
Popular Orthodox Rally MELD Georgios Karatzaferis 154,027 2.69 4.45 Decrease
0 / 21
2 Decrease
Greek European Citizens None Jorgo Chatzimarkakis 82,350 1.40 new
0 / 21
0 Steady
Democratic Left None Fotis Kouvelis 68,873 1.20 new
0 / 21
0 Steady
Union for the Fatherland and the People None Vyron Polydoras 59,341 1.04 new
0 / 21
0 Steady
Party of Greek Hunters None Giorgos Tsagkanelias 57,014 1.00 0.27 Decrease
0 / 21
0 Steady
Others (parties or candidates that won less than 1% of the vote and no seats) (103,422) 9.76
0 / 21
1 Decrease
Valid votes
Blank and invalid votes
Totals ' 100.00
21 / 21
1 Decrease
Electorate (eligible voters) and voter turnout 59.96
Source:

National[edit]

For more details on this topic, see Greek legislative election, June 2012.
e • d Summary of the 17 June 2012 Hellenic Parliament election results
Party Leader(s) Votes  % +/– Seats +/–
New Democracy (ND) Antonis Samaras 1,825,497 29.66 +10.81 129 +21
Syriza Unionist Social Front (SYRIZA) Alexis Tsipras 1,655,022 26.89 +10.10 71 +19
Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) Evangelos Venizelos 756,024 12.28 –0.90 33 –8
Independent Greeks (ANEL) Panos Kammenos 462,406 7.51 –3.11 20 –13
Golden Dawn (XA) Nikolaos Michaloliakos 426,025 6.92 –0.05 18 –3
Democratic Left (DIMAR) Fotis Kouvelis 384,986 6.25 +0.14 17 –2
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Aleka Papariga 277,227 4.50 –3.98 12 –14
Recreate Greece – Action – Liberal Alliance (DX–DRASI–FS) T. Tzimeros / S. Manos / G. Vallianatos 98,140 1.59 –0.56 0
Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) Georgios Karatzaferis 97,099 1.58 –1.31 0
Ecologist Greens (OP) Six-member committee 54,408 0.88 –2.05 0
I Don't Pay Movement Vasilis Papadopoulos 23,699 0.39 –0.49 0
Anticapitalist Left Cooperation for the Overthrow (ANTARSYA) 21-member committee 20,416 0.33 –0.86 0
Society: Political Party of the Successors of Kapodistria Michail Iliadis 17,770 0.29 –0.16 0
Union of Centrists (EK) Vassilis Leventis 17,145 0.28 –0.33 0
Pirate Party of Greece (KPE) I. Panagopoulos 14,170 0.23 –0.28 0
Panathinaikos Movement (PANKI) Yiorgos Betsikas 12,459 0.20 +0.2 0
Communist (Marxist–Leninist) / Marxist–Leninist Communist Four-member committee 7,592 0.12 –0.13 0
National Hope (EE) Yiorgios Papadopoulos 4,290 0.07 +0.07 0
Liberal Party (LIBERTAS) Manolis Kaligiannis 623 0.01 –0.05 0
Independent candidates 385 0.00 –0.05 0
National Resistance Movement (KEAN) Ippokratis Savvouras 81 0.00 –0.00 0
Panagrarian Labour Movement of Greece (PAEKE) Miltiadis Tzalazidis 0 0.00 –0.00 0
Valid votes 6,155,464 99.01
Invalid votes 35,961 0.58
Blank votes 25,373 0.41
Totals 6,216,798 100.00 300
Total electorate and voter turnout 9,947,876 62.49
Source: Ministry of Interior
Seats won in the new parliament
  New Democracy: 129 seats
  Independent Greeks: 20 seats
  Golden Dawn: 18 seats
  Democratic Left: 17 seats
  Communist Party: 12 seats

Election of the President of the Republic[edit]

The Presidential Standard of Greece

The head of state – the President of the Hellenic Republic – is elected by Parliament for a five-year term, and a maximum of two terms in office. Eligible for President is any person who:

  • has the Greek citizenship for at least five years,
  • has a father or a mother of Greek origin,
  • is 40 years old or more,
  • is eligible to vote.

When a presidential term expires, Parliament votes to elect the new President. In the first two votes, a 2/3 majority (200 votes) is necessary. The third and final vote requires a 3/5 (180 votes) majority. If the third vote is fruitless, Parliament is dissolved and elections are proclaimed by the outgoing President within the next 30 days. In the new Parliament, the election for President is repeated immediately with a 3/5 majority required for the initial vote, an absolute majority (151 votes) for the second one and a simple majority for the third and final one. The system is so designed as to promote consensus Presidential candidates among the main political parties.

Elected Presidents of the Third Hellenic Republic (1974–present)[edit]

The insignia of the Presidency of the Hellenic Republic
From-To President Supported by Elected in the
June 19, 1975 – May 15, 1980 Constantine Tsatsos New Democracy first vote
May 15, 1980 – March 10, 1985 Constantine Karamanlis New Democracy
KODISO
Communist Party of Greece (Interior)
third vote
March 30, 1985 – May 4, 1990 Christos Sartzetakis Panhellenic Socialist Movement
Communist Party of Greece
third vote
May 4, 1990 – March 10, 1995 Constantine Karamanlis New Democracy second vote
(after elections)
March 10, 1995 – March 11, 2000 Kostis Stephanopoulos Panhellenic Socialist Movement
Political Spring
third vote
March 11, 2000 – March 12, 2005 Kostis Stephanopoulos New Democracy
Panhellenic Socialist Movement
first vote
March 12, 2005 – March 13, 2010 Karolos Papoulias New Democracy
Panhellenic Socialist Movement
first vote
February 3, 2010 – present Karolos Papoulias Panhellenic Socialist Movement
New Democracy
Popular Orthodox Rally
first vote

European Parliament elections[edit]

Greece has had a Delegation of Members of the European Parliament in the European Parliament since Greek accession to the EU in 1984. Originally, the Greek delegation numbered 25, but after 2004 that was reduced to 24 (due to the increase of the EU member countries). In 2009, it was further reduced to 22. These MEPs are elected every five years on the basis of a Party-list proportional representation electoral system. In the European elections, the whole country forms a single electoral area (constituency).

Presently, there are six Greek parties represented in the European Parliament: New Democracy, PASOK, Communist Party of Greece (KKE), Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza), Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) and Ecologist Greens.

Local elections[edit]

Local administration in Greece recently underwent extensive reform in two phases: the first phase, implemented in 1997 and commonly called the "Kapodistrias Project", consolidated the country's numerous municipalities and communities down to approximately 1000. The second phase, initially called "Kapodistrias II" but eventually named the "Callicrates Project", was implemented in 2010; it further consolidated municipalities down to 370, and merged the country's 54 prefectures into 13 peripheries. The Callicratean municipalities were designed according to several guidelines; for example each island (except Crete) was formed into a single municipality, while the majority of small towns were incorporated so as to have an average municipal population of 25,000.

The first prefectural elections took place in 1994; previously, prefects were executive appointees. Municipal elections were held since the formation of the modern Greek state, in the early 19th century.

Local administrators elected in 2010, following the Callicrates reform, are to serve a "rump" 3.5 year term. Starting in 2014, peripheral and municipal elections are to be held every five years, concurrently with elections for the European Parliament. In all local elections, the winning candidacy list is guaranteed a minimum three-fifths majority in the respective councils.

Past local elections since 1974[edit]

Referendums[edit]

The Constitution provides for two kinds of referendums:

  • a referendum concerning a "passed law"
  • a referendum concerning a matter of "national interest".

Nonetheless, these constitutional provisions have not yet been enacted into law and therefore there is no procedure for a referendum to be held.

Previous referendums[edit]

There were 7 referendums in Greece from 1920 to 1974. All but one have had to do with the form of government, namely retention/reestablishment or abolition of the monarchy. The last referendum in 1974 resulted in confirming of the parliamentary republic. The only referendum not concerning the form of government was constitutional referendum in 1968 held by the military junta. There were no referendums in Greece since 1974.

King Constantine II
King George II
King Constantine I

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]