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|Politics of Greece|
At a national level, Greece holds elections for its legislature, the Hellenic Parliament.
The Greek Parliament (Voulí ton Ellínon) has 300 members, elected for a four-year term by a system of 'reinforced' proportional representation in 59 constituencies, 52 of which are multi-seat and 7 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. In 2016, the majority bonus system, which granted 50 additional seats to the largest party in the Parliament, was abolished, however it was still applied in the 2019 election. In 2020, the parliament passed another law, reverting the system to a sliding scale majority bonus system similar to the pre-2018 system, but with the size of the majority bonus now tied to the number of votes won nationally. This system will be applied to the election after next.
Greek citizens aged 17 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 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.
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 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 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.
See also: Apportionment in the Hellenic Parliament
The Greek electoral system was codified for the first time by Presidential Decree in 2012; prior to that date it was made up of various pieces of legislation passed at different times. The current system is called "reinforced proportionality" in Greece (ενισχυμένη αναλογική), and is a form of semi-proportional representation with a 50-seat majority bonus for the party that wins a plurality of the vote. There is also an electoral threshold of 3% which all parties and individuals need to pass on a national level before being awarded any seats. These provisions are aimed at helping the largest party secure an absolute majority of parliamentary seats (151 out of 300), enhancing governmental stability. The majority bonus of 50 seats was abolished in 2016, but was still applied at the 2019 Greek legislative election because the new electoral law did not receive a supermajority in Parliament, and can thus not be enforced in the next election.
The next election will see the electoral system change to proportional representation, as the majority bonus will cease to be applied since it was abolished in 2016. The election after next will revert to semi-proportional representation with a sliding scale bonus after it was passed in parliament in 2020.
The 50-seat majority bonus system was used for the first time in the May 2012 election; it reserves 50 parliamentary seats for the party emerges as the largest by total votes cast on a national level. The remaining 250 seats are divided proportionally in parliamentary constituencies 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.
Articles 99 and 100 of the codified electoral law lay out the way in which parties are allocated seats in accordance with the percentage of votes they received in a legislative election. The introduction of the majority bonus makes seat allocation especially complex, but the steps followed for the allocation of seats are as follows:
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 2020. Because this law was passed by a simple majority, it will not used for the subsequent 2023 election, but can be used in the 2027 election.
|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 largest party||Threshold|
|Reinforced proportionality||1974||New Democracy||'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 (Jun), '89 (Nov), '90||47%+||none|
|Reinforced proportionality||1990||New Democracy||'93, '96, '00, '04||in almost any case||3%|
|2004||Panhellenic Socialist Movement||'07, '09||41.5%+|
|2008||New Democracy||'12 (May), '12 (Jun), '15 (Jan), '15 (Sep), '19||39%+|
|Simple proportionality||2016||Syriza||Elections after 2019||47%+|
|Reinforced proportionality||2020||New Democracy||Elections after 2023||39%+|
All Greek citizens aged 17 or over in the year of the election are eligible to vote, provided they are on the electoral register, unless:
According to Presidential Decree 26/2012(as amended by law 4648/2019), article 4, the 1st of January is-for electoral purposes-considered the birthday of all citizens turning 17 in that year. As such, citizens are able to vote in elections before their actual birthday, provided that they turn 17 in the year.
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 each year by municipal authorities; catalogues of to-be voters (coming of age the next year) are composed during November of the previous year. They do not become part of electoral catalogues, till 1 January. 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.
Since the abolition of Electoral Booklets in 2001, each and every voter is provided with a 13-digit Special Electoral Number. This number is used solely for proving the uniqueness of the voter and excluding any possibility of double voting. Any other use of the number is deemed illegal and carries a penalty of at least a year in prison and fine from 2934.70€ up to 29,347.03€, unless other acts have taken place. This number consists of:
The Special Electoral Number remains the same, even if the voter chooses to transfer his voting rights to another constituency.
The Constitution provides, following the amendment of 2001, for the right of Greek citizens living abroad to vote for the legislative elections and the law implementing this constitutional provision was passed in 2019.
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 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 at national elections is low: a mere 56.6% at the 2015 election and 57.9% at the 2019 election.
Further information: List of political parties in Greece
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 dominated by the liberal-conservative New Democracy (ND) and the center-left Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK). Other parties won far fewer seats. Beginning in the May and June 2012 legislative elections, SYRIZA (the Coalition of the Radical Left) overtook PASOK as the main force of the left wing. After almost three years of opposition to the ND-PASOK coalition government, SYRIZA took the most votes in the January 2015 elections and formed government, while PASOK just barely crossed the threshold.
Currently, the left is represented in Parliament by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), SYRIZA, KINAL and MeRA25.To the right of ND, lies Kyriakos Velopoulos' Greek Solution.
|New Democracy (ND)||X||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) / Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA)||X||X|
|Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS)||X|
|Democratic Left (Greece) (DIMAR)||X|
|Agreement for the New Greece (SNE) (as part of PASOK after 22 August 2014)||X|
|Independent Greeks (ANEL)||X||X|
|Ecologist Greens (OP)||X||X|
Further information: 2019 Greek legislative election
|Movement for Change||457,527||8.10||22||+5|
|Communist Party of Greece||299,595||5.30||15||0|
|Course of Freedom||82,673||1.46||0||New|
|Union of Centrists||70,161||1.24||0||−9|
|United Popular Front||28,269||0.50||0||0|
|Communist Party of Greece (Marxist–Leninist)||7,778||0.14||0||0|
|Marxist–Leninist Communist Party of Greece||2,791||0.05||0||0|
|Workers Revolutionary Party||1,993||0.04||0||0|
|Organisation of Internationalist Communists of Greece||1,675||0.03||0||0|
|Syn...Fonia Politikon Kommaton||96||0.00||0||0|
|Source: Ministry of the Interior|
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:
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 ballot between the two persons with the highest number of votes in the second election for the third and final one. The system is so designed as to promote consensus presidential candidates among the main political parties.
|From-To||President||Supported by||Election date||Elected in the|
|19 July 1975 – 10 May 1980||Constantine Tsatsos||New Democracy||19 June 1975||first vote|
|10 May 1980 – 10 March 1985||Constantine Karamanlis||New Democracy
Communist Party of Greece (Interior)
|5 May 1980||third vote|
|30 March 1985 – 4 May 1990||Christos Sartzetakis||Panhellenic Socialist Movement
Communist Party of Greece
|29 March 1985|
|4 May 1990 – 10 March 1995||Constantine Karamanlis||New Democracy||4 May 1990||second vote|
|10 March 1995 – 11 March 2000||Kostis Stephanopoulos||Panhellenic Socialist Movement
|8 March 1995||third vote|
|11 March 2000 – 12 March 2005||Panhellenic Socialist Movement
|8 February 2000||first vote|
|12 March 2005 – 12 March 2010||Karolos Papoulias||New Democracy
Panhellenic Socialist Movement
|8 February 2005|
|12 March 2010 – 13 March 2015||Panhellenic Socialist Movement
Popular Orthodox Rally
|3 February 2010|
|13 March 2015 – 13 March 2020||Prokopis Pavlopoulos||Coalition of the Radical Left
|18 February 2015||first vote|
|13 March 2020 – 13 March 2025||Katerina Sakellaropoulou||New Democracy
Coalition of the Radical Left
Movement for Change
|22 January 2020||first vote|
Main article: European Parliament elections in Greece
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, and in 2014 to 21 MEPs.
In the European elections, the whole country forms a single constituency and an electoral threshold is set at 3% of the vote. Members of the government and elected members of the Hellenic Parliament may only stand for election after having resigned from office.
Until 2014, the MEPs were elected on the basis of a party-list proportional representation system. Starting with the 2014 European Parliament election, candidates are elected on the basis of individual preference votes with a maximum of four preferences per voter.
Main article: 2019 European Parliament election in Greece
|Party||EU Party||EP Group||Vote||Seats|
|New Democracy (ND)||EPP||EPP||1,873,080||33.12||+10.40||8||+3|
|Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA)||PEL||GUE-NGL||1,343,788||23.75||−2.80||6||±0|
|Movement for Change (KINAL)||PES||S&D||436,735||7.72||−0.30||2||±0|
|Communist Party of Greece (KKE)||INITIATIVE||NI||302,677||5.35||−0.76||2||±0|
|Golden Dawn (XA)||NI||275,822||4.87||−4.51||2||−1|
|Greek Solution (EL)||ECR||ECR||236,361||4.18||New||1||New|
|European Realistic Disobedience Front (DiEM25)||DiEM25||169,286||2.99||New||0||New|
|Course of Freedom||PEL||GUE-NGL||90,859||1.61||New||0||New|
|Union of Centrists (EK)||EDP||82,072||1.45||+0.81||0||±0|
|Greece, the Other Way [el]||70,286||1.24||New||0||New|
|Popular Orthodox Rally-Patriotic Radical Union [el]||69,524||1.23||−1.46||0||±0|
|Ecologist Greens (OP)||Greens||Greens/EFA||49,099||0.87||New||0||New|
|Independent Greeks (ANEL)||ECR||ECR||45,149||0.80||−2.66||0||−1|
|Free Homeland [el]||41,188||0.73||New||0||New|
|Party of Friendship, Equality and Peace||40,245||0.71||−0.04||0||±0|
|Front of the Greek Anticapitalist Left (ANTARSYA)||36,327||0.64||−0.08||0||±0|
|Agricultural Animal Party Greece||31,810||0.56||−0.01||0||±0|
|Popular Unity-Pirate Party of Greece (LAE)||31,671||0.56||New||0||New|
|Union for the Defense of Labour and the Social State-Strong Greece||22,349||0.40||New||0||New|
|Democratic Responsibility [el]||PES||S&D||18,171||0.32||New||0||New|
|New Greek Momentum [el]||12,289||0.22||New||0||New|
|Marxist–Leninist Communist Party of Greece (M-L KKE)||12,268||0.22||+0.03||0||±0|
|National Front-Patriotic League-Lions' Movement||10,797||0.19||New||0||New|
|People's European Social Groups||10,318||0.18||New||0||New|
|Panhellenic Citizen Chariot||9,934||0.18||New||0||New|
|Organisation of Internationalist Communists of Greece (OKDE)||4,823||0.09||+0.04||0||±0|
|People's European Social Groups-Agrarian Party of Greece-Associations for Culture and Development||3,134||0.06||New||0||New|
|Kollatos − Independent Political Movement||3,132||0.06||−0.10||0||±0|
|Blank and invalid votes|
|Registered voters / Turnout||10,074,898||58.69% tournout|
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.
The current Constitution provides for two kinds of referendums:
The latest referendum was indeed concerning a matter of "national interest", in contrast to all the previous ones that concerned the form of government, specifically regarding the Greek monarchy.
There were 7 referendums in Greece from 1920 to 1974. All but one had to do with the form of government, namely retention/reestablishment or abolition of the monarchy. The 1974 referendum resulted in confirming of the parliamentary republic. The only referendum not concerning only the form of government was the constitutional referendum in 1968 held by the military junta. There were no referendums in Greece between 1974 and 2014. In 2015, the Greeks voted no on the bailout proposed by the ECB and IMF, which was however rejected by the government.