France: The European Court of Human Rights Delivers Its Verdict on the Inability of Greeks Living Abroad to Vote in Parliamentary Elections

In today’s Grand Chamber judgment in the case Sitaropoulos and Giakoumopoulos v. Greece, which is final, the European Court of Human Rights delivered the unanimous verdict that: The inability of Greeks living abroad to vote in parliamentary elections from their place of residence did not breach their human rights.

According to the Court, there had been no violation of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 (right to free elections) to the European Convention on Human Rights. The case concerned Greek nationals living in France who complained of their inability to vote in Greek elections from their country of residence.

The Court notably found that neither the relevant international and regional law nor the varying practices of the member States in this sphere revealed any obligation or consensus which would require States to make arrangements for the exercise of voting rights by citizens living abroad.

In its Chamber judgment of July 8, 2010, the Court had held that the absence of measures to give effect to expatriates’ voting rights, despite the fact that the Greek Constitution had, for 35 years, made provision for practical arrangements to be put in place enabling expatriates to vote, was likely to constitute unfair treatment of Greek citizens living abroad.

The case concerned the applicants’ complaint that the Greek legislature had not made the necessary arrangements enabling Greek citizens living abroad to vote in parliamentary elections from their place of residence. Hence, the complaint did not relate to the recognition of expatriates’ right to vote as such, but rather to the conditions governing the exercise of that right. The question was therefore whether Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 placed States under an obligation to introduce a system enabling expatriate citizens to exercise their voting rights from abroad.

The Court noted that, although the Greek Constitution contained a provision encouraging the legislature to arrange for the exercise of expatriates’ voting rights, it did not oblige it to do so. Observing that several attempts to enact legislation governing the exercise of voting rights by Greeks living abroad had failed to secure political agreement, the Court considered that it was not its place to indicate to the national authorities when and how to give effect to that provision.

(Source: http://www.echr.coe.int)