Parliament’s plenary session approved significant changes to the Greek constitution on Monday evening, based on proposals by New Democracy (ND) and SYRIZA which include regulations on the selection of Greece’s president, the right of Greeks abroad to vote at their countries of residence, and ministerial liability.
Ruling ND rejected Syriza’s proposals, while main opposition Syriza rejected the regulations on the Greek president and voting by Greeks abroad. Syriza supported the proposal it had jointly tabled with ND on doing away with a statute of limitations for ministerial liability. With 158 votes in the 300-strong parliament, ND passed several of its proposed revisions by majority vote.
Specifically, Greeks residing abroad were given the right to vote for state deputies. The voting lists for state deputies must include, per the new constitutional article, candidates proposed by and representing Greeks abroad. (Article 54, passed with 212 votes for, 84 against, 1 “present”)
The voting process for Greek president by Parliament’s plenary was refined to include options if three rounds of voting fail to elect a president. The revision is meant to prevent the dissolution of Parliament if parties fail to elect the head of state. (Article 32, paragraphs 4 and 5; passed with 158 for, 139 against)
Revisions to Article 21, paragraph 1 establishes a system guaranteeing a minimum income, and clearly states that “As the foundation of maintaining and promoting the nation, the family, marriage, motherhood and childhood come under state protection.” (190 for, 107 against)
In terms of ministerial liability, a minimum of 30 deputies must support a proposal for prosecution of a minister, which proposal must then be examined by a special parliamentary committee through a preliminary investigation. The forming of such a committee requires an absolute majority (50% + 1) of all deputies (300). The committee’s report is then submitted to the plenary to decide for prosecution of the person in question or not, also with a vote of absolute majority. (Article 86, paragraph 3; 274 for, 23 “present”)
An ND proposal also said a deputy could not be prosecuted or jailed without the Parliament’s permission, either during his/her tenure or between two parliamentary sessions (e.g. during summer recess). If an offence does not relate to the deputy’s obligations as such or to his/her political activity, the Parliament is obliged to approve prosecution, and has a three-month-margin of time to do so. It is not necessary to get Parliament permission for cases where the deputy is caught in the act of wrongdoing. (Article 62; 179 for, 117 against, 1 “present”).
Among other revisions, Article 73 allows the public to propose laws for Parliament to vote on, as long as 500,000 signatures are collected. (Article 73; 254 for, 32 against, 11 “present”)
Specific regulations on all revised articles of the constitution will be set through the legislative branch, providing explanations and directions for their application.