In a sudden move, the Greek coalition government decided to change the rules for the upcoming European elections, abolishing the existing party list system and replacing it with the direct election of MEPs, triggering anger from opposition parties, EURACTIV Greece reports.
The European elections to be held in May alongside local elections will be a key test for the fragile coalition government, which is under pressure to confirm that a recovery has taken root after six years of recession.
The latest polls show the main opposition Syriza party in the lead against the centre-right New Democracy, while support for the junior coalition partner Pasok is down to just 4% from 43% when it won the national election in 2009.
A leap forward for democracy
“In the country where democracy was born, we decided the election of our MEPs with the most democratic way, by abolishing the party lists and introducing the direct election,” the Greek interior minister, Yiannis Michelakis, told EURACTIV Greece.
The centre-right minister added that “the citizen should have the first word,” especially at a time when the European Parliament is set to decide on matters that will directly affect citizens’ everyday lives.
“While the EU is at a difficult crossroads amid the worst socio-economic situation for decades, the election of the most capable representatives in the European Parliament is more critical and important than ever before,” Michelakis continued.
Marietta Giannakou, a centre-right Member of the European Parliament from the ruling New Democracy party, agreed. “Such a procedure will activate the citizens; it will revive the dialogue and the interest in participating in European politics. I was always in favour of the direct election of MEPs in the European Parliament,” said Giannakou, who is affiliated to the European People’s party (EPP).
“The direct election of MEPs is a democratic leap”, agreed Greek MEP Giorgios Koumoutsakos, another New Democracy MEP, on his personal account on Facebook.