POLITICS & INSTITUTIONS - POLITICS

Foreigner voting rights

Clement wants Europeans to vote in local polls immediately



"EU nationals already have an immediate right to vote in European elections, but not in local elections, even though this concerns them much more," argues the Pirate Party MP Sven Clement. "They have to wait five years. The idea is to remove this condition.” Matic Zorman/Maison Moderne

"EU nationals already have an immediate right to vote in European elections, but not in local elections, even though this concerns them much more," argues the Pirate Party MP Sven Clement. "They have to wait five years. The idea is to remove this condition.” Matic Zorman/Maison Moderne

On 12 May, Sven Clement MP tabled a bill on the right to vote for foreigners. The idea is to abolish the five-year residence requirement for EU nationals before they can vote in local elections.

The right to vote for foreigners in parliamentary elections was overwhelmingly rejected--by more than 80%--in a referendum in 2015. Sven Clement (Pirate Party) returned to the subject from a different angle: municipal elections. With bill no 7823, he aims to abolish the five-year residence requirement for an EU national to be able to register on the electoral roll and vote in local elections.

Pierre Pailler: The right to vote in parliamentary elections for foreign nationals was clearly rejected, by 80%, in the 2015 referendum. Why are you raising the issue of the right to vote for EU citizens in local elections?

Sven Clement: EU nationals already have an immediate right to vote in European elections. But not for local elections, which are of much greater concern to them. At the moment they have to wait five years. The idea is to remove this condition.

As for foreign nationals who can register to vote, only 23% have done so. Why do you think this could improve the situation?

The European national could then ask, from day one, to register for both elections, and thus avoid a second administrative step five years later, which is a cumbersome procedure.

A lot of money is spent on motivating people to register. This would make the process much easier. As it is, it is an unnecessary barrier. It is also a route to integration.

A foreign national can stand for election for a local council five years after arrival. Would this period still apply?

We have asked ourselves this question. But we think it would be a rush to be elected immediately. We want to avoid parachuting in. And it would create a distinction with Luxembourgers, who themselves have to wait six months after moving to a municipality before running.

Why are only European nationals concerned by your proposed law, without including third-country nationals?

An association like Asti would like to integrate everyone. But this seems more logical to us, as European citizens already have the right to vote in European elections. Moreover, the proposal has a better chance of succeeding…

On this subject, do you think that this proposal has a chance of succeeding?

I don't think there is a strong feeling against it in the different parties, but not a strong feeling in favour of it either. It's a no-win issue politically, because it might annoy the voters.

But we are partially opening a window. It is an administrative simplification for citizens we know well. And the borders of this country are permeable, many people move from one side to the other...

What powers would this new voter concretely obtain with the right to vote in communal elections?

[The voter] could influence everything that concerns him [or her] on a daily basis: the construction of a swimming pool or a school, decisions on a PAG [municipal development plan] or on the population density in the commune, the passing of rubbish bins... It's not big politics, but everyday issues.

Ideally, how long do you think it will take for this proposal to come to fruition?

The government's position could be taken in September or October, which would allow the Council of State to give its opinion and the committee to work on it, and to obtain a vote in the [Chamber of Deputies] before the summer. The aim is to have the law in place before the 2023 municipal elections.

Foreigner voting rights for MPs is not on the agenda. But what is your position on this?

This is an issue that is close to my heart. Almost half the country does not have a Luxembourg passport... The rejection was clear in the referendum. But we could have a Chamber of Foreigners with an advisory opinion as a way of involving them in the legislative process. But with the crisis, other problems have arisen…