Foreigner voting debate revived

The proportion of foreign nationals in the country's population fell from 2018 to 2019 as a result of more people acquiring Luxembourg nationality Mike Zenari/archives

The proportion of foreign nationals in the country's population fell from 2018 to 2019 as a result of more people acquiring Luxembourg nationality Mike Zenari/archives

A petition is seeking to reignite the debate on foreigner voting rights in national elections, five years after Luxembourgers voted overwhelmingly against the idea.

Petition 1481 moots the idea that foreign residents from European Union member states who have been resident for “a certain number of years” to be given the right to vote in legislative elections.

“This number of years would have to be precisely defined and should, in any case, remain much lower than the number of years required to obtain Luxembourg nationality automatically,” the petitioner writes.

He further says the measure would ensure “representation of the elected body of the population directly affected by its decisions.”

Currently, foreign nationals are permitted to vote only in communal elections provided they have been resident in the country for five or more years. They are also permitted to vote in the social elections. In a 2015 referendum, Luxembourgers voted 78.02% against allowing foreigners to vote in legislative elections if they had lived in the country for ten or more years.

The government amended the criteria for acquiring Luxembourg nationality in 2017. Some argue this enables foreigners to vote. However, not all nationals are allowed to hold more than one nationality, and therefore some nationals are excluded from taking this option.

Shift in foreigner proportion

The question was particularly pertinent since historically the proportion of foreigners living in Luxembourg rose constantly to reach a high of 47.9% in 2018. In 2019, however, the proportion reversed, and foreigners represented 47.5% of the population.

Contacted by Delano, François Peltier of national statistics body Statec confirmed that 2019 was the first year the foreigner population proportion fell. He credited the reversal to the growth of foreigners acquiring Luxembourg nationality as a result of the 2017 law.

The petition may receive a warmer reception than the 2015 referendum question as a 2019 survey commissioned by foreign workers' rights association Asti and conducted by TNS Ilres found 43% of Luxembourgish respondents were in favour of foreigner voting rights with a residency clause.

Who can sign a petition?

Anyone may sign a petition, provided they are aged 15 or over and have a social security card in Luxembourg.

If the petitions garner 4,500 signatures or more before they are closed for signing, Luxembourg MPs will debate the subject in parliament.

Don’t miss the news, sign up for Delano’s newsletters, delivered at 7am and 12noon 5 days a week direct to your inbox.