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French MP supports non-EU foreigners voting in municipal elections

Only French or EU citizens living in France have the right to decide on their city councillors, who in turn elect the local mayor. Since Brexit, British citizens can no longer vote in this election

EU citizens living in France can vote in the municipal elections – for which they get a special electoral card after registering Pic: Delpixel / Shutterstock

A French MP has put forward a proposal for all foreigners living in France to be able to vote in the municipal elections. 

Currently, only French and other European Union citizens living in France have the right to vote in these elections, as well as the European Parliament elections. They cannot vote in the legislative or presidential elections. 

Sacha Houlié, an MP for the governing Renaissance (formerly LREM) party and also président de la commission des lois à l'Assemblée nationale, tabled the proposition Tuesday (August 9) with the idea of it being debated after the summer break. 

He said the bill was part of his campaign promises in the run up to the June legislative elections. 

“No one is surprised that a Spaniard or a Bulgarian can vote in municipal elections,” he told Franceinfo.

“But it did puzzle a lot of people that the British can't do it anymore since Brexit.”

Municipal elections in France allow for city councillors (conseillers municipaux) to be elected in each commune of the country. It is these councillors who then elect the commune’s mayor. 

The next municipal election will be held in 2026. 

Read more: ‘As a foreigner I cannot vote but a French person is voting for me’

A proposal with a long history

Mr Houlié is not the first in France to propose allowing all foreigners to vote in the municipal elections. 

It was a campaign promise of François Mitterrand ahead of his 1981 election as president. Once elected, he walked back on the proposal in the face of pressure from right-wing parties. 

In 2004, Nicolas Sarkozy, who was at the time interior minister – he was elected French president in 2007 – also put forward the idea but was shut down by his own party, the Union pour un mouvement populaire. 

François Hollande brought it up again during his successful presidential campaign in 2012 but later dropped it. 

The idea is widely unpopular with those on the right of the political spectrum, with many believing that it could pose a danger to French society. 

Jordan Bardella, acting president of the far-right Rassemblement national, criticised Mr Houlié’s proposal, calling it “the last act in dispossessing French people of their country”. 

He promised his party would oppose the draft bill.

‘I have no issues with the interior minister’

After submitting the proposition, Mr Houlié had to deal with questions about how his own party, particularly the Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, would react to the idea. 

Mr Darmanin is to submit a bill in autumn that will propose “more demanding” imigration laws as well as tougher integration-related rules. 

He did not go into great detail about the plans, but has previously talked about imposing a language proficiency requirement on people applying for multi-year residence permits. 

He has also been vociferous in his desire to have foreign delinquents deported from France after committing crimes. 

Read more: France to develop ‘more demanding immigrant integration process’

Read more: Plan for multi-year French residency cards to include a language test

Mr Houlié said this tough stance was not in contrast to his own views on foreigners in France. 

“I have the greatest tolerance and respect for all people who seek to integrate, to work and to be part of France, but I have no problem ensuring that people who do not respect the rules of our country are expelled,” he said. 

“I have no quarrel with the interior minister, I agree with him when he says that we should not judge foreigners for what they are but for what they do. 

“The positions I defend are in line with this philosophy,” he said. 

Read more: France looks to expel all foreigners committing ‘serious offences’

Related articles

Legislative elections: what are the roles and duties of French MPs?

How I went about applying for French citizenship’

French site pairs foreigners who want to vote with election abstainers

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