Should foreign residents have local vote in France?

Britons are no longer EU citizens due to Brexit so those living in France cannot vote in the local French elections on March 15 and 22 unless they also have French citizenship.

26 February 2020
By Connexion journalist

Voting is restricted under the Constitution to “French nationals of both sexes who have reached the age of majority.” However EU citizens in France have had reciprocal rights in local elections since 1992 under the Maastricht Treaty.

Twelve EU states, including Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Netherlands and Sweden, go beyond this and allow all foreigners with a residence permit to vote in local elections.  

Around four million foreigners, mainly from Europe or North Africa, are resident in France but a bid by former president François Hollande to give the vote to those living here for at least five years was abandoned. He could not get a parliamentary majority.

Here are two different opinions on the issue.

 

FOR

Alain Esmery, member of the Ligue des droits de l’Homme (human rights league)

The right of foreigners to vote is a necessity for democratic equality and Brexit proves it even more today.

It is a scandal that more than 900 elected representatives of British origin will no longer have the right to participate in our municipal elections.

People living here for five, 10, 20, 30 or 40 years will lose the right to vote in French local elections – and those living in France for more than 15 years lose their right to vote in general elections under UK law.

They become like sub-citizens, and this applies to all foreigners, Asians, Africans or Americans, but Brexit shows that it is urgent to change the constitution in our country.

It is often said that Britons just have to be naturalised and become French if they want to vote, but many do not wish to do this.

The process is already complex, but there are also cultural and emotional reasons. We are born somewhere and have the right to want to keep what characterises us. People are attached to their country of origin.

Every year, a poll is taken on the subject and in 20 years we have seen a significant evolution. We have gone from 40% to 64% of French people in favour of the right to vote for foreigners.

Society seems to be ready, but the political world is not.

Politicians are afraid to take a risk, and be exposed to the accusations of the extreme right and hard right, who consider foreigners to be less good than the French and that they would not vote well.

These are stupid prejudices. This inequality in voting rights reinforces the stigma and inequality felt by foreigners and their children.

Studies in Belgium have shown that foreigners vote like other citizens, based on their social situation, but in the coming elections nearly three million of our neighbours – people with children at our local schools – will not be able to vote.

Why do they not have the right to take part in local elections when it concerns them directly and they pay their taxes here?

When you live in a country, the affairs of that country are your business, and you should be able to vote and take part in the management and democracy of the country.

AGAINST

Patrick Ollier, former MP and minister who is mayor of Rueil-Malmaison

Since the declaration of human rights and the Constitution of the Fifth Republic in 1958, the right to vote in France is linked to citizenship. It is inseparable.

Therefore, only French citizens can maintain the country’s sovereignty and foreigners who do not have French nationality cannot have a say.

Only a change in the constitution could change this – and I am against allowing  foreigners to be able to vote in France.

It is as if I wanted to be able to vote in the United States because I had decided to live in Dallas or Chicago for profes­sional reasons.

The fact is, I am not an American citizen and the right to be able to vote in a country is always linked to citizenship.

Citizenship represents the history of the country, the history of the Republic for France – it is our heritage, but it is also our future.

We cannot allow people who have not been associated with the making of French history to vote or to take part in our elections. 

For municipal elections, being part of the European Union is an argument that must be taken into account because the EU has supranational power over the member states.

The fact that Europe exists creates a European sovereignty – you are a European citizen, you have a European passport.

In this regard, in local elections and only local elections, foreigners who are EU citizens and who live in France have the right to participate in our democracy.

The British have decided to leave the EU. It is their responsibility.

It is a tragedy for all of us, but from the moment the UK left the EU, its citizens lost the possibility to vote and stand for municipal elections. 

It is not the responsibility of France or Europe, it is a consequence of a decision taken by the British government.

There are villages in the south west which are only still living thanks to the British presence and these people are the first ones affected by this decision.

They feel excluded because they have no say. It is a pity for them.

The only solution is to become a French citizen and there are many who do so. 

To want to give the right to vote to everyone, as Mr Hollande wanted to do, was political opportunism.

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