Local votes for foreigners in France: mayors back change

Anne Hidalgo in Paris as well as mayors of cities including Rouen, Nantes and Lyon gave support

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo
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The mayors of Paris and many other cities are backing a campaign calling for non-EU citizens living in France to be allowed to vote in local elections.

Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, confirmed her support during an event organised by activists in Paris.

Mayors of Rouen, Strasbourg, Nantes, Lyon and Grenoble are also among around 50 who have signed a statement calling for a change in French law to allow local voting by all residents, not just EU citizens, who already have this through EU law. They say that this right already exists in 14 EU states.

The statement includes the wording: “We are convinced that a living democracy rests, fundamentally, on an active participation by everyone... We make no difference between the citizens of our towns depending on their passport; we consider all residents as citizens.”

European Britons (EB), an association representing the British dias­pora in Europe, took part in the journées internationales du droit de vote pour toutes et tous event in Paris. The days were organised by the J’y suis, j’y vote col­lective and visiting partners from a European network called Voting Rights for all Residents.

Paul Fisher of European Britons speaks to MP Danièle Obono at campaign event in Paris

EB president Paul Fisher said: “The Paris event had a good atmosphere – the Germans were especially active – and it is very positive to see the support from major cities’ mayors.”

French MP Danièle Obono, who is putting forward a proposed law in favour of votes for foreigners, met the campaigners. 

“She has obtained support from a group of other MPs and also from a Green party senator, so they are working to get it on the agenda in parliament,” Mr Fisher said. EB, meanwhile, is seeking to boost its active membership to further campaign on this issue, along with the right to vote in EU elections and dedicated MPs for Britons abroad. For more details, see europeanbritons.eu or email president@europeanbritons.eu.

“We’re short on numbers, and our challenge is to get our message out there above the hubbub of other groups pushing for rejoin and opposing Brexit,” he said.

“We support that too, but it’s very politically charged and what we are interested in is the democratic aspects.”

Surveys show a majority of French people are in favour of allowing all residents to vote.

A city councillor for Rouen, Adrien Naizet, said they have supported this since 2020, so they had been happy to sign.

“Foreign people, whatever their nationality, play a role in the economic activity of our city and many also play an active part in local life – for example, through conseils de quartier [local residents’ groups] and conseils d’école.

“Despite this, there has been no progress since EU citizens ob­tained the right to vote at the start of the century. 

“We need to help people integrate, and their participation would also make our councils more representative and democratic and it would better reflect the diversity and richness of local life.”

However, the change would require a modification of the constitution and “the political courage to do that”, he said.

He said it was “regrettable” it had not been done under president François Hollande (2012-17), as originally envisaged.

Meanwhile, Mr Naizet said Rouen has set up its own assemblée citoyenne – a citizens’ group consulted by the council on issues affecting local people, which is open to all residents aged 16 and above, regardless of nationality.