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POLITICS

Voting rights for foreigners in France back on political agenda

Foreigners living in France could get the right to vote in certain elections if a newly-created bill passes through parliament.

Voting rights for foreigners in France back on political agenda
(Photo: Pascal Pochard-Casabianca / AFP)

The newly elected president of the National Assembly’s law commission calmly lobbed a 40-year-old electoral hand-grenade into the political discourse of the summer – and then went on holiday.

Sacha Houlié, MP for the Vienne and a member of Macron’s LREM party, filed a bill on Monday that would, if passed, allow non-EU citizens living in France to vote and stand for office in local elections. 

Under current electoral legislation, only French citizens can vote in presidential and parliamentary elections; EU citizens in France can vote in local and European elections; and non-EU citizens have no voting rights in France whatsoever. 

EU citizens can also stand for office in local elections, but are barred from becoming mayor or running for a seat in the Assembly.

Since Brexit, Britons in France have not been allowed to vote in local or  local office, any many Brits who were on their local councils had to resign because they were no longer EU citizens.

Many countries limit voting for their citizens who are out of the country, so non-EU citizens living in France often do not have the right to vote in any country.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and the far-right Rassemblement National wasted little time criticising Houlié’s bill.

Darminin’s entourage said that the minister was “firmly opposed” to the idea.

The far-right party went further. “We have crossed the limits of indecency and incomprehension of what the French are asking for,” Rassemblement national spokesperson Laurent Jacobelli told Franceinfo, echoing the sentiment of the party’s interim president Jordan Bardella, who insisted the passing of the bill would mark the, “final dispossession of the French from their country”.

Houlié said: “The right to vote for European Union nationals in local elections already exists in France. No one is surprised that a Spaniard or a Bulgarian can vote in municipal elections. But it has surprised many people that the British can no longer do it since Brexit.”

Given the current shape of the Parliament in France, it seems unlikely that the latest bill will pass. But it is far from the first time it has been on the table.

François Mitterrand had pledged during his presidential campaign in 1981 to ensure “the right to vote in municipal elections after five years of presence on French territory.”

But, in the face of opposition from the right, he backed down from this particular promise. 

In October 2004, Nicolas Sarkozy, then Minister of the Interior, tried to move forward with an electoral plan that would have allowed non-EU citizens certain voting rights – but was blocked by his own UMP party.

François Hollande re-launched the proposal during his 2012 campaign, before quietly letting it go in the face of opposition from both sides of the political spectrum.

Member comments

  1. Foreigners who are residents should be allowed to vote in all elections – the test should be domicile, not nationality. Anything else is anti-democratic.

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POLITICS

Italy’s far-right Meloni angered by French ‘threat’

Italian far-right leader Giorgia Meloni has reacted angrily to comments from European Affairs Minister Laurence Boone reported in an Italian newspaper

Italy's far-right Meloni angered by French 'threat'

Meloni, whose post-fascist Brothers of Italy party won last month’s general election, has demanded an explanation after a French minister suggested rights may be at risk under the incoming government.

European Affairs Minister Laurence Boone told the Repubblica daily that Paris would “pay close attention to the respect for values and the rule of law” once the new government is sworn in.

“The EU has already demonstrated its vigilance towards other countries such as Hungary and Poland,” Boone added in the interview published Friday, citing the two Eurosceptic governments that have clashed with Brussels over civil rights.

Meloni said the comments appeared to be “an unacceptable threat of interference against a sovereign member state of the European Union”.

“I trust that the French government will immediately deny the words,” Meloni said, adding she hoped “the left-wing” daily had in fact misinterpreted Boone’s meaning.

Meloni, a fierce defender of Catholic family values, won as part of a right-wing coalition that civil rights activists fear pose a threat to civil rights, from abortion to same-sex marriage.

Italy’s most far-right government since World War Two is expected to be in place by the end of October.

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