Foreigners' right to vote: why not universal suffrage?

Foreigners' right to vote: why not universal suffrage?

Aug 17, 2022
Our democracy needs to be more representativeness. We need the votes of European and non-European citizens living in France.
Volt France - Droit de vote des étrangers

> The constitution of 24 June 1793, which was never implemented, already provided for universal suffrage for everyone living in France.

> When it comes to advancing European integration, including voting rights, we are far from walking the talk.

> Our democracy needs to be more representative. We need the votes of European and non-European citizens living in France at all elections.

Volt France - Livre blanc - L'élan européen - Sven Franck

Sven Franck

Co-president Volt France

The National Assembly has gone with a real cliffhanger into its summer recess with a proposed law granting voting rights to non-European foreigners in municipal elections. To be discussed in the autumn, the idea is already making the missing waves this summer in our rivers with opponents hyperventilating over the ramifications of a potentially higher turnout in the next municipal elections. For Volt, the proposal goes in the right direction, but does not answer the essential question: why not grant the right to vote in all elections to anyone living and paying taxes in France for a set period of time?

A blast from the past

We are almost there already. The constitution of 24 June 1793, which was never implemented, declared: 

"Any person born and domiciled in France, aged twenty-one, any foreigner aged twenty-one, who, domiciled in France for one year, lives there by his work, or acquires property, or marries a French woman, or adopts a child, or nurses an old man, any foreigner finally who will be judged by the Legislative Body to have deserved well of Humanity, shall be admitted to the exercise of the Rights of French citizenship."

It should be noted that this passage did not only speak of municipal elections, but of universal suffrage. Nearly 250 years later, we are still not there. We pride ourselves on being a society that values equality, but when it comes to the right to vote, we divide our population into different camps and the right to vote becomes a matter of nationality. Why does this happen? What is the difference between a woman from Germany who has lived and worked in France for 40 years and a woman from Morocco who has also lived and worked here for 40 years? Why can neither of them vote in national elections and only one of them in municipal and European elections? Shouldn't they be able to vote and have a representative? Aren't their needs, interests and contributions to our society important? It is a strange dividing line we draw between who can vote in which elections - and a disservice to our democracy.

The european perspective

We should remember that the right to vote in municipal elections for European citizens was introduced at European level under the Maastricht Treaty. It came into force in 1992, but it took until 2001 for it to be adopted in France. Our government prides itself on being the only pro-European actor on the scene, but when it comes to advancing European integration, including voting rights in general, we are far from walking the talk. A look around Europe would even show that the right to vote in municipal elections for non-Europeans, with or without reciprocity, is already in place in many Member States. Democracy does not seem to be in question in any of them and, given the abstention rates here in France and the fact that the Republican front no longer holds, the increase in the number of potential voters could mean a much-needed boost to voter turnout and force political programmes to take into account the interests of a larger part of the population

Free movement and free votes

We must also recognise that the four freedoms granted with the establishment of the European single market meant that European citizens would move and settle in countries other than their country of origin. Thirty years later, some 15 million EU citizens have done so. Their numbers are increasing, which is slowly changing the foundations of our democracies, because these citizens are excluded from voting in some elections in their country of residence and also here in France. At the same time, our populations are expected to decrease and estimates speak of 43 million job vacancies in Europe by 2050, which we can only compensate for through mass migration. Will these migrants, who are to form a backbone of our economy and care systems of the future, also be excluded from any political voice? Volt believes that our democracy needs to be more representative. We need the votes of European and non-European citizens living in France at all elections. We therefore ask to broaden the discussion and to consider a general right to vote for everyone in France for a certain period of time.

Sources

  • Wikipédia - Voting rights for foreigners in France (link)
  • (en) Wikipédia - Municipal elections in France (link)
  • (en) Wikipédia - Voting rights for foreigners (link)
  • (en) Eurostat - European citizens living in another member state (link)
  • (en) CGDEF - Can Africa help Europe avoid its looming ageing crisis? (link)

About Volt

As the first truly pan-European party, Volt is committed to reforming the European Union and responding to today's challenges in a coordinated way at European level. Volt's vision: a progressive Europe with an inclusive society, a climate-friendly economy, an adaptable education system and self-determined digitalisation.

Volt is convinced that only the democratic participation of all European citizens will prepare us for a sustainable, economically strong and socially just future. This is why Volt acts at all levels - from local to European, as a movement and as a party. The movement gives everyone a voice and the opportunity to engage politically from within society. Today, Volt is present all over Europe: thousands of people of all ages and professions are involved in 30 European countries with teams in hundreds of cities.

Contact

Eric Galera - Presse and Media relations
Mail : eric.galera@volteuropa.org 

Robin Fontaine - Non-executive board member
Mail : robin.fontaine@volteuropa.org

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