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Luxembourg loosens the reins on foreigners’ voting rights
Local election

Luxembourg loosens the reins on foreigners’ voting rights

by Heledd PRITCHARD 2 min. 02.09.2021 From our online archive
Foreigners living in Luxembourg will no longer have to wait five years to vote for commune representatives
Voters going to ballots in Luxembourg
Voters going to ballots in Luxembourg
Photo credit: Guy Jallay

Foreigners living in Luxembourg will be allowed to vote for their local councillors as soon as they move to the country instead of having to wait five years, the government said on Thursday.

Previously, foreigners had to live in the Grand Duchy for at least five years,  including the preceding 12 months, before being allowed to cast a vote in local races.

The local elections – also known as the communal or municipal elections – are  held every six years and decide local government positions like mayors and councillors. Their remit stretches from local budget decisions to deciding construction projects.

While the change must be approved by Parliament, it is expected that people will get the right to vote in the 2023 local elections as soon as they arrive in their commune, Family Affairs Minister Corinne Cahen said in a press release. 

"They can immediately participate in political life and they can integrate more easily by taking an interest in the political decisions that affect their lives," she said.

Non-Luxembourgers account for around half of Luxembourg’s population and around 70% of the capital’s residents.

Under the latest coalition governing agreement, the Democratic Party (DP), the Greens (déi Gréng) and the Social Democrats (LSAP) promised to look into ways to increase foreigners’ participation in local elections.

"Our ultimate goal remains to include our non-Luxembourg citizens in the democratic process, because we consider the right to vote to be an essential factor of integration," Justice Minister Sam Tanson said in the government's statement.  

At the last poll in 2017, less than a quarter of resident foreigners signed up to vote, a study by the Centre for Intercultural and Social Studies showed. More than a third of foreigners were ineligible because they had not lived in the country for five years, Cahen said on Thursday.

The same year, 134 different nationalities registered to vote and turnout was slightly higher among EU nationals than non-EU citizens. 

Foreigners can also run for office within their commune as long as they have lived in Luxembourg for five years and in that municipality for six months. At the last election, 370 foreigners ran for office, representing 7.6% of all potential local officeholders. Only 15 were elected.

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