Luxembourgh Times

NGO raises awareness for foreigners about local elections

CEFIS teams up with a government ministry to train people to inform their own communities on how to participate in the elections

Voting rights for expats are a theme in a Luxembourg Times advertising campaign

Voting rights for expats are a theme in a Luxembourg Times advertising campaign © Photo credit: Chris Karaba

A non-profit association is teaming up with the government to train people to raise awareness about the local elections for foreign residents, just after the country made it easier for non-Luxembourgers to vote.

A reform of the electoral law, passed last July, cancelled the 5-year residence requirement, meaning all foreign residents over the age of 18 - whether they are EU citizens or not - can request to be registered as voters or candidates.

They can do so until 18 April 2023 to vote or stand in the communal elections that are held on 11 June next year.

"However, foreign residents are not always aware of this right, nor of what the commune can do for them on a daily basis, nor how the electoral system in Luxembourg works", the Centre for Intercultural and Social Studies (CEFIS), a non-profit dedicated to ending discrimination and supporting integration, said in a press release on Tuesday.

That is why the organisation has teamed up with the integration ministry, launching a campaign to train people to become so-called "multipliers" - locals who can inform their own communities on how to participate in the elections.

"A multiplier spreads information about the right to vote in local elections through information sessions, discussions with family and friends, and in various places", CEFIS said, adding that people can register for the training on its website.

Non-Luxembourgers account for around half of Luxembourg’s overall population and around 70% of residents in the capital, with the latest figures showing that the country's strong population and employment growth is driven by foreigners, including by non-EU migration.

A little over 68,000 more foreign residents will be able to register to vote, following the change in law, compared to the previous elections, Integration Minister Corinne Cahen said in answer to a parliamentary question in November. At the last local elections in 2017, less than a quarter of foreign residents signed up to vote, a study by the Centre for Intercultural and Social Studies showed.

An overwhelming majority of Luxembourg citizens in a referendum in 2015 rejected the idea of giving foreigners the right to vote in national elections once they have lived in the Grand Duchy for more than 10 years, dealing a blow to Prime Minister Xavier Bettel's first government, which had campaigned for the change.

The Grand Duchy holds communal elections every six years to appoint mayors and councillors, who decide on local budgets and building permits. Luxembourg citizen will also pick a new parliament in October 2023.