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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Voting Rights for Foreigners in France

It appears that French citizens are in favor of allowing foreigners to vote.  The French media are reporting that a new poll shows a firm majority of French citizens are in favor of extending the suffrage.  From L'Express:
Une nette majorité de français (61%) est favorable au vote des étrangers aux élections locales. Et cette acceptation vaut pour toutes les catégories de la population, même si les jeunes y sont plus ouverts que les personnes agées. En effet, cette adhésion est majoritaire dans la quasi totalité des catégories de population. L'adhésion passe ainsi de 75% auprès des 25-34 ans à 51% auprès des seniors et de 72% auprès des cadres à 60% auprès des ouvriers.
A clear majority of French (61%) is favorable to allowing foreigners to vote in local elections.  And this approval goes for all segments of the population, though the young are more open to it than seniors.  In fact this approval has a majority in nearly all segments of the population:  75% for those aged 25-34 years and 51% for seniors, 72% of managers and 60% of workers.
That certainly put a spring in my step.  That is very generous gesture and shows that the French population does not agree with the president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who referred to it as "hazardous."  One
has to wonder if he will soften his stance as a result of this new information coming from the electorate.

And he has support with some parties and citizens clearly opposed like the Front National (61% against). See this rather snappy website Touche pas a mon vote to read more about the opposition to this measure.  This is their argument:
Être citoyen Français a une signification pleine et entière. Être citoyen Français donne le droit de vote, il en est ainsi depuis la Révolution française de 1789 . Cette proposition démagogique du Parti Socialiste est donc un mauvais coup porté à la République Française , à sa Constitution et à sa tradition. Comment imaginer que la principale différence entre un citoyen français et un étranger disparaisse ?
To be a French citizen has a full and important meaning. To be a citizen gives the right to vote and this has been true since the 1789 French Revolution.  This  demagogic proposition coming from the Socialist Party is therefore a blow against the French Republic, her Constitution and her traditions.  How can we envision erasing this important difference between a citizen and a foreigner?
As someone who tends to vote conservative in her home country, I do see their point.  It is an important difference between foreigners and citizens.  Will this, for example, reduce naturalizations of long-term foreign residents who, I argue, France has every interest in encouraging to become full members of  the nation.  Foreign residents, no matter how long they have lived in France or any other country, not only do not have the same rights as citizens, they also do not have the same obligations. For example, as a foreign resident I have no obligation to defend the nation and my duties and responsibilities are limited to obeying the laws and paying taxes.  By doing these things (which are basic to all residents, citizens and foreigners alike) am I entitled to be allowed to vote in local elections?  I don't think so.

But this a democracy and if the French people are gracious enough to allow people like me limited suffrage, I am certainly not going to argue with them.  I will even go so far as to say that I'm rather touched by the gesture.  But I will feel much better about exercising one of the most important rights and duties of a citizen when (and if)  I actually become one.

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