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E LECTORAL R IGHTS FOR T HIRD C OUNTRY N ATIONALS IN I RELAND, THE N ETHERLANDS, N ORWAY, AND S WEDEN Mikael Spång Malmö Institute for Studies of Migration,

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Presentation on theme: "E LECTORAL R IGHTS FOR T HIRD C OUNTRY N ATIONALS IN I RELAND, THE N ETHERLANDS, N ORWAY, AND S WEDEN Mikael Spång Malmö Institute for Studies of Migration,"— Presentation transcript:

1 E LECTORAL R IGHTS FOR T HIRD C OUNTRY N ATIONALS IN I RELAND, THE N ETHERLANDS, N ORWAY, AND S WEDEN Mikael Spång Malmö Institute for Studies of Migration, Diversity and Welfare Department of Global Political Studies Malmö University, Sweden

2 L EGAL R EGULATIONS The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) restricts voting rights to citizens European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) stipulates that nothing in the convention shall be regarded as preventing states from “imposing restrictions on the political activity of aliens” (article 16) Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level 1992, Council of Europe, article 6: State parties shall “grant to every foreign resident the right to vote and to stand for election in local authority elections, provided that he fulfils the same legal requirements as apply to nationals and furthermore has been a lawful and habitual resident in the State concerned for the 5 years preceding the elections”

3 L EGAL R EGULATIONS Ireland, 1963; 6 months residence. Electoral Act from 1997, which in part II, section 10: “[A] person shall be entitled to be registered as a local government elector in a local electoral area if he/she has reached the age of eighteen years and he was, on the qualifying date, ordinarily resident in that area” The Netherlands, 1985; 5 years residence. Elections Act from 1989: “Members of municipal councils shall be elected by persons who are residents of the municipality on nomination day and who have attained the age of eighteen years on polling day”

4 L EGAL R EGULATIONS Norway, 1978 (Nordic citizens) and 1983 (all permanent residents). Election Act, chapter 2.2: voting rights in local and regional ( fylke ) councils for non-citizens which have been registered for three years before the election, or in the case of Nordic citizens those that are registered no later than June 30 on the year of the election. Sweden, Local Government Act 1991: Any person registered as a resident of the municipality and 18 years old not later than the election day is entitled to vote in the election of municipal assembly members and their alternates and 1. is a citizen of Sweden or another Member State of the European Union (a Union citizen), 2. a citizen of Iceland or Norway, or 3. in the case of other aliens, has been a registered resident of Sweden for three consecutive years before the election day

5 S TATISTICAL OVERVIEW Number of TCN 2009: - Ireland: ca The Netherlands: ca Norway: ca Sweden ca Little information of voter turnout for TCN: - Ranging from 10 % voter turnout in the case of Luxembourg to 57 % in the case of Denmark. Sweden: close to 35 % of the TCN’s voted in the 2006 elections but only 28 % in the 2010 elections. Non-citizen voter turnout in local and regional elections – decline in Sweden since late 1970s and in Norway since 1990s but also some fluctuations over time. For some groups, increase of voter turnout in the Netherlands Little information about representation in municipality and county boards but available information show underrepresentation

6 P OLITICAL DISCOURSE ON TCN VOTING RIGHTS Democracy arguments: - the coercion principle – being subject to laws - the affected interests principles – being affected by political decisions (Dahl 1998 and others) Democratic presumption of overlap between addressees of law and authors of law provide background for extending voting rights. Involvement in society gives rise to claim to have a political say. Joseph Carens (2002: 112) formulates it: “[L]ong term membership in civil society creates a moral right to political membership” Voting rights for non-citizens or easy naturalisation process?

7 P OLITICAL DISCOURSE ON TCN VOTING RIGHTS Integration arguments: - voting rights facilitate integration in society more generally - political rights as means to achieve integration vs political rights (citizenship) as an end-point of integration Other pro-arguments: recognition of being an immigration country, pathway to citizenship in terms of political socialization, recognition of common historical legacy

8 P OLITICAL DISCOURSE ON TCN VOTING RIGHTS Contra-arguments: - devalues citizenship - import of conflicts and involvement of foreign governments in domestic politics - formation of ethnic parties - dual/multiple voting rights - domino effect

9 P OLITICAL DISCOURSE ON TCN VOTING RIGHTS Sweden Late 1960s – Social Democrats and Centre Party: democracy and justice requires that persons in society should have a political say. Discussion about voting rights part of the overhaul of integration policy, leading up to adoption of multicultural integration policy in mid 1970s, and changes to the constitution Finnish government arguing for voting rights in the Nordic Council Unanimous decision in parliament in 1975

10 P OLITICAL DISCOURSE ON TCN VOTING RIGHTS Suggestions in late 1970s to extend voting rights to national elections. Communists and Social Democrats 1983 Voting Rights Commission proposes extension of voting rights for non-citizens (initially only for Nordic citizens) to national elections in early 1980s. Centre-Right parties are against Residence vs citizenship principle of determining the ”people”

11 P OLITICAL DISCOURSE ON TCN VOTING RIGHTS The Netherlands Discussions of voting rights for non-citizens partly an effect of discussions of voting rights for Dutch nationals in the municipality of work (and not only the municpality where they live) in the early 1970s Proposal in 1976 to change the constitution to open up for recognizing voting rights for non- citizens Only local elections because of connection between regional elections and national assembly (senate) Some differences between parties; left parties more in favour, centre-right parties more divided Change of constitution and new law enacted in 1985

12 P OLITICAL DISCOURSE ON TCN VOTING RIGHTS Human rights and democratic principles were regarded as central for the reform, but also integration arguments was important

13 P OLITICAL DISCOURSE ON TCN VOTING RIGHTS Norway Nordic Council discussion and Swedish reform played an important role Rather little political debate – Progress Party voted against the change in 1983 to extend voting rights to all non-citizens

14 P OLITICAL DISCOURSE ON TCN VOTING RIGHTS Ireland Recognition of voting rights in 1963 – did not have to do with immigration but with the situation in Northern Ireland and the previous recognition in UK of local voting rights for Irish citizens More discussion from the 1990s – campaigns to increase non-citizen voter turnout Debates on naturalization did not affect question of local voting rights

15 EXPLANATIONS AND CONSEQUENCES Democracy and integration arguments central to political debates Welfare state policies – population and people (residence and citizenship) Domestic and transnational processes Increase of immigrant electorate impact in positive ways on enjoyment of rights etc Some evidence concerning consequences on public spending


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