Electoral rights for third country nationals in ireland the netherlands norway and sweden
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Electoral Rights for Third Country Nationals in Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. Mikael Spång Malmö Institute for Studies of Migration, Diversity and Welfare Department of Global Political Studies Malmö University, Sweden. Legal Regulations.

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Electoral rights for third country nationals in ireland the netherlands norway and sweden

Electoral Rights for Third Country Nationals in Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden

Mikael Spång

Malmö Institute for Studies of Migration, Diversity and Welfare

Department of Global Political Studies

Malmö University, Sweden


Legal regulations

Legal Regulations

  • 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”


Legal regulations1

Legal Regulations

  • Ireland, 1963; 6 monthsresidence. 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”


Legal regulations2

Legal Regulations

  • 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, 1975. LocalGovernmentAct 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


Statistical overview

Statistical overview

  • Numberof TCN 2009:

    - Ireland: ca 76 000

    - The Netherlands: ca 347 000

    - Norway: ca 137 000

    - Sweden ca 292 000

  • Little information ofvoterturnout 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


Political discourse on tcn voting rights

Political discourse on tcnvotingrights

  • 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?


Political discourse on tcn voting rights1

Political discourse on tcnvotingrights

  • Integration arguments:

    - votingrightsfacilitate integration in societymoregenerally

    - politicalrights as meanstoachieve integration vs politicalrights (citizenship) as an end-pointof integration

  • Other pro-arguments: recognitionofbeing an immigration country, pathwaytocitizenship in terms ofpoliticalsocialization, recognitionof common historicallegacy


Political discourse on tcn voting rights2

Political discourse on tcnvotingrights

  • Contra-arguments:

    - devaluescitizenship

    - import ofconflicts and involvementofforeigngovernments in domesticpolitics

    - formation ofethnicparties

    - dual/multiplevotingrights

    - domino effect


Political discourse on tcn voting rights3

Political discourse on tcnvotingrights

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 policyin mid 1970s, and changes to the constitution

  • Finnish government arguing for voting rights in the Nordic Council

  • Unanimous decision in parliament in 1975


Political discourse on tcn voting rights4

Political discourse on tcnvotingrights

  • Suggestions in late 1970s toextendvotingrightsto national elections. Communists and Social Democrats

  • 1983 VotingRights Commission proposes extension ofvotingrights for non-citizens (initiallyonly for Nordic citizens) to national elections in early 1980s. Centre-Right partiesareagainst

  • Residence vs citizenship principle ofdetermining the ”people”


Political discourse on tcn voting rights5

Political discourse on tcnvotingrights

The Netherlands

  • Discussionsofvotingrights for non-citizenspartly an effectofdiscussionsofvotingrights for Dutch nationals in the municipalityofwork (and not only the municpalitywherethey live) in the early 1970s

  • Proposal in 1976 tochange the constitutiontoopenup for recognizingvotingrights for non-citizens

  • Onlylocalelectionsbecauseofconnectionbetween regional elections and national assembly (senate)

  • Somedifferencesbetweenparties; leftpartiesmore in favour, centre-right partiesmoredivided

  • Change ofconstitution 1980-1983 and new lawenacted in 1985


Political discourse on tcn voting rights6

Political discourse on tcnvotingrights

  • Human rights and democratic principles wereregarded as central for the reform, butalso integration arguments wasimportant


Political discourse on tcn voting rights7

Political discourse on tcnvotingrights

Norway

  • Nordic Council discussion and Swedish reform played an importantrole

  • Ratherlittlepoliticaldebate – Progress Party votedagainst the change in 1983 toextendvotingrightsto all non-citizens


Political discourse on tcn voting rights8

Political discourse on tcnvotingrights

Ireland

  • Recognitionofvotingrights in 1963 – did not havetodo with immigration butwith the situation in NorthernIreland and the previousrecognition in UK oflocalvotingrights for Irishcitizens

  • Morediscussion from the 1990s – campaignstoincrease non-citizenvoterturnout

  • Debates on naturalizationdid not affectquestionoflocalvotingrights


Explanations and consequences

explanations and consequences

  • Democracy and integration arguments central topoliticaldebates

  • Welfare statepolicies – population and people (residence and citizenship)

  • Domestic and transnational processes

  • Increaseof immigrant electorateimpact in positive ways on enjoymentofrightsetc

  • Someevidenceconcerning consequences on public spending


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