Geneva Council of State backs plan to give expats voting rights
The Geneva Council of State has approved and supported a new initiative designed to give expats in the canton the right to vote and stand in Swiss communal and cantonal elections. The “A life here, a voice here” initiative would see Geneva join two other cantons in Switzerland in giving expats limited voting rights at the regional level.
Geneva's government supports expat voting rights in Switzerland
In a statement on January 11, the Council of State of Geneva, the executive branch of the canton’s government, said it supported the ”A life here, a voice here… Let's strengthen our democracy!” initiative in full. “The time has come to complete the political rights of foreigners,” they wrote.
The proposal, which was submitted by the Sit-syndicat trade union and the Social Democratic Party, would give expats who have held a residence permit for at least eight years the right to vote, elect and be elected in all cantonal and local elections and referendums in Geneva. It is important to note that expats were given the right to vote in local elections in the canton in 2005, but were not given the ability to stand for public office.
Giving expats in Switzerland the vote would revitalise democracy, say supporters
“The Council of State considers that this initiative would make it possible to revitalise Geneva's democracy,” the statement read, arguing that the law would give a voice to the roughly 37 percent of Geneva's population that doesn't have Swiss citizenship. “[The change] would also promote integration and social cohesion in our canton,” they concluded.
If passed, Geneva will become the first canton to allow expats to stand for cantonal office. Currently, Jura and Neuchâtel allow non-Swiss to vote but not stand in cantonal polls, and expats are allowed to vote and stand for office in local elections in Jura, Neuchâtel, Fribourg and Vaud.
However, the law still needs final approval from the Grand Council - Geneva’s parliament. In addition, because the idea requires a change to the canton’s constitution, the proposal will face a referendum as well.
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