Two plans to give expats the vote rejected by Swiss parliament

Two plans to give expats the vote rejected by Swiss parliament

Two plans to give expats the right to vote and stand in Swiss elections have been rejected by the National Council. In another setback for expat voting rights, both ideas are now off the table.

25 percent of the adult population cannot vote in Switzerland

The plans were proposed by the Green Party and the Social Democratic Party of Switzerland (SP). Both argue that the alpine nation cannot be a “model democracy” if holders of residence permits - around 25 percent of the population - cannot vote. Many have been residents for years or were even born in Switzerland, yet are still denied the franchise. 

The first plan, submitted by the Greens, called for people without Swiss citizenship to be granted full political rights on the federal level after five years of residence. This would, in theory, allow B and C-permit holders to vote in national elections and referendums, and run for office themselves.

Areas that allow expats to vote have seen positive changes as a result, Greens say

This plan was supplemented by a law proposed by the SP, which called for residents to be given the right to vote at the local level after five years of living in Switzerland. National Councillor Mustafa Atici noted that involvement in politics is an important step towards greater integration, and that many communities could benefit from more political involvement by expats and internationals.

Green party president Balthasar Glättli said that places that do allow expats to vote, like areas of Neuchâtel and Fribourg, have experienced positive changes as a consequence of giving more people the vote. He warned that if something isn’t done to enfranchise expats, the country would experience “de-democratisation” as the population grows.

Expats should become citizens before entering politics, National Council says

The two proposals were rejected by the National Council on Tuesday. Responding to the Green proposal, the National Council concluded that expats should take the time to gain citizenship before entering politics. 

National Councillor Damien Cottier also found issues with the SP proposal. When conveying the council's decision to reject the law, he warned that imposing voting laws on cantons would risk their sovereignty and independence. He concluded that the decision to give expats voting rights on the local level should be approved locally.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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