A French MP from the ruling Renaissance party (formerly LREM) tabled a bill before parliament was dissolved for the summer calling on all foreigners in France to have the right to vote in municipal elections (municipal elections).
Currently, only French people and other European Union citizens living in France have the right to vote in these elections, as well as in the European Parliament elections. EU nationals cannot vote in legislative or presidential elections.
Sacha Houlié tabled the bill and said he would debate it with his fellow MPs after the summer. A spokesperson for Mr. Houlié said The connection Tuesday (September 6) that MPs still haven’t fully returned after the summer, so it hasn’t happened yet.
Municipal elections in France allow municipal councilors (Councillors) to be elected in each municipality of the country. It is these councilors who then elect the mayor of the municipality. The next municipal elections will take place in 2024.
Read more: A French deputy supports the vote of non-EU foreigners in municipal elections
To better understand the debate, we spoke to two politicians with opposing views.
Louis Boyard, MP for the third constituency of Val-de-Marne for La France Insoumise, is in favor of the proposal.
Arnaud Robinet, who has been mayor of Reims (Marne) since 2014, opposes it.
Why are you in favor of the right for all foreigners in France to vote in municipal elections?
This is a historic promise of the French left parties. It’s a promise that [former French president] François Hollande did and he did not respect. And so, historically, it’s a promise that has to be kept.
Also, because we have an absolutely absurd situation where we have people who have lived in France for 30 or 40 years, who work in France and pay their taxes, and who cannot but have no say about politics in the country where they live.
As you said, this idea has been proposed before. Why has he failed in the past and why is now the time to bring him back?
Because there was a lack of political courage to adopt this. In France, for some, being French should be a privilege that brings others. People on the right don’t want to support that.
Also because there is mistrust of foreigners in France. There are 89 MPS of the [far-right] The National Rally in parliament is already proof of the problem that certain parts of the French population have with foreigners.
Even the word “foreigner” shows what France sometimes thinks of people who don’t have the nationality.
Are the people who are against this proposal, in your opinion, also generally against immigration and foreigners in France?
In general, yes. These are usually the people who find it hard to imagine a foreigner as a citizen – someone who is their equal.
In France, we have adopted the [United Nations’ international document] the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The most important thing is that it be “universal”, that everyone has rights. But in France we do not give this right to everyone. I find this paradoxical.
What do you think of the situation in which, for example, a person from an EU country who has been living in France for only a few months can vote in municipal elections, but a person from, for example, the United Kingdom United or United States living in France for 20 years can’t?
It’s quite strange. There is also the historical question. Whether we like it or not, the history of France and Algeria are linked. You have people who are Algerian but who have a long history with France and I think it is important to underline this, an often painful history.
What I mean is, why are we opening the right to vote to citizens of countries with which we share a rather limited history while citizens of other countries with which we have a long and often painful, they don’t, are you right?
So even in terms of historical factors, it’s nonsense.
Do foreigners have to fulfill certain conditions before having the right to vote in municipal elections?
You have to look at the details, of course. It is true that this is not a small proposition. It is important that there is a debate. For me, it is important that the debate is based on this: all human beings must be treated in the same way.
Should all foreigners in France also have the right to vote in presidential or legislative elections?
Why not? You know, I’m 22. During the campaign for the legislatures, I was canvassing and talking to people. I met some who were 60 years old and I talked to them and asked them if they would vote for me. And one of them said: “I’ve been in France for 40 years and I still don’t have the right to vote”.
And I said, ‘I’ve been in France for 21 years, and I, on the other hand, have the right to stand for election’.
He is more French than me.
Why are you against the right for all foreigners in France to vote in municipal elections?
This amounts to removing a fundamental element of French citizenship. To have the right to vote in France, you must be a citizen, to be a citizen, you must be of French nationality.
It’s not something that was built overnight. It was a long road before the French, and in particular those closest to us, the French women, could obtain this full and complete citizenship.
Voting is a precious right. It seems normal that it is correlated with what should be most precious to us: our nationality.
The integration [into France] is a process that should eventually lead to obtaining nationality and therefore the possibility of voting. Those who want to reverse this relationship by giving the right to vote under the pretext of better integration are creating a shortcut that seems to me more dangerous than anything else.
Perhaps voting for many French people, born French to French parents, no longer makes enough sense, but anyone who has attended the ceremonies organized by the prefectures to mark a person’s entry into French nationality will have seen that for the majority of foreigners residing in France who are in the process of becoming French, the right to vote is the national prerogative which is dearest to them.
For those who choose to become French and obtain nationality to become citizens, selling off the right to vote for all would be de facto [make gaining nationality] lose its value.
Why do you think MP Sacha Houlié decided to put forward this proposal now?
The subject comes up regularly. For some it’s an easy way to show they’re a supposedly modern person and it’s a cheap way to make the news. On the contrary, I see it as a clear step backwards.
Why do you think an American, for example, who has lived in France for 10 years, should not participate in the election of municipal councillors?
No, if he wants to vote in France, he must be French. Otherwise what is the basis [of voting]? Behind this claim, do we justify this participation by that of the tax contribution of the person? There is no longer any property-based vote and that is a good thing.
How do you imagine the situation if this proposal were to be adopted? Would France be threatened?
A certain conception of nationality would indeed be threatened, that of citizenship as the foundation of democracy. Moreover, in certain territories where, as we know, there are particularly well-represented communities, the question of the influence of the votes on the ballot would inevitably arise.
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