Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Right to Vote for Foreigners

Seventy-five Socialist deputies have called on the president to make good on his promise to grant the right to vote in local elections to legal foreign residents of France. His interior minister, Manuel Valls, is hesitant to do so, however, because, as he euphemistically puts it, "there is no strong demand from the society" for such a move. Less delicately, he warns that any move in this direction would drive the right into the arms of the extreme right, possibly strengthening the enemy by weakening the deep internal division on the right that has done so much to empower the left. The reasoning is that, since foreigners would be expected to vote overwhelmingly for the left, even the non-xenophobic right would bitterly oppose the vote for reasons of self-interest rather than prejudice.

Yet a principle remains a principle. The 75 deputies are right. Hollande promised to grant the right to vote on principled grounds: legal residents of France should have a say in how they are governed. And if foreigners voted, all parties might be obliged to take greater account of their concerns and therefore take steps that could promote better integration.

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