• Switzerland's news in English

Foreigners could get right to vote in Vaud

29 Aug 2011, 17:34

Published: 29 Aug 2011 18:18 GMT+02:00
Updated: 29 Aug 2011 17:34 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Voters in Canton Vaud in western Switzerland will decide next week whether or not foreigners can vote on a cantonal level and if they can be elected to political office. If the result is a ’Yes’, it will be a first for Switzerland.

Foreigners can already vote on a cantonal level in Jura and in Neuenburg in western Switzerland, but can not run as candidates for political office.

The ’Live and vote here’ (Vivre et voter ici) initiative was first launched in 2009 by a committee of 40 members from immigrant associations, foreign communities, individuals and elected politicians under the banner: “Integration happens because of participation, not rejection“.

“Integration of foreign nationals is not helped by their stigmatisation. Political rights are a central element of the feeling of belonging to a community,“ the committee said at the launch of the initiative.

According to the initiative, foreigners would receive voting rights if they have lived more than ten years in Switzerland and have been registered for more than three years in Canton Vaud. Approximately 85,000 people would benefit, or around 18 percent of voters.

"There are countries that do not accept dual nationality," Serge Sagbo of the Christian Democratic People's Party told The Local. 

"These foreign nationals would be able to vote and become candidates under the initiative. There are also those who do not want to assume Swiss nationality, but want to contribute."

Sagbo said the Vaud branch of the party had decided at a general meeting to lend its support to the initiative despite the reservations of some members.

If the vote on the initiative on September 4th is successful, foreigners could be voted into the Vaud cantonal parliament in Lausanne. It would also be possible to elect foreigners as councillors, as that is governed by cantonal law.

More than 14,000 signatures were received supporting the initiative. 2,000 signatures are needed to force a referendum at cantonal level.

The Green Party in Canton Vaud launched its own campaign on August 12th this year to drum up support for the ’Live and vote here’ initiative.

“It has been a big success despite the tendency against migratory politics in Switzerland,” said Raphael Mahaim, co-president of the ‘Live and vote here’ committee, and a member of the Green Party.

Anne Baehler-Bech, based in Lausanne, is a member of the Green Party who launched the initiative.

“Certain parties on the left are supporting the campaign that foreigners who are well integrated and know Switzerland well be given the same rights as Swiss people when voting at cantonal level,“ she told The Local.

Those in favour of the initiative say it is unfair that people who have been living and paying taxes in Switzerland for a long time can not take part in votes and elections.

“It is a question of justice. Most foreigners work for our prosperity, pay taxes, send their children to school. It is only right that they can also give their opinion on economic, fiscal or educational questions in their canton,“ the Green Party said at the launch of their campaign.

Story continues below…

Opponents of the initiative include the liberal FDP and LPD parties, the far-right SVP (Swiss People’s Party), and the green-liberal GLP.

They say that integration of foreigners should be marked by naturalisation. The choice to accept Swiss citizenship is a positive indicator of integration, they say.

Those in favour of the initiative argue that naturalisation is not an argument against the granting of the right to vote. On the contrary, the right to vote amplifies the sentiment of integration and could drive interest in naturalisation, they say.

Vaud is known as a pioneering canton, being the first canton to give women the right to vote in 1959.

The Swiss government is not involved in the initiative.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Montreux throws hat in Olympic rings
Could Montreux host the 2026 Games? Photo: Ivo Scholz/Swiss Tourism

Montreux is to put itself forward as the host city for the 2026 winter Olympics as part of a potential bid by the cantons of Valais and Vaud.

Geneva car share scheme could help reduce city traffic
Catch a Car is aimed at short hops within a city. Photo: Catch a Car

Catch a Car, already in Basel, launches in Geneva next month.

Swiss women will ‘work for free’ for the rest of year
Female employees in Switzerland earn 19.3 percent less than their male colleagues. File photo: Randy Kashka

Switzerland's gender pay gap means from today, Friday October 21st, women in the country will effectively be working for free for the rest of 2016.

Swiss luxury watches stolen in Paris raid
Police outside the Girard-Perregaux watch store on Thursday. Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP

The 10 Girard-Perregaux watches are worth half a million euros in total.

Brother-in-law arrested over murder of Swiss teacher
The victim worked in a school in Stabio, near the town of Mendrisio. Photo: Oliver Graf

The primary school teacher was found dead in Ticino earlier this week.

Inside Switzerland’s largest nuclear bunker – 40 years on
Designed to house 20,000 people, the bunker was built in and over two motorway tunnels. Photo: Unterirdisch Ueberleben

The Local takes a tour of the Sonnenberg bunker in Lucerne, opened 40 years ago at the height of the Cold War.

Ten Swiss ski resorts named most expensive in Europe
File photo: Renato Bagattini/Swiss Tourism

Skiers in Switzerland pay the highest prices for their ski passes of anywhere in Europe, according to research.

Eco group fights Bern over wind farm plans
There are currently more than 30 wind farms in Switzerland. Photo: Alpiq

Wind turbines are “gigantic and destructive” machines, says Paysage Libre Suisse.

Vegan wins battle to be accepted by Swiss army
Antoni Da Campo will now carry out his military service. Photo: Antoni Da Campo

A Swiss man who was told he would not be accepted for military service because of his strict veganism has finally succeeded in making the army change its mind.

Geneva terror suspects to receive compensation
File photo: Emran Kassim

The Swiss public prosecutor has dropped the case against them.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Photo: Richard Juilliard/AFP
Man makes Geneva airport bomb threat ‘for a joke’
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Photo: AFP
Solar Impulse team reveals plans for unmanned plane
File photo: Martin Abegglen
Swiss to vote on passport rules for 3rd gen foreigners
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Photo: AFP
Swiss wingsuit hotspot Lauterbrunnen won’t impose ban
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Six reasons Switzerland isn’t as boring as you might think
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Report: Switzerland one of world’s best places for girls
Photo: The Local
Thief returns Swiss cow bells worth thousands
File photo: Wikimedia Commons
One in three rapists isn’t locked up: statistics
Photo: activistin.ch
Tampon-tax protest turns Zurich fountains red
Photo: AFP
Geneva police to lift ban on bearded officers
Photo: Marcel Gillieron/AFP
Suicide chef’s restaurant keeps Michelin stars
Photo: Lara de Salis
11 things the Swiss get tired of hearing abroad
Photo:  Ivo Scholz/Swiss-image.ch
Survey: expats in Switzerland have money but few friends
Photo: AFP
Swiss press criticize Bern’s 'capitulation' on immigration
Photo: Jura Trois Lacs tourism
German ex-policeman is Swiss city’s new hermit
Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl
Ticino votes to favour local workers over foreigners
Photo: file
Some deodorants could cause breast cancer: Swiss study
Photo: Royal Savoy
In pictures: Inside the latest Swiss luxury hotel
Photo: AFP
Geneva airport bomb hoaxer faces 90,000-franc bill
Photo: Schaffhausen police
Mother leaves toddler son alone in car to go clubbing
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Swiss populist attacked by knife-wielding pensioner
Photo: File
Bern argues over passports for 3rd generation foreigners
Photo: Broad Bean Media
Muslim pupils must shake hands – ‘no ifs and buts’
jobs available