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'No': Foreigners denied right to vote in Vaud

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11:53 CEST+02:00

Canton Vaud residents in western Switzerland voted on Sunday against an initiative to give registered foreigners the right to vote on cantonal issues.

The “live and vote here” initiative was rejected by almost 70 percent of cantonal voters. Only 40 percent of the electorate turned out, with 108,765 residents voting "No" and 48,966 "Yes".

If the initiative had passed, Canton Vaud would have been the first to allow foreigners living in Switzerland for more than 10 years, three of those in Canton Vaud, to be elected to political office as well as offering them full voting rights. 

Since 2003, around 85,000 people fulfilling the Canton Vaud residence requirements have been able to vote on communal level issues and be elected for communal positions.

Supporters of the initiative had said it was unfair that people who had lived in Switzerland for a long time and who paid taxes could not take part in cantonal votes and elections.

On hearing the result, Raphaël Mahaim of the Green Party, who led support for the initative, told Tages Anzeiger newspaper:

“The result is clear. The time was not yet right for the initiative, but I am optimistic that the debate will not stop here.”

Opponents argued that foreigners who wanted to take part in civil activities should become Swiss citizens. 

“Two out of three Vaud residents are not ready to separate political rights on the cantonal level from obtaining Swiss nationality,” head of Vaud cantonal interior office Philippe Leuba told Tribune de Genève newspaper, adding that the vote should not be seen as a rejection of foreigners.

Leuba explained that Vaud is one of the cantons in which it is easiest to obtain a Swiss passport.

A similar foreigner voting rights initiative was proposed on August 4th in Zürich when a petition with nearly 7,000 signatures was delivered to the cantonal government. Similar proposals fell flat in the cantons of Bern and Basel-Stadt last year. 

Foreigners living in the cantons of Geneva, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Freiburg, Graubünden, Vaud, Jura, Basel-Stadt and Neuenburg may vote in communal, local elections if they are 18 years or older and have been legally registered in one of those cantons for a minimum of eight years. 

Currently, foreigners can vote on a cantonal level only in Neuenburg and Jura.

No foreigner has the right to stand for election in Switzerland.

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