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Neuchâtel looks to boost rights for foreigners

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Neuchâtel looks to boost rights for foreigners
File photo: The Local
11:10 CEST+02:00
Neuchâtel could become the first canton in Switzerland to allow foreigners to stand in cantonal elections if the public votes in favour of the proposal in a September referendum.

On Wednesday a citizens' committee launched its campaign in favour of the plan, reported local news site ArcInfo

The proposal would apply to all foreigners in the canton of voting age who have a C permit, granted after five years of residency.

If the public approves the move on September 25th, Neuchâtel will become the first canton in the country to grant such rights to foreigners.

At the moment several cantons allow foreign nationals to stand for public office at communal level, but none at cantonal level.

The French-speaking canton in Western Switzerland already is a pioneer when it comes to civic rights for foreigners.

Foreign nationals have been allowed to vote in communal elections for over 150 years, and in 2000 they were granted the right to vote at cantonal level.

In a 2007 referendum the public granted foreigners the right to stand for office in communal elections, but not at cantonal level.

Now a new bill on the subject, spearheaded by the socialists last year, is being backed by many in the cantonal government.

Speaking to Le Temps, Mauro Moruzzi, a Green-Liberal politician and member of the committee backing the bill, said “The moment has come to close the loop and make foreign voters living in Neuchatel eligible for all cantonal posts”.

Since being given communal rights in 2007 several foreigners have achieved high office in local government, said the paper.

“We have demonstrated that the eligibility of foreigners at communal level doesn't pose any problems. Now we can move on to granting cantonal eligibility,” Moruzzi told Le Temps.

However it remains to be seen if the public agrees.

The canton's largest party, the Liberal-Radical Party, is recommending the bill be refused.

However many public figures are in favour, with the director of a local theatre telling Le Temps that the canton had everything to gain from the “experiences, skills and enthusiasm of foreigners who wish to become involved”.

Some 45,000 foreigners live in the canton of Neuchâtel, around 25 percent of the population.

The public will make their decision on September 25th at the same time as the country goes to the polls to vote on three national issues.

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