The C permit is granted to foreigners who are longtime Swiss residents. Immigrants from EU / EFTA member states who have lived in Switzerland permanently for five years qualify for this permit. Nationals of other countries must wait 10 years before applying.
Only Swiss citizens over the age of 18 can vote in federal election in Switzerland.
But the commission president Cilette Cretton, said that qualified foreigners living in Valais should have the right to vote in cantonal matters because “holders of a C permit are sufficiently integrated to obtain this right”.
The commission will further debate this issue in April 2020, but it is already stirring controversy in the canton.
The right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which has been campaigning for a long time to curb the influx of foreigners into Switzerland, is against the proposal.
“We will not compromise on this issue”, said Cyrille Fauchère, the president of the Valais section of the SVP.
And René Constantin, president of centre-right Liberals said his party does not support the measure at this point, but added that it “deserves further reflection”.
If Valais does grant foreign nationals the right to vote in cantonal elections, it would become the third canton in Switzerland to do so. The other two are Jura and Neuchâtel.
A number of the French-speaking cantons also permit longterm foreigners to vote in local matters. Geneva, Vaud, and Fribourg allow foreign nationals to have a say on municipal and communal issues.
However, German-speaking cantons are more reluctant to let their foreign population express their views at the ballot box.
Even though Basel, Appenzell Outer Rhodes and Graubünden officially allow their towns to offer foreigners the vote, in practice few municipalities do so.