Swiss citizens in Vaud set to have their say on foreigners' rights to vote

The Local Switzerland
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Swiss citizens in Vaud set to have their say on foreigners' rights to vote
A woman inserts her postal voting envelope into the door of the polling station in Lausanne on September 29th, 2019. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Swiss nationals in the canton of Vaud are likely to be given the chance to vote in a referendum on cantonal voting rights for foreigners.


The campaign group AG!SSONS (‘Take Action’ in English) said it had collected enough signatures needed for its initiative to be brought to the ballot box in a referendum. 

Under the banner "political rights for those who live here", the group calls for the right to vote and run for elections at the cantonal level to be granted to all foreigners who have been living at least 10 years in Switzerland. Further requirements are that the foreign nationals have clocked up three consecutive years of residence in Vaud itself, and currently live in the canton.  

Switzerland has a unique system of direct democracy which allows people to have a greater say in the way the country is run. 

Groups are able to put forward initiatives, like this one, which can then go to the ballot box if enough public support is gathered. 

'Why do non-Swiss residents have no say?'

The initiative says that people who live and work in an area "should be able to get involved in public affairs and participate fully in political life and decision-making".

The campaign goes on to say that more than a third of the population living in the canton of Vaud do not have Swiss nationality so have limited voting rights.

"Yet these people are active in the social life of the canton; they have jobs, pay taxes and live in the same area, sometimes for decades," says the initiative. "How are they different from Swiss nationals by birth or naturalisation?

"As a result, elections and votes are not representative of the population of the canton of Vaud, and they are not conducive to broader democracy: this missing third of the population is also affected by political decisions, yet it has no say in them!

"The introduction of political rights for non-Swiss citizens will make up for this lack of representation and inclusiveness."

READ ALSO: Just how diverse is Switzerland?

A total of 15,667 signatures were gathered, the group said — only 12,000 are required for an initiative to be brought to the ballot box in canton Vaud. 

"It was a huge challenge, because neither the political parties nor the unions wanted to commit to collecting signatures," Simon Berthoud, campaign manager at AG!SSONS, told Swiss news platform LeTemps. 

Around 70 volunteers took part in the campaigning stage. The signatures are now being checked and validated by local districts. The submission of the initiative to the Chancellery is due to take place on September 1st. 

"With close to 16,000 signatures collected, we are sure the initiative reaches the minimum requirement, i.e. 12,000 valid signatures,” said Berthoud. 


Despite this movement, the outlook for the proposed referendum doesn't look promising. 

Citizens in Vaud have already voted twice on a similar proposal back in 1992 and 2011, and both times it was rejected.

Eligible foreigners (residing in Vaud for at least three years with a B or C permit) can vote or run for political office at communal level.
READ ALSO: Where in Switzerland can foreigners vote?


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