Germany's Migration Commissioner Throws Her Support Behind Migrant Voting Rights in Municipal Elections


A voter places her ballot into the box. Photo by Alexander Hauk for, used with permission

In Germany, foreigners with neither German nor European Union citizenship can vote for an Integration Advisory Council in their own communities, but otherwise have no right to vote.

Could this change in the near future? In an interview this weekend with the newspaper Welt am Sonntag, German Federal Commissioner for Migration, Refugees, and Integration Aydan Özoğuz called for all foreigners in Germany to be granted the right to vote in municipal elections:

Alle sollten in ihrem unmittelbaren Wohnumfeld auch mitbestimmen dürfen, was hier passiert. […] Das kommunale Wahlrecht für alle Migranten, die lange da sind, wäre ein ganz wichtiges Instrument. Integration heißt eben auch politische Teilhabe.

Everyone should be able to have a say in what happens in their own neighborhoods. […] A very important tool for this would be the right to vote in municipal elections for all migrants who have been in this country for a long time. Integration also means political participation.

Acting Chairman of the CDU party Volker Bouffier criticized the move, which he said “reduced the right to vote in municipal elections to a right to vote of the lowest order.” In Germany, however, foreigners from the EU can take part in municipal elections; only non-EU citizens are excluded. The radio station Funkhaus Europa asked on Facebook if people think that's fair.

Jasmina Petrović commented:

Richtig, absolut nicht fair. Wenn z. B. jemand aus dem Ausland schon 40 Jahre hier lebt, genau wie jeder andere seine Steuern zahlt, Kinder hier geboren und aufwachsen lassen hat usw., wäre es nur fair diese Person auch wählen zu lassen, ganz gleich, ob auf dem Papier steht, dass sie woanders herkommt.

Right, it's absolutely unfair. If, for example, someone from abroad has lived here for 40 years, pays his or her taxes like everybody else, has kids and raises them here, etc., it would only be fair for this person to also be able to vote, regardless if it says on paper that he or she comes from someplace else.

User Tom Mix pointed out that identification with Germany is difficult when a person cannot participate politically:

Es ist eine Frechheit, dass wir das diskutieren müssen. Es ist eine Selbstverständlichkeit, dass Einwanderer Wahlrecht haben müssen, nicht nur kommunal!!! wie sollen die Einwanderer sich mit Deutschland identifizieren können.

It's shameful that we even have to discuss this. It goes without saying that immigrants must have the right to vote, and not just locally! How else should immigrants be able to identify with Germany?

Darren Tafel wrote that it cannot be fair when citizens are treated equally based on their obligations, but not their rights:

Ich hoffe, dass das eine rethorische Frage ist. Jeder Mensch, der in Deutschland lebt ist gleichermaßen von politischen Entscheidungen betroffen. Ganz gleich seiner Herkunft. Wenn Ausländer vor dem Gesetz genau so behandelt werden wie Deutsche, warum dürfen sie dann nicht wählen wie Deutsche?

I hope this is a rhetorical question. Every person that lives in Germany is affected equally by political decision making. Where they come from doesn't matter. If foreigners are treated like Germans before the law, why can't they vote like Germans?

Dennis Urra noted that a distinction is made between foreigners from the EU and those from outside the EU when it comes to the right to vote in municipal elections:

Entweder es dürfen alle Ausländer wählen oder gar keine. Was soll denn dieses Ausländer 2. Klasse-Gehabe?

Either all foreigners can vote, or none of them can. What is with this “second-class foreigner” attitude?

Twitter users also discussed the commissioner's statement:

Commissioner for Integration @oezoguz demands universal right to vote in municipal elections. We do too.

The Chair of the local Dudweiler FDP party Tobias Raab welcomed the universal right to vote in municipal elections:

Initiative for a universal right to vote in municipal elections! Now that's sensible. Everyone should take part in decisions that affect the places they call home!

The Speaker of the Bündnis 90/Die Grünen party in Essen Gönül Eğlence called the demand forward-looking:

Finally, a forward-thinking initiative, though @zeitonline [online magazine] fell somewhat flat in its choice of cover photo. #kommunalwahl [municipal vote]

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