Immigrants’ voting rights: the debate is still raging

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Immigrants’ voting rights: the debate is still raging

The debate on national identity and immigration is raised in electoral programs. With such a political tension dividing policymakers and citizens, as well as several political parties, Martine Aubry, the president of the socialist party, suggested that immigrants should have the voting right before the next local elections.

On Tuesday the 12th of January 2010, the Socialist party whose head is Martine Aubry submitted a bill to the National Assembly to enable immigrants to vote during the next local elections. The European elections are not part of the debate yet. The government refuses to pass this bill and this reaction testifies that some policymakers are still disturbed by this debate which feeds electoral programs.

Indeed the government’s spokesman, Luc Chatel claimed on RFI, « This bill was not designed only for the coming local elections. » even knowing that this voting right was deeply linked to the notion of citizenship. Eric Woerth, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, corroborates the government’s opposition claiming that the French population is not ready to welcome that proposal.

Paradoxically, a recent poll unexpectedly raised concern among the bill’s opponents, but was cheerfully welcomed by Eric Besson: the high majority of French citizens (55%) accepts immigrants’ voting right for the local elections as the Secretary of Immigration wished such a result even if on a long-term period. He expressed his opinion on a TV political program, 17 heures politique, reported by an opinion poll made by the French broadcasting regulatory body for the magazine, Le Parisien Aujourd’hui en France, published yesterday.

Why this reform is taking such a long time in France whereas immigrants like their French counterparts contribute to the economic and social life of the country? This seems even more contradictory, knowing that immigrants have already been given certain rights: the right to vote during elections in works council, boards of directors of the Social security fund, social housing, industrial tribunals, associations. Immigrants also have the same basic rights as French citizens. Immigrants are taxpayers and are instrumental in developing local as well as the national wealth.

A few people fear that granting the voting right

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to immigrants, might give birth to an identity vote, a community vote and that the French nation might turn into a divided nation. Republican values might be threatened as well. There is no reason to think so. However, making a difference among voters on cultural grounds can generate tensions based on multiculturalism misunderstandings.

What about the French value of Equality born during the French Revolution: same rights, same duties…