Only 17% of foreign nationals resident in Luxembourg voted in the last municipal elections in 2011.
In a bid to improve foreign voting rates, the government launched the website icanvote.lu to provide more information on how to register to vote in October 2017.
While the interests of the commune may not appear to be significant, this is the opportunity for many expatriates to have their interests represented locally and to have a say in the social, political, economic and cultural life of the region.
Wort interviewed three foreign citizens living and working in the Duchy who have registered, on why they will be voting and what will influence their election choices.
Why have you registered to vote?
“Having lived in a communist country until the age of 25, I value that I can give my vote and have a say in shaping the way we live in this country,” says István Ertl, a Hungarian and French bi-national, living in Lorentzweiler.
Matthew Olson-Roy, an American who has been living in Luxembourg City for almost 6 years feels the Duchy is his home: “It’s important to me to get involved, make my voice heard, and help continue to build a better Luxembourg based on shared values.”
All three of Céline Aubert’s children were born in Luxembourg and now live with her in the commune of Junglinster. “I think that when a country allows foreigners to have a voice, I have to take that chance and use it to express myself,” she says.
Education, environment, transport and housing are all key concerns
Matthew has two school-aged children and feels that education is one of his key priorities in the forthcoming elections.
“It’s important to me that the commune and the Ministry of Education continue to work together to recognise the wide range of student needs in the local education system. Luxembourg City is extremely diverse, and that brings a unique set of challenges.
“The City has done a good job so far by expanding their offering of internationally recognised credentials, language support, and services for students with special needs. I’d like to make sure it continues to prioritise these issues,” he explains.
He also mentions transport, including overcrowded buses and the absence of bike lanes in many parts of the City as issues. ”
Urban development is proceeding at record pace in Luxembourg. I’d like to make sure that housing prices are controlled, new neighbourhoods have all the necessary services and existing ones don’t suffer from the movement of services,” he says.
István mirrors this view, citing “environmental issues; reining in road traffic; well-kept public spaces; bike paths; and, building projects” as his main concerns in the use of the communal budget.
For French national Céline, the school and the “maison relais” are her number one priority but she also talks about the importance of public transport and accessibility to Luxembourg City and nearby towns.
“I care about living in a commune with shops, a park, and a pleasant atmosphere,” she adds.
How will you decide who to vote for?
When it comes to who he will vote for, István explains: “I am more interested in the parties and their programmes at a national level than at the particular candidates at a local level. The national press often gives local-level information.”
He has lived in Luxembourg for more than 13 years and feels better informed compared to five years ago, when he voted for the first time, and found it hard to understand spoken Luxembourgish at the meetings he attended.
Céline admits that she doesn’t know as much as she would like about all the candidates in her commune, but she says: “My son’s ex-football coach was elected to the chamber of deputies three years ago, and this is one advantage of a small country, you are likely to know someone who is elected and that eases the access to information.”
“I can read Luxembourgish, French and German,” says Matthew, adding: “it’s not difficult for me to get information.”
However he points out that while he knows which parties he won’t be voting for, he does not have enough information yet to know which party he will endorse. “I will need to do some more research. The Wort articles on which candidates are standing for each party have been helpful in this regard,” he says.
Should foreign residents vote?
Whilst Céline feels eligible foreigners should definitely vote, she’s happy to be represented by a Luxembourger: “I have been living here 17 years and I never felt like I had different needs to local people – except maybe the ‘carte de sejour’ – but I have a permanent one now.”
István feels more strongly: “Too many foreign residents don’t partake in local elections or stand as candidates, a fact that excludes them from decision making or even from making their voices heard,” he says.
“I love that I am allowed to vote in local elections. It makes a big difference,” adds Matthew.
Matthew knows that some expats have joined local parties to help them integrate into their communities. “The opportunities for representation exist. The foreign population just needs to learn about them and take advantage of them. I wish we had the same opportunities in the national elections.”
Who can vote and how to register
Municipal elections take place in Luxembourg on 8 October 2017. You can find out more information on who qualifies to vote and how to register on the government website www.icanvote.lu . People thinking of registering to vote have until July 13 to do so.
Immigrants from all countries who have acquired Luxembourgish citizenship do not have to sign up, but will automatically qualify for mandatory voting.
To register, go to your local commune of residence with a valid identity document such as a passport, and proof that you have been living in Luxembourg for the past five years. Once registered, you will receive a letter from your commune indicating the opening hours and location of the local polling booth as well as instructions on how to vote and a list of local candidates.