The reverse side of German democracy

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Participative democracy grows inconsistent in Europe where administrative and political barriers are still faced by EU mobile citizens when exercising their right to vote. On Sunday 14/3, three states across Germany expected its voters at the polling stations all across Baden-Wurttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate for state parliamentary elections (Landtagswahlen), while Hesse was running state-wide local elections (Kommunalwahlen). In all these states, overall voter turnout decreased.

In Baden-Wurttemberg, 63.8% of the eligible citizens voted and in Rhineland-Palatinate, the voter turnout was 64.4%. The 234 100 mobile EU citizens living in Rhineland-Palatinate and the 850 000 mobile EU citizens living in Baden-Wuerttemberg were excluded from their right to vote for the state elections. Only in Hesse, did the 423 000 mobile EU citizens have the right to vote and the right to stand for the local municipal elections, as well as in the upcoming regional parliamentary elections in two years time. However, the latter is not a reality for Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Wurttemberg.

According to current legislation set up in the Maastricht Treaty, mobile European citizens are only allowed to vote in local and European elections – Art 20(b) TFEU. Therefore, they are being excluded as electorate for regional elections, as is seen in Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rheinland. Voters Without Borders campaigns for equal political rights for all EU citizens living in another Member State. 

This is the case of Miriam. She is a Danish citizen living in Germany. She can vote in the local and European elections but not at the national level. Additionally, she lost her right of voting in Denmark because she left more than a year ago. Approximately 4 million EU citizens in Germany can vote in local and European elections but not in state and federal elections. 

Nevertheless, the absence of demographic data on voter turnout in these states represents an impediment to mobile citizens’ exercise of voting rights. Cristina Sirbu, candidate for the Advisory Council of Foreigners in Frankfurt, endorsed by the Greens, argues that according to Article 30(1) of the Hesse Constitution (Hessische Gemeindeordnung) EU citizens are allowed to vote in the Hesse state parliamentary elections (Landtagswahlen). However, this is not a reality for all regional state elections, therefore adding to a democratic deficit in the state-wide regional elections in Germany.                                      

For this reason, Voters Without Borders asks for a policy solution for those European citizens who do not have the right to vote in their countries of residence. We demand the EU remove a stain on European democracy and empower European citizenship, by implementing full political rights for all EU citizens. Sign this European Citizens’ Initiative and claim your full voting rights!

Article by Robert S. Goia, Pedro Fariña, Elias Wolff

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