During the past 6 months, Minister Cahen, the DP Minister for Family Affairs and Integration Minister for the Greater Region, has been a fierce advocate on behalf of the “I can vote” campaign encouraging resident foreigners in Luxembourg to register to vote in the communal elections. The results of this effort have been disappointing as only 16% of eligible foreign residents have acted on the call and registered. AMCHAM joined and supported this campaign because we believe democracies work best if the impacted population is actively involved.
Faced with this lower than wished outcome, we have done a bit of survey to find out why more residents have not responded positively to this offer of participation. Here are the results we have discovered:
- Many expats think things are OK and are not motivated to change the system. This point of view was clearly expressed by Lydie Polfer, the long term DP mayor of Luxembourg city who argued that she felt quite many expats liked the way things were going and did not feel a need to get involved.
- Many Expats are not interested in and not involved with communal issues. This point was also made by a member of AMCHAM staff who said his social group of 5 or 6 close friends with whom he spent most Saturday evenings, were not interested in communal politics or activities. They lived where they lived because that is where they found a suitable (and affordable) apartment or house but were not involved in community focused activities as their lives were centered on nationally organized organizations and their friendship groups were likewise from all over Luxembourg and not local community where they lived focused.
- They were turned off from political participation by a lack of information in their language of preference. These people indicated they had difficulty knowing the candidates as people, what they stood for and the policies the candidates at communal level would follow if given a mandate. Hence these potential voters felt it was too hard for them to get the information they needed to be smart voters and therefore preferred to not involve themselves.
- Many of the people we talked with expressing this point of view indicated they were interested and involved with issues which are handled at the national level, but simply had no interest in local communal issues.
Based on this feedback, the low level of expat participation is understandable while still being regrettable.
So, what to do?
At AMCHAM, we understand the frustration of the government wanting more expats involved in voting in communal elections, while likewise understanding why potential voters do not feel so motivated to be involved by the present offering. We expect that the present level of participation will only slowly be raised as more foreign residents convert to Luxembourg citizenship and also become more fluent in the Luxembourg language. At the same time, obtaining Luxembourg citizenship also opens the door for these new former expats but now new Luxembourg citizens can vote in National elections, which is what they really want…