Starting over a month ago, there has been increasing advocacy and promotion encouraging Expats to vote in Luxembourg Communal elections. Information is available on Guichet.lu (here) for a quick and easy sign up and the Luxembourg Minister of Family, Corrine Cahen, has widely offered to attend events and speak to encourage greater participation. She and other politicians were particularly present additionally at the International community celebrations promoting integration of foreigners recently hosted by Clae.
Yet despite these notable and well-intended efforts, Expat voting registration and participation remains below 15%.
It seems reasonable to ask; WHY?
More importantly, perhaps, it also makes sense to ask: What needs to be done to get more expats registered and actively voting?
Over the past months a group of us English speaking expats have been conducting informal engagements with eligible potential voters and have come to the conclusion that there are reasonable reasons for our expat colleagues to feel less that fully welcome to participate as voters:
- Many foreigners are not emotionally connected to Communes and simply consider Communes to be the addresses where they could buy or rent housing while their Luxembourg counterparts are more likely to have historical personal or family long term ties with a specific commune thereby having an emotional connection at communal level.
- Many foreigners are discouraged to participate in communal activities because they do not have sufficient mastery of Luxembourgish, French and German and are embarrassed to sit in meetings or to try to be involved when they do not understand the content under discussion. Likewise, many foreigners say they can’t get voting related information from political parties which is sufficiently detailed enough to know what the various candidate platforms and policy objective are and get this information in a language they can understand
- Many foreigners have their business and social engagements within national organizations rather than organizations which are local commune focused. While they would happily participate in National elections if allowed, they have limited personal interest to be involved in activities at commune level.
- Many foreigners are not convinced they are fully accepted and appreciated by their Luxembourg hosts and hence have some measure of fear which causes them to prefer to maintain low profiles and to stay with “their own kind” to avoid the possibility of negative reactions against themselves and their families.
We in AMCHAM encourage active participation by all eligible people in voting because we believe a functioning democracy only works when as may voters s possible are actively involved. At the same time, we acknowledge these fears and concerns expressed by members of the foreign community. While we demand nothing, and are pleased to have the possibility to live and work in this wonderful country, we gently advice the local political parties, decision leaders and population that if they sincerely want greater participation by foreigners in local voting, simply asking foreigners to register and vote is not enough to achieve better results.