Luxemburgers have resoundingly rejected a proposal to let foreign residents vote in national elections, a move that would have been a first in Europe and could have expanded the electorate of the tiny but cosmopolitan Grand Duchy by as much as 50 percent. In Sunday’s consultative referendum, only about 22 percent supported the proposal, part of a modernizing agenda backed by liberal Prime Minister Xavier Bettel. There were also clear majorities against lowering the voting age to 16 from 18 and introducing 10-year term limits for ministers, following the 19-year rule of Bettel’s conservative predecessor Jean-Claude Juncker, now the EU’s chief executive.
Some 45 percent of Luxembourg’s 540,000 inhabitants are foreign, many of them Portuguese, and 150,000 workers commute in daily from Germany, France or Belgium, many to staff a financial sector that has supplanted the coal and steel industries.
The referendum asked whether foreigners who have lived in Luxembourg for 10 years and have exercised their existing right to vote in municipal elections should also have the franchise for national ballots.
Some 35,000 would have qualified, and that could have risen to over 100,000 if all those resident for a decade or more had registered and cast votes in local elections.