While Luxembourg is pondering whether to give foreign nationals the right to vote, in New Zealand the measure has become a “non-issue” since it was introduced some 50 years ago, according to a legal expert. Out of 193 officially recognised states currently only four allow non-nationals the right to vote in parliamentary elections. Aside from New Zealand, these include Chile, Uruguay and Malawi. Criteria vary widely. While in Chile foreigners need to have lived in the country for five years, in Malawi this rises to seven, while Uruguay has a residence requirement of 15 years. New Zealand first introduced voting rights for all residents in 1975, amending legislation in 1993 to state that only “permanent residents” who have lived in the country for over two years are eligible to vote. Compared to Luxembourg’s proposal of a 10-year residence period this seems comparatively low. In return, immigration criteria are somewhat stricter than in the Grand Duchy, although in many areas similar policies apply, for example employment.
Every year, around 100,000 immigrants arrive in New Zealand. Between October 2013 and October 2014, New Zealand recorded its highest-ever net gain of 47,700 migrants, with 107,200 arrivals and 59,500 people leaving the country.
Around 25 percent of the population are foreigners, with around half of those coming from other Commonwealth countries, especially England and Australia. However, there has been a growing number of immigrants from Asia and the South Sea Islands.
“Our experience shows that the separation of voting rights from nationality can be completely uncontroversial,” Caroline Sawyer, senior lecturer at the Faculty of Law the the Victoria University of Wellington, commented.