A European Court has rejected an appeal by Brits living in Europe, including 97-year-old war veteran Harry Shindler, who claim that the Brexit referendum was invalid because at least a million Britons were deprived of a vote. Harry Shindler, who lives in Italy, and 12 other British expats questioned the legality of the Brexit referendum in 2016 because they and more than a million Britons living in the EU did not get to have their say due to the 15-year rule on voting rights for expats. That controversial rule bars any British citizen from voting in UK elections or referendums if they have been living out of the country for more than 15 years. The UK’s Conservative government has long promised to abolish the 15-year rule but failed to do so. The French lawyers representing the Brits said that due to this fact, the European Union should not have accepted the UK’s intention to withdraw and start negotiations for leaving the bloc.
MEPs will be asked this week to pile pressure on the European Commission and Council to protect the rights of expats to vote in May’s European elections. At present, citizens of the UK, Cyprus, Denmark, Germany, Ireland and Malta do not have the right to vote in national elections when they reside elsewhere in the EU. For example, a British citizen who has lived abroad for more than 15 years forfeits the right to vote. The campaign to remove the voting restrictions, which will be debated during this week’s plenary session in Strasbourg, is being led by ALDE group MEP Cecilia Wikström, a petitions committee member, who has previously tabled questions to the commission on the issue. “[The right to vote in elections] is a fundamental right common to the constitutional traditions of the member states and recognised in the EU treaties as related to the right of political participation,” Wikström said.
Canada’s top court is set to grapple with whether long-term expats should be allowed to vote, an issue that loomed large in the last federal election in which Justin Trudeau and his Liberals took office. Civil liberties groups, which argue current rules barring the expats from voting are unconstitutional, and Quebec, which supports the federal government’s defence of the restrictions, are among interveners in the closely watched case the Supreme Court of Canada is scheduled to hear on Wednesday. Canadians lose the right to vote after living abroad for more than five years under rules on the books since 1993. However, it was only under the former Conservative government of Stephen Harper that Elections Canada began enforcing the laws.
Zimbabwean demonstrators, many who had come from other regions of the UK, gathered at Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester. The demonstration was one of the cross-country series of protests for #Take2Zimbabwe lined up by Zimbabwe Human Rights Organisation (ZHRO), Restoration Of Human Rights Zimbabwe (ROHR) and Zimbabwe Citizens Initiative (ZCI). This was the third of those planned for this year, after those held in London on the 18th and Birmingham on the 22nd of April. The main goals of these demonstrations is to fight for the right to vote, to highlight corruption, and human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans working together in groups are getting involved and uniting through working in partnerships, hoping that these non-violent protests will turn into voting rights, recognitions of human rights and ultimately, a real democracy.
A broad coalition of Senators has called for voting rights to be extended to Irish citizens living abroad. Senators representing all of the political parties in the Upper House have backed a 10-point plan that would see the franchise extended to emigrants and Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland. The plan was unveiled at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon by Billy Lawless, an Independent Senator who lives in the US and is viewed as the Irish diaspora’s representative in the Seanad. It was accompanied by a policy paper prepared by Irish emigrants group VotingRights.ie.
In an address to the nation on Tuesday, Radev called on the new parliament which will start work on April 19 to take steps to prevent the recurrence of what he called “significant problems” at snap elections last month. He said Bulgaria had witnessed “targeted attempt from abroad to influence the electoral results” – indirectly referring to Turkey’s agitation in favour of DOST, a recently-formed ethnic Turkish-dominated party, which resulted in the extradition of several Turkish officials by the Bulgarian authorities prior to the vote. “The problems remain after the election. They do not end with external interference, there are targeted attempts at deep and systematic infiltration and influence over society and political life in the country,” Radev said.
The Government will consider online voting as an option in the referendum granting voting rights for the Irish abroad, Minister for the Diaspora Joe McHugh has said. Mr McHugh told RTÉ that an options paper containing a range of suggestions will be published. “It will contain all the various permutations. Ultimately we hope to have a rational and informed debate to determine the best options.” The decision to hold a referendum, which was taken by the Cabinet last week and announced by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the US on Sunday, builds on the findings of the convention on the constitution in 2013 which recommended that the constitution be amended to provide for citizens resident outside the State, including Northern Ireland, to have the right to vote at presidential elections.
On the face of it, Enda Kenny’s commitment to extending the vote to the Irish diaspora in presidential elections sounds worthwhile and deserved. Such a generous gesture to Irish citizens living abroad also seems relatively straightforward, giving effect to one of the recommendations made by the Constitutional Convention. The franchise for the diaspora could start as early as 2025 if the optimism of the Taoiseach, Minister of State for the Diaspora Joe McHugh and other Ministers is to be believed. But such a fundamental change is fraught with logistical challenges, carries a big price tag and will raise a host of niggling ethical issues, as well as political headaches for parties other than Sinn Féin.
A referendum on granting Irish citizens abroad the right to vote in Irish presidential elections is to be held the Taoiseach has announced. Speaking in Philadelphia, Enda Kenny said the proposed change, which will also apply to those living in Northern Ireland, will mark a “historic recognition of the strong and enduring links between Ireland and all our citizens, wherever they are in the world.” … The decision to hold a referendum, which was taken by the cabinet last week, builds on the findings of the convention on the constitution in 2013 which recommended that the constitution be amended to provide for citizens resident outside the State, including Northern Ireland, to have the right to vote at presidential elections.
The restriction for the opening of up to 35 electoral sections will be abolished for EU member-states but it will remain valid for the rest of the world, decided deputies in the legal commission who discussed at first reading the 12 draft bills for amendments to the Electoral Code. 17 days remain until the presidential elections. GERB’s proposal for the Central Election Commission (CEC) to allow, when necessary, voting, including on election day itself, in electoral sections abroad with more than one ballot box was also adopted.
As elections to Russian parliament, Duma, approach, Ukraine says it will not allow Russian polling stations on its territory – even if they are placed in the diplomatic establishments. Both countries have exchanged unfriendly statements on Sept. 10. “The President (of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko) instructed the foreign minister (Pavlo Klimkin) to inform Moscow about the inability of Russian elections in Ukraine,” Poroshenko’s spokesperson, Svyatoslav Tsegolko, wrote on Twitter on Sept. 10. Russia holds the elections on Sept. 18. It plans to open polling stations in Russian consulates and embassy in Ukraine, for the Russians living in Ukraine to vote. In 2014, some 150,000 Russian citizens were living in Ukraine according to official data. But Ukrainian government isn’t going to allow the Russian polling stations to open in Ukraine. The reason is, Russian authorities also plan to hold the elections in the annexed Crimea.
Unlike the United States, which grants all its citizens the right to vote anywhere and under all circumstances, most other countries set certain limitations on the rights of their citizens to vote from abroad. Israeli law grants the ability to exercise this important democratic right only to members of its diplomatic corps and to employees of the Jewish Agency, the World Zionist Federation, the Jewish National Fund and the United Israel Appeal. Still, while law enables murderers and other convicted felons serving jail terms to take part in the democratic process, the same law revokes the voting rights of students, university professors, employees of private firms, tourists and other Israelis away from their permanent places of residence on election day.
United Kingdom: Thousands of British expats excluded from voting in the EU referendum | The Conversation UK
A decision by judges in the Supreme Court has finally put an end to the legal challenge of two British citizens claiming to have been unfairly excluded from voting in the EU referendum. They were campaigning against the law which disenfranchises people who have lived outside the UK for 15 years or more. Lawyers for Harry Shindler MBE, a war veteran living in Italy, and Jaquelyn MacLennan, a lawyer resident in Belgium, pursued their claim that the EU Referendum Act (Section 2) is incompatible with EU law. They argued that it “restricts their directly effective EU law rights of freedom of movement” and acts as a penalty for exercising this right. Following hearings in the High Court and the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court, the UK’s final court of appeal, endorsed the lower courts’ rejection of the claim. It ruled that, even if EU law did apply (and there was disagreement between the courts over this point), there had not been any “interference” with the claimants’ right of free movement – which was the basis of the case.
Britons who have lived abroad for more than 15 years will not be allowed to vote in the EU referendum, the supreme court has ruled. The highest court in the country upheld earlier rulings of the high court and court of appeal against Harry Shindler and Jacquelyn MacLennan, who were challenging the law. The ruling confirms the decision that the UK’s voting regulations do not unlawfully interfere with the right of freedom of movement within the European Union and that the government is entitled to set an arbitrary time limit on residence. Delivering the ruling, Lady Hale, deputy president of the supreme court, said: “The question is not whether this particular voting exclusion is justifiable as a proportionate means of pursuing a legitimate aim. The question is whether EU law applies.”
The co-heads of the nationalist Patriotic Front coalition, which backs Bulgaria’s minority government, have said they are inclined to understand the President’s veto on a key text in electoral legislation. The development comes as a meeting is being held on Tuesday of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and the leaders of several parties. MPs passed in April amendments to the Electoral Code introducing restrictions to the number of polling stations for Bulgarians outside the country. The changes were tabled (albeit in a much more restrictive version) by the Patriotic Front, which said the move would reduce the impact of ill-regulated mass voting by Bulgarian expats in Turkey.
Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev has said that his veto on recently adopted changes to election rules aim to remind to political parties that citizens have equal rights under the constitution. “Bulgarians, wherever in the world they are, should be able to exercise their rights. The state should not hamper them but rather make the process easier for them,” Plevneliev said at a meeting with students on occasion of Europe Day on Monday, according to a statement from the President’s Office.
The high court has rejected an attempt to force the government to grant millions of UK citizens living abroad a vote in this June’ s EU referendum. The legal challenge brought by two disenfranchised expats on behalf of those living overseas for more than 15 years was dismissed by Lord Justice Lloyd Jones and Mr Justice Blake. The government, the judges said, was entitled to adopt a cut-off period “at which extended residence abroad might indicate a weakening of ties with the United Kingdom”. The ruling also noted that there would be “significant practical difficulties about adopting, especially for this referendum, a new electoral register which includes non-resident British citizens whose last residence in the UK was more than 15 years ago”. The judges added: “Electoral registration officers currently retain records of previous electoral registers for a period of 15 years. They have no straightforward means of checking the previous residence status of British citizens who have been resident overseas for longer than 15 years.
Foreigners account for a quarter of the Swiss population, but they can’t vote in elections or referendums. Is this acceptable in a fully-fledged direct democracy? Swiss and German politicians are divided in their opinions.
“Swiss living abroad are also foreigners in their countries of residency. They often have a firm view of what’s happening in Switzerland, and at the same time they take part in political life in their adopted countries,” Walter Leimgruber, President of the Federal Migration Commission, pointed out at a recent event. Leimgruber’s conclusion is that the Swiss living abroad are citizens of two states, and living proof that political engagement is possible in two societies. In his view, they’re a good example of how foreigners can enjoy political participation wherever they live, regardless of nationality. Economic interdependence caused by globalisation, and the fact that 50% of marriages in Switzerland are bi-national, mean “political rights will have to be redefined,” argues Leimgruber, a professor of cultural studies at Basel University.
A Bill calling for internet voting for expats and the withdrawal of the 15-year time limit on their participation in UK elections was withdrawn after a short debate at Westminster. Chris Chope, MP for Christchurch, Dorset, withdrew a private members bill calling for the government to scrap the time limit. Constitutional Reform minister John Penrose told Parliament that he believed as many as 6 million expat voters could vote in British and European elections, but less than 2 million had signed up to the electoral roll and most of the rest were excluded by the time limit. The Tories promised in their election manifesto that the time limit would be scrapped, but have failed to do so in time for the UK Brexit referendum in June.
Peers spoke out strongly in favour of a referendum vote for all Britons living in EU countries when the UK’s EU Referendum Bill had its first House of Lords debate. Many members gave their backing to the idea in yesterday’s debate – which the Liberal Democrats have confirmed to Connexion will also be the subject of an amendment which will be lodged before the bill is discussed in detail in a Lords ‘committee stage’. (The date for this has yet to be set, but it will be the next part of the bill’s journey through parliament). Chairman of Brussels and Europe Liberal Democrats Giles Goodall said it has been agreed that the cross-bench peers [those of no specific party] will table an amendment on this, with Liberal Democrat support. He said the same is planned for an amendment calling for an independent report into the impact of leaving the EU. The Liberal-Democrats will also table amendments on votes for 16-17-year-olds and for EU citizens living in the UK, Mr Goodall said. Readers wishing email peers with support or comments can find contact details here: House of Lords.
Recently over a million Canadians lost their ability to vote. This was the result of an Ontario Court of Appeal decision, Frank V. Canada, which held that Canadian citizens living abroad for more than five years would no longer have the right to vote. The decision restored sections of a 22-year-old law previously struck down as unconstitutional. The court’s majority essentially decided that the exclusion of non-residents was ultimately permissible as it reinforced a “social contract” dictating that those who vote should be those subject to the resulting laws. Since few Canadian laws are enforced outside of our borders, the court reasoned that the limitation on the voting rights of the non-residents was justifiable.
Five years ago today, Wyclef Jean – the Haitian-American hip-hop superstar whose 2004 hit song mused, “If I was President” – revealed in an interview with me that he was actually running for President. Of Haiti. Whether Jean would have been a good pwezidan is certainly debatable. But what made his candidacy most significant – especially in the wake of Haiti’s catastrophic 2010 earthquake – was the prospect of finally seeing a real bridge built between Haiti and its large diaspora. “I’m the only man who can stand in the middle and get the diaspora and Haiti’s elite families to cooperate,” Jean told me. And yet Haiti’s elite families hardly seemed ready to welcome Jean into the presidential palace. Three weeks after he entered the 2010 presidential race, Haiti’s election commission disqualified him because it said he didn’t meet constitutional residency requirements. This despite the fact that Jean was born in Haiti and hadn’t ditched his Haitian citizenship. As a result, many Haitian-Americans said his ejection was typical of how Haiti treats the Haitian diaspora.
Two Canadians stripped of the right to vote because of their lengthy stay abroad are hoping the Supreme Court of Canada will hear the case, their lawyer said Wednesday. Shaun O’Brien said last week’s split Appeal Court decision affirming the voting ban prompted an outpouring of support “There’s been a strong response,” O’Brien said in an interview. “People (have been) reaching out to us – expats living around the world – who are very disappointed and dismayed by the decision, and who are urging us to move forward and who are offering their support.” Among those unhappy with losing their right to vote is veteran Canadian actor Donald Sutherland, an Officer of the Order of Canada, who wears his Canadian citizenship on his sleeve.
More than a million Canadian expatriates are out of luck if they had plans to vote in their home country’s general election on 19 October, thanks to an appeals court ruling. An Ontario Appeals Court ruling issued Monday overturned an earlier victory for two Canadian expatriates who challenged a law barring citizens who have lived outside the country for over five years from voting in Canadian federal elections. That 2014 victory temporarily restored right to cast a ballot to the roughly 1.4 million Canadians of voting age who have lived abroad for five or more years. Gillian Frank and Jamie Duong, both currently living in the US, brought the challenge to the election law after learning they weren’t eligible to vote in the 2011 general election.
The Conservatives have pledged to abolish the “15 year rule” that prevents millions of British expats from being able to vote – if the party wins the next general election. The manifesto commitment is designed to protect the rights of citizens overseas who have “contributed to Britain all their lives” according to a Tory spokesman. He said that if the party wins power next May, it will remove the cap that prevents Britons from voting in UK elections after they have been out of the country for 15 years and allow them the vote for life. “Millions of British citizens live and work across the globe. Many have worked hard, contributed to Britain all their lives, and have close family living in Britain,” said the spokesman.
Editorials: Canadian expatriates should never lose the right to vote | Semra Sevi/The Globe and Mail
Canada, a nation of immigrants, is quickly becoming a nation of emigrants. According to a study by the Asia Pacific Foundation, 2.9 million Canadian citizens – equivalent to 9 per cent of Canada’s population – study, live and work abroad. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms grants every Canadian citizen the right to vote and to be a candidate in an election. Until 1993, Canadian citizens living abroad were not allowed to vote at all except for civil servants and military personnel. The subsequent Bill C-114 introduced voting rights for Canadians living abroad for fewer than five-years. But why five years? Expatriate voting rights are now common in many countries. In the English-speaking world, the United States has the most generous provision for expatriate voters. Americans living overseas have the right to vote no matter how long they have been abroad.
Egyptians living abroad began Thursday to cast their ballots in a presidential poll that is expected to bring former army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to power. Egyptian embassies and consulates across 124 countries are expected to open Thursday for voting over 12 hours, from 9am local time, Egypt’s foreign ministry said. Polling locations in Paris, Austria’s Vienna, Sudan’s Khartoum and New Zealand’s Wellington opened their doors Thursday morning for expatriate Egyptians to vote in the four-day poll that will conclude 18 May, state news agency MENA has said. The presidential vote is scheduled to open at home 26-27 May and is highly tipped to be won by retired army chief and frontrunner chief El-Sisi. Only one other rival running for the country’s top post is leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, who came third in the 2012 election. The vote is the second milestone in a transitional roadmap set out by interim authorities following Mohamed Morsi’s ouster last July. The first was a January referendum on an amended constitution in which around only 107,000 expatriates cast their ballots out of over 600,000 eligible Egyptian voters in 161 countries.
An Ontario judge was urged Monday to consider whether the historical reasoning for a law that strips some expatriates of their voting rights makes sense in today’s world. The request came from a lawyer for two Canadians who are challenging the rule that affects citizens living abroad for more than five years. “The most critical thing is to look at whether these provisions are constitutional now, considering the current context of globalization and the way people travel around the world and are able to stay connected,” said Shaun O’Brien. “Lots of things existed in voting legislation that we no longer accept . . . . The fact that historically the nature of our system requires residence doesn’t meant that residence is required now.”
A new voting campaign is about to go live online to attract British expats back into UK politics. After successive disappointing local and national election turn-outs and fearing more coalition governments, the Electoral Commission wants more expats to use their votes. However, they seem to have forgotten most of them left Britain because they didn’t like living here anyway. Around 5 million British expats live overseas, and around 1 million have the vote, but only 20,000 are on the electoral roll. The Electoral Commission wants to up this number and aims to urge expats to vote by sending emails to expats who set up the account in the UK and advertising the right online – especially via British news sites and the BBC. The commission wants to try and muster more support for the polls – and has the next round of European elections in May and the general election in 2015 as targets. Expat voters could qualify to enter the ballot on the yes/no referendum on the European Union promised by Prime Minister David Cameron.
Iran Deputy Foreign Minister for Consular, Parliamentary and Iranian Expatriates Affairs Hassan Qashqavi says Iranian expatriates can cast their ballots for the June 14 presidential election in 120 countries. Speaking at a meeting with the representatives of electoral executive and monitoring committees outside Iran in Tehran on Monday, he said nearly 300 polling stations have been set up abroad for Iranians to vote overseas.