A Swiss think tank is urging Switzerland to give foreigners greater voting rights at the local level, such as allowing foreign residents to stand for local political office. Such a measure will help integration, it argues. A new study by the Swiss think tank Avenir Suisse, published on Tuesday, reveals that foreigners have local voting rights in 600 municipalities across Switzerland, out of a total of 2,596. But rights are very unevenly spread regionally, among 575 communes in French-speaking Switzerland, 22 in the German-speaking canton of Graubünden and three in the small German-speaking canton of Appenzell Outer-Rhodes. The absolute number of politically active foreigners was still relatively small, the study found. In the 317 communes that responded to the survey, currently 148 non-Swiss hold legislative positions and 19 hold executive office posts.
According to Avenir Suisse, these modest numbers are partly due to the lack of proper information for foreigners. “Basically, foreign nationals have no political rights whatsoever federally. However, things can be different at the cantonal level. Many foreigners simply don’t know about their political rights and don’t exercise them as a result,” it said in a statement.
“Voting rights for foreigners at the local level are a step in the right direction, as they demonstrate that immigrants – in a country of immigrants like Switzerland – are treated as serious members of society.”