A test case initiative in canton Vaud giving foreign residents the right to vote on cantonal issues and be elected to political office has been turned down.
Cantonal voters rejected the “Live and vote here” initiative by 68.9 per cent on Sunday. In most Swiss cantons foreign residents cannot vote at either communal or cantonal level, but a patchwork of exceptions exists.
If it had passed, the western canton would have become the first in Switzerland to give foreign residents full cantonal voting rights as well as the chance to stand for local parliament, government and cantonal Senate seats.
The initiative applied to foreigners who had lived in Switzerland for more than ten years and three years in canton Vaud. Since 2003 around 85,000 people fulfilling these requirements have been able to vote on commune level issues and to be elected to commune positions.
“It’s certainly a very clear result,” a disappointed Raphaël Mahaim, a Green Party politician and initiative co-president, told swissinfo.ch.
“For the majority of Vaud residents there is still an important link between nationality and local political rights.”
Leftwing and centre parties had supported the initiative but it was opposed by the right.
“As a foreigner who only recently became Swiss, I think it’s a good idea that people who have lived here for over ten years have the right to vote – you are part of the community, you pay taxes and work and are part of Switzerland,” Lausanne resident Nina Pecoraso, who has Dutch-Swiss dual nationality, told swissinfo.ch.
Mahaim said young people had been much more open to the initiative, which he described as “ahead of its time”.