- JAPAN ASSOCIATION OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
- 国際政治 (ISSN:04542215)
- no.110, pp.1-22,L5, 1995
The rights of foreigners, including their right to vote in local elections, are expanding in the European Union as the integration of Europe not only allows people to freely travel across the borders in the region but also has brought about the new legal concept of European citizenship.<br>Western Europe, however, has experienced an inflow and settlement of Asian and African immigrants and faces a serious problem concerning their social, economic and political rights. The purpose of this article is to explain the current status of the right of foreigners to vote in local elections in Western Europe and to generalize over the issue by comparing Western European countries with each other.<br>The current status of suffrage of foreigners in local elections in Western Europe will be briefly discussed. The countries which have granted foreigners the right to vote in local elections include Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands. The remains of colonialism can be seen in the United Kingdom's approach to the issue, because the country has vested citizenship and suffrage to people from the Commonwealth of Nations. Ireland has also granted foreigners the right to vote, while the country decides whether it grants foreigners suffrage based on the historical relations between the United Kingdom and the countries the foreigners are from. The suffrage of foreigners has not yet been granted in France and Germany which have attracted many foreign workers, of whom Asian and African immigrants and Muslims account for a large percentage, although the issue has aroused much controversy in the two countries. These examples clearly indicate that the situations surrounding each country affect its approach to the issue of the right of foreigners to vote in a subtle way.<br>We will next examine a group of factors which enable countries to grant foreigners the right to vote and a group of factors which prevent them from doing so. The former group of factors includes the history of granting foreigners suffrage in a certain region, such as North Europe, a close relation between the former colonies and suzerains, the diplomatic policy of the country concerned (e. g. Sweden), free trade and the openness of the country. The latter group includes the ideology of a strong nation state (e. g. France), strong nationality (e. g. Germany), the ratio of foreigners to total population, a large cultural and religious distance between society which foreigners come from and society which accepts them (e. g. France and Germany) and the existence of a strong anti-foreigner movement.<br>Next, the logic behind granting the suffrage to foreigners and the logic against it will be discussed, and based on this discussion, the reasons why some countries have granted foreigners the right to vote and why others have not will be examined. The experiences in Western Europe could offer many suggestions to Japan which is facing the problem of whether to grant foreigners the right to vote in local elections. The problem of the suffrage of foreigners tends to be discussed at the level of norms, and there is little discussion on the matter from a positive point of view, such as how foreigners will be granted the right to vote and how heavy their turnout will be. Japan will be able to learn many things from experiences of Western Europe concerning this problem.