SHARE
COPY LINK

ELECTIONS

Britain to allow ALL citizens living abroad the right to vote

The British government said on Friday it will scrap the 15-year rule that had barred many British voters living abroad from casting a ballot in general elections back home.

Britain to allow ALL citizens living abroad the right to vote
Photo: AFP

The UK government said on Friday that the rule that has barred British nationals from voting if they have lived abroad for over 15 years, will be scrapped in time for the 2020 election.

The government published its intention to ditch the unpopular law, which Britons living abroad have long fought against, by publishing a policy statement titled “Democracy that works for everyone”.

“We believe that overseas electors contribute to British society and should be given that democratic right to vote,” the constitution minister Chris Skidmore said.

“We intend to give those overseas electors the chance to register quickly and securely so they will be able to register to vote in time of the 2020 election.”

 

Writing in The Telegraph newspaper Skidmore said: “Being British is about so much more than simply being resident in the UK.

“It doesn’t matter where they live, British citizens are still a part of British society, retaining strong cultural and social ties with their families at home and helping to build businesses abroad,” writes Skidmore.

“The decisions that are made on British shores impact our citizens around the world and indeed many plan to return to live here in the future,” he added.

The Conservative government had pledged to scrap the rule as a pre-election promise but many long-term expats living in the EU were left angered when it became clear the government would not push through the change before the crucial referendum.

Indeed the sentiment among many British nationals abroad on Friday was that the announcement had come too late.

“I would have been delighted. Just a few months ago I would have been ecstatic, but now, faced with the impending loss of my EU citizenship and associated rights, the triumph has lost some savour,” said The Local reader Yvonne Flavin.

Nevertheless those British citizens who had long campaigned against the injustice were happy at Friday’s announcement.

“This is great news,” says France-based Brian Cave. “We are nearly there. We shall vote at the next General Election. All those who have taken part in this long campaign will know that it was worth it and as we kept saying: ‘we will win because we are right’.

“Winston Churchill would have said: ‘This is not the end, but it could be the beginning of the end,'” said Cave.

The government will now draw up a bill which must be given the green light by parliament, but all being well all Britons abroad should be able to cast a vote in 2020. 

The next question is will they give Brits abroad our own MPs?

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

ELECTIONS

Germany’s far-right AfD ahead in regional poll with anti-shutdown stance

Best known as an anti-migrant party, Germany's far-right AfD has seized on the coronavirus pandemic to court a new type of voter ahead of regional elections in the state of Saxony-Anhalt on Sunday: anti-shutdown activists.

Germany's far-right AfD ahead in regional poll with anti-shutdown stance
Björn Höcke, party chairman in Thuringia, at an election event in Merseburg, Saxony-Anhalt on May 29th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Sebastian Willnow

“Sending so many people into poverty with so few infections is problematic for us,” is how Oliver Kirchner, the AfD’s top candidate in Saxony-Anhalt, views the measures ordered by the government to halt Covid-19 transmission.

The anti-shutdown stance seems to be paying off in the former East German state. The party is riding high in the polls and even stands a chance of winning a regional election for the first time.

READ ALSO: Germany’s far-right AfD chooses hardline team ahead of national elections

Surveys have the AfD neck-and-neck with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU, with the Bild daily even predicting victory for the far-right party on 26 percent, ahead of the CDU on 25 percent.

In Saxony-Anhalt’s last election in 2016, the CDU was the biggest party, scoring 30 percent and forming a coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens.

But the CDU has taken a hammering in the opinion polls in recent months, with voters unhappy with the government’s pandemic management and a corruption scandal involving shady coronavirus mask contracts.

Social deprivation

A victory for the AfD would spell a huge upset for the conservatives just four months ahead of a general election in Germany — the first in 16 years not to feature Merkel.

They started out campaigning against the euro currency in 2013. Then in 2015 they capitalised on public anger over Merkel’s 2015 decision to let in a wave of asylum seekers from conflict-torn countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The party caused a sensation in Germany’s last general election in 2017 when it secured almost 13 percent of the vote, entering parliament for the first time as the largest opposition party.

Troubled by internal divisions and accusations of ties to neo-Nazi fringe groups, the party has more recently seen its support at the national level stagnate at between 10 and 12 percent.

READ ALSO: Germany’s far-right AfD investigated over election ties

The party is also controversial in Saxony-Anhalt itself. In state capital Magdeburg, posters showing local candidate Hagen Kohl have been defaced with Hitler moustaches and the words “Never again”.

For wine merchant Jan Buhmann, 57, victory for the far-right party would be a “disaster”.

“The pandemic has shown that we need new ideas. We need young people, we need dynamism in the state. For me, the AfD does not stand for that,” he said.

Yet the AfD’s core supporters have largely remained unwavering in the former East German states.

For pensioner Hans-Joachim Peters, 73, the AfD is “the only party that actually tells it like it is”.

Politicians should “think less about Europe and more about Germany”, he told AFP in Magdeburg. AfD campaigners there were handing out flyers calling for “resistance” and “an end to all anti-constitutional restrictions on our liberties”.

Political scientist Hajo Funke of Berlin’s Free University puts the AfD’s core strength in eastern Germany down to “social deprivation and frustration” resulting from problems with reunification.

The party’s latest anti-corona restrictions stance has also helped it play up its anti-establishment credentials, adding some voters to its core base, he said.

Other east German states in which the AfD has a stronghold, such as Saxony and Thuringia, continue to have the highest 7-day incidences per 100,000 residents in the country. Saxony-Anhalt’s 7-day incidence, however, currently is below the national average (31.3) as of Wednesday June 3rd.

READ ALSO: Why are coronavirus figures so high in German regions with far-right leanings?

Hijab snub

Funke predicted the AfD would attract broadly the same voters in
Saxony-Anhalt as it did in 2016, when it won 24 percent of the vote.

“Some have dropped off because the party is too radical, some radicals who didn’t vote are now voting and some of those who are anti-corona are also voting for the AfD,” he said.

The Sachsen-Anhalt-Monitor 2020 report, commissioned by the local government, found that the main concern for voters in the region was the economic fallout from the pandemic. But the AfD’s core selling point — immigration and refugees — was number two on their list.

According to AfD candidate Kirchner, many people in Saxony-Anhalt still view the influx of refugees to Germany “very critically”.

“And I think they are right,” he said at a campaign stand in Magdeburg decked in the AfD’s signature blue. “Who is going to rebuild Syria? Who is going to do that if everyone comes here?”

When a young woman wearing a hijab walked past the stand, no one attempted to hand her a flyer.

By Femke Colborne

SHOW COMMENTS