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13th Apr 2024

Luxembourg referendum rejects foreigner voting rights

  • Posters for the No campaign. Luxembourger voters refused to grant voting rights to foreigners and to lower the voting age from 18 to 16.

Luxembourg voters overwhelmingly refused on Sunday (7 June) to grant voting rights to foreigners and to lower the voting age from 18 to 16.

In a referendum, 78.02 percent said No to letting foreigners register on voting rolls if they have lived in the Grand Duchy for at least 10 years and have voted in communal or European elections.

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An even larger majority, 80.87 percent, were against allowing people aged 16-18 to register for legislative, European and communal elections as well as for referendums.

They also rejected by 69.93% a proposition to put a 10-year limit to ministerial mandates.

"We got the message," prime minister Xavier Bettel said after the vote while rejecting calls for resignation.

“It is a clear signal, which we will respect, ” he said, admitting the three proposals will not be included in the constitution overhaul planned by his government.

The government said however in a statement that it would "continue efforts in favour of political participation of young people and the integration of non-Luxembourgish residents, who represent around 45 percent of the population."

Most of the 260,000 foreigners living in Luxembourg are EU nationals, with Portuguese and Italians being the biggest groups.

Bettel's government, a coalition of liberals, socialists and Greens, had campaigned for a triple Yes, with the support of the country's business and cultural communities.

The No campaign was led by conservative and centre-right parties, including the Christian-Social People's party of EU Commission president and former prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker.

The union of civil servants also campaigned for the No. About 20 percent of the country's active population works in the public administration.

Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich, the head of the influential Luxembourger Church, gave no voting instructions but said he was "pleased that there is an attempt to make foreigners participate more in the political life".

In the wake of the referendum, supporters of voting rights for foreigners questioned the legitimacy of the Grand Duchy political system.

"A large majority of Luxembourg's voters opted to continue to elect a parliament representing a minority of residents," the Plate-forme Migrations & Intégration said in a statement.

"The future will tell if this decision was the most appropriate to favour the development and the cohesion of our society."

Despite Sunday's results, the government plans to organise a referendum in 2017 on its constitutional reform plans, which could include a reform of nationality laws.

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