13 June 2005
Abolition of restrictions on the right to vote
Political Affairs Committee
Rapporteur for Opinion: Lord Tomlinson, United Kingdom, Socialist Group
Conclusions by the Political Affairs Committee
1. The Political Affairs Committee is in agreement with the approach of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, its conclusions and suggestions.
2. It strongly shares the view, in particular, that:
- unjustified restrictions on the right to vote for citizens should be removed;
- the right to vote in local elections should be extended to foreigners with legal residence;
- the exercise of the right to vote in national elections by expatriates should be further facilitated.
3. The Political Affairs Committee, however, wishes to add some elements of analysis: as the main report explains, some restrictions to electoral rights are legally acceptable, amongst others under European Convention on Human Rights’ standards, including the limitation of the right to vote to citizens, in some cases to residing citizens only, to the exclusion of foreigners. The question is: are these limitations politically acceptable in contemporary Europe? The answer of the Political Affairs Committee is: no.
4. Why? Because if we continue to preserve limitations to electoral rights which were enshrined in our legal systems at a time when only citizens represented the “demos”’, we undermine the representativeness of our institutions and their democratic legitimacy.
5. Electoral law needs modernising, to reflect the evolution of modern European societies. It is a well-established fact that, on the one hand, more and more Europeans live abroad; on the other, more and more foreigners live in European countries. This trend might increase over the next few years because as a result of the latest European Union enlargement an increased number of citizens of new member states may move temporarily or permanently to other EU member states by exercising their right to freedom of movement. Under EU law, these EU citizens are entitled to vote in local and European Parliament elections in their countries of residence. Instead, the issue of their participation in the general elections of the country in which they reside, as well as their participation in general elections of their country of nationality, continues to depend on national law. Unless a further effort to facilitate their voting rights is made, these citizens will be excluded from participating fully in the democratic process.
6. Besides, immigration trends are on the rise in a number of Council of Europe member states. The deprivation of the right to participate at least in local elections for foreigners who are legally residing in Council of Europe member states implies a permanent democratic deficit: there should be a link between the right to vote in local elections and the fact of living legally in a community for a certain time, paying taxes and contributing to social security.
7. However, the democratic legitimacy of institutions is not the only concern of the Political Affairs Committee: restrictions on the right to vote risk undermining also the cohesion of society and civic sense, two fundamental elements of democracy which the Council of Europe aims to reinforce. It is a contradiction to envisage policies for better integration of immigrants and then leave them unable to express their views, even at the level which is closest to them.
8. With these considerations in mind, the Political Affairs Committee suggests the following amendments:
Amendments to the draft resolution
In paragraph 1, at the end of the sentence add the following: “Electoral rights are the basis of democratic legitimacy and representativeness of the political process. They should, therefore, evolve to follow the progress of modern societies towards ever inclusive democracy.”
In paragraph 3, line 2, after “ethnic origin” delete the rest of the sentence and replace it with the following words: “, health, status as members of the military or criminal record. Due regard should be given to voting rights of citizens domiciled abroad.”
In paragraph 6, before the word “residents”, add the word “legal” (twice).
In paragraph 7, line 3, after the words “be attached to”, replace the word “nationality” with “citizenship”.
In paragraph 8, line 2, after “national elections” add “bearing in mind the complexity of different electoral systems”.
In paragraph 8, line 3, after “in particular by”, replace “allowing” with “considering”.
In paragraph 8, line 4, replace “and/or consular voting” with “, consular or e-voting, consistent with Recommendation Rec(2004)11 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on legal, operational and technical standards for e-voting”.
In paragraph 9, line 2, replace “the ultimate” with “a”.
In paragraph 12, i. c., after “consular voting)” add the following words: “and considering the introduction of e-voting consistent with Recommendation Rec(2004)11 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on legal, operational and technical standards for e-voting”.
In paragraph 12, i., e, after the word “prisoners” add “persons who have been convicted of a criminal offence”.
Amendment to the draft recommendation
In paragraph 1, ii., line 4, after the words “prison inmates” add “persons who have been convicted of a criminal offence’.
Reporting Committee for Opinion: Political Affairs Committee.
Reference to Committee: Doc. 9906, Ref. 2875 of 29.09.03
Draft Opinion approved by the Committee on 31.05.05
Members of the Committee : Mr Abdülkadir Ateş (Chairperson), Mr Latchezar Toshev (Vice-Chairperson), Mr Dick Marty (Vice-Chairperson), Mr Konstantin Kosachev (Vice-Chairperson), Mrs Manuela Aguiar, Mr. Giuseppe Arzilli, Mr David Atkinson, Mr Claudio Azzolini, Mr Miroslav Beneš, Mr Radu-Mircea Berceanu, Mr Gerardo Bianco, r Haakon Blankenborg, Mr Giorgi Bokeria, Mrs Beáta Brestenká, Mr Doros Christodoulides, Mrs Anna Čurdová, Mr Noel Davern, Mr Michel Dreyfus-Schmidt, Mr Adri Duivesteijn, Mrs Josette Durrieu, Mr Mikko Elo, Mr Jean-Charles Gardetto, Mr Charles Goerens, Mr Daniel Goulet, Mr Andreas Gross, Mr Klaus-Jürgen Hedrich, Mr Jean-Pol Henry, Mr Joachim Hörster, Mr Tadeusz Iwiński, Mr Elmir Jahić (alternate: Mr Sead Avdić), Mr Ljubiša Jovašević, Lord Frank Judd (alternate: Lord John Tomlinson), Mr Ivan Kalezić, Mr Oleksandr Karpov, Mr Oskars Kastēns, Mr Petro Koçi, Mr Yuriy Kostenko, Mrs Darja Lavtižar-Bebler, Mr Göran Lindblad, Mr Tony Lloyd (alternate: Ms Jane Griffiths), Mr Younal Loutfi, Mr Mikhail Margelov, Mr Frano Matušić, Mr José Medeiros Ferreira, Mr Evagelos Meimarakis (alternate: Mrs Elsa Papadimitriou), Mr Murat Mercan, Mr Jean-Claude Mignon, Mr Marko Mihkelson, Mrs Natalia Narochnitskaya (alternate: Mr Ilyas Umakhanov), Mr Zsolt Németh, Mrs Carina Ohlsson, Mr Boris Oliynyk, Mr Algirdas Paleckis (alternate: Mr Jonas Čekuolis), Mr Theodoros Pangalos, Mrs Eleonora Petrova-Mitevska, Mrs Sólveig Pétursdóttir, Mrs Clara Pintat Rossell, Mr Gordon Prentice (alternate: Sir Sydney Chapman), Mr Dumitru Prijmireanu, Mr Gabino Puche, Mr Lluís Maria de Puig, Mr Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando (alternate: Mr Leo Brincat), Mr Umberto Ranieri, Mr Michael Roth (alternate: Mr Rudolf Bindig ), Mr Jan Rzymełka, Mr Peter Schieder, Mrs Juana Serna (alternate: Mr Julio Padilla), Mr Adrian Severin, Mrs Hanne Severinsen, Mr Samad Seyidov, Mr Leonid Slutsky, Mr Michael Spindelegger, Mr Zoltán Szabó, Mr Mehmet Tekelioğlu, Mr Tigran Torosyan, Mrs Marianne Tritz, Mr Vagif Vakilov (alternate: Mr Azim Mollazade), Mr Luc Van den Brande, Mr Varujan Vosganian, Mr Andrzej Wielowieyski, Mr Bart van Winsen, Mrs Renate Wohlwend, Mr Marco Zacchera
Ex-officio: MM. Mátyás Eörsi, Mats Einarsson,
N.B. : The names of the members who took part in the meeting are printed in bold
Head of the Secretariat : Mr Perin
Secretaries to the Committee: Mrs Nachilo, Mr Chevtchenko, Mrs Sirtori-Milner
1 See Doc. 10553 tabled by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.