Berlin/Oliver Tovig Nia/Anatolia

About 10 million immigrants who live, work and pay taxes in Germany will not be able to vote in the general elections to be held on September 26.

Article 116 of Germany’s constitution states that only German citizens are entitled to vote in national and state elections.

Sanaz Azimibor, co-founder of MigLoom, which supports the political participation of first-generation immigrants, said that “people without German citizenship are denied participation in the elections, which means they have no way to participate politically.”

She added that the inability of people to participate in the country’s biggest political event – the Bundestag (parliament) elections – even though their main place of residence is in Germany, is one of the most important aspects of structural discrimination, and this will continue as long as those affected are not represented in politics.

** Petition to change voting laws

A signature campaign was launched on a petition to change voting laws, and a group of students, teachers, journalists, scholars and artists are behind it.

The campaign filed a petition on the issue on, and in a few days nearly 5,000 people signed it.

“In this campaign we want to speak for ourselves,” Azimebor said. “As a democratic country, Germany must change its undemocratic laws.”

“The right to vote is the basic requirement of democracy, 10 million people without German citizenship cannot be excluded from this democracy. We don’t just want to watch the general elections again,” she added.

** The experts are divided

According to the local newspaper, Neuss Deutschland, many politicians see the solution to the problem as simplifying the naturalization law so that immigrants can more easily obtain German citizenship.

Aside from the political aspects of the campaign, the question arises as to whether it is possible to introduce the right to vote for foreigners living legally in Germany within the framework of the country’s constitution.

Berlin-based lawyer Matthias Seeger believes this would not be possible without a constitutional change. It is also uncertain whether such modification would be permitted.

He referred to the ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court dating back to 1990, in which the introduction of the right to vote for foreigners at the municipal level in the northern German states of Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg was declared “null and unconstitutional”.

On the other hand, Professor Hans Meyer, constitutional lawyer at the Humboldt University of Berlin, takes a different position.

Speaking to German public broadcaster ARD, Mayer said that Article 20 of the constitution only says “the people vote” and not, for example, “the German people vote”. If the interpretation here is the German people, the potential voters are converted into citizens. There is nothing in the constitution about the question of whether or not foreigners who live here are allowed to vote.”

He added: “The constitution only stipulates that the legislative authority determines who is entitled to vote.”

Based on this assessment, Mayer concluded that we can say that people who have fully assimilated into Germany, who live, work, pay taxes and are subject to German law, are eligible to vote as German citizens.

** EU grants voting rights to foreigners

Unlike Germany, many EU countries allow foreigners to vote, including Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands and Iceland.

In the Netherlands, all foreigners who have lived in the country for five years can vote in local elections, and even run for office themselves.

In Ireland, foreigners are only required to spend six months in the country to exercise the right to vote at the local level. In Denmark, the minimum age for voting is three years.

However, the situation in France, Austria and Germany is also that non-EU citizens are not entitled to vote in local elections.

Nearly 45 countries around the world have given immigrants the right to vote at the local and national levels.
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