Canton denies foreigners voting rights
Swissinfo has one of those informative "I didn't know that..." articles about foreigners' rights to vote in Switzerland. This past Tuesday (January 23) Bern's cantonal parliament narrowly decided against a measure that would have allowed foreigners to vote in local elections and referenda. Political rights for foreigners, who make up a third of residents in the Gemeinde Saanen, vary from canton to canton, with some according full voting rights (eg Neuchâtel and Geneva), and others allowing local authorities to decide whether foreigners can participate (eg Graubünden [home to St Moritz], Basel City and Vaud). Given the high level of foreigners in our community who contribute as much as many citizens, local politics stood to benefit from hearing the voice of this large minority, but opponents of the measure argued that foreigners should first integrate and get Swiss citizenship before receiving the right to vote. That argument might fly in the big cities, but given that issues of significance that affect everyday life are often decided at the local level while a third of residents simply watch the process from the sidelines, the cantonal vote now means that the Gemeinde cannot determine for itself what makes the most sense for our community. Shame that. Full article is here.