Ministry of Propaganda

Ministry of Propaganda - 08/Apr/2005: "Voting Abroad"

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Voting Abroad

The Honourable Fiend sent me to not apathetic on Wednesday. It is a website which collects reasons why people won't vote in the upcoming 2005 UK General Election. I entered my reason, which generated a few comments of people in a similar situation. In case the site disappears after the elections and for my own records here's what I entered:

As a foreigner I'm not entitled to vote in general elections. As a resident I'm only allowed to pay taxes like everyone else, but not allowed to decide how much tax I pay and what my taxes are spent on.

I do vote in local elections, where I'm entitled to vote as an EU citizen. I also vote in the EU parliament elections (as long as my registration doesn't get lost, as it did last time...)

I don't vote in the general elections of the country I'm entitled to vote in because I carry its passport, simply because I don't think it is right to decide about the government of a place where I don't live.

I think this already captures most of my thoughts about the issue, but I'd still like to expand on it. I'm not alone with my thoughts, other people would like to vote where they live, but not necessarily where they're from.

To my knowledge I'm still entitled to vote in the German general election, despite only having spent may be a total of three or four weeks in Germany in the last 5 years (visits to my parents over Christmas and two visit to my sister). More and more of the politicians in Germany I don't know, I can just about remember a handful of them from the last time I lived (and voted) in Germany. I know who the German Kanzler is (Schroeder), the foreign minister (Fischer), I believe the opposition leader is Merkel, I think the finance minister is Eichel. After that I pretty much draw blanks. Almost all the decisions they make don't impact and/or interest me. I don't pay taxes in Germany (apart from VAT and similar taxes when I pay for something during my visits). So why should I vote in Germany? Why should I even be entitled to vote in Germany? Just because I hold a German passport?

On the other hand I do pay significant taxes here in the UK, yet have little influence how they are spent (apart from the Council Tax, as I can vote in the council elections). While the slogan no taxation without representation has a different historical background it still strikes a chord. I'm quite familiar with the politicians here, after all I hear them daily on BBC Radio 4 or read about them on the web or in the newspaper. Tony Blair, Michael Howard, Gordon Brown, Letwin, Kennedy, Salmon, Hewitt, Blunkett, Straw, Milburn, Prescott just to name a few. As I currently have no intentions to move away (be it to Germany or anywhere else) their decisions will influence my life certainly in the short to medium term future, quite possibly even in the long term. So why shouldn't I vote here?

I don't know how the problem can be resolved, but I'd like to see a system where residents are allowed to vote in all elections, based on certain criteria. This could include a minimum residency period and some kind of assurance that they don't vote in another country, something like that. Probably not very popular with certain parties and certain sections of the press, but that's a different topic.

On a related topic I'll aim to update my blogging abroad list this weekend and hope that some of them write down their thoughts about the topic of voting abroad.

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