As many of us are (hopefully) aware, foreign residents (over the age of eighteen) can now vote in Luxembourg's municipal (local) elections, regardless of how long they have lived in the Grand Duchy. However, time is running out to register to vote in this June's elections: foreigners have until 17:00 on Monday 17 April 2023 to register, either online via Guichet.lu or in person at their municipality of residence.
Until the law change of July 2022, only non-Luxembourgers having lived in the Grand Duchy for more than five years were eligible to vote in the municipal elections. Even then, only 22.8% of eligible foreigners (34,638 out of 151,938) registered to vote in the 2017 elections. In Luxembourg City, where foreigners make up about 70% of the population, only 19% registered to vote. Note that these figures do not include dual nationals with Luxembourgish citizenship, who are included only on the Luxembourgish electoral roll.
According to the latest available figures, whilst the number of foreign registrations has gone up in absolute terms since 2017 (from 34,638 to 41,336), only 16.1% of eligible foreign voters had registered to vote by the end of March 2023. Of course, this lower percentage is linked to the fact that more people are now eligible to vote and, going by past years, a "last-minute" surge in registrations is expected just before the deadline.
As mentioned above, these figures exclude people like myself, who recently acquired the Luxembourgish nationality. In fact, I had registered to vote as a foreigner (whether I was counted as a British and/or Irish national due to my existing dual citizenship, I do not know) earlier this year but then, after a lengthy process, received news of my Luxembourgish citizenship. As a Luxembourger (or anyone else who registers to vote), I am obliged to vote in the various elections (municipal, national (in which foreigners cannot (yet) vote), European...) and so I am put automatically on the Luxembourgish electoral roll. And there are many cases like mine in the melting pot that is Luxembourg.
Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see just how many more foreign residents will register to vote by 17:00 on Monday. I understand that some may be unaware of their new right to vote or remain reluctant to register as they feel they do not know enough about Luxembourg's political landscape, but personally, registering to vote has sparked a greater interest in informing myself about what is going on in my municipality. It is also worth noting that the full-scale election campaign has not even started yet (it will kick off in May). Yes, many of the political debates are traditionally in Luxembourgish, but as more non-Luxembourgers register to vote, this is sure to shift and better reflect the country's impressive multilingualism. And I am proud to see quite a few familiar (non-Luxembourgish) faces even running as candidates this year! That's right, foreign residents can run in the municipal elections too, although the deadline for this year has already passed (12 April).
Personally, I am very excited to vote on Sunday 11 June 2023 not only for the very first time in Luxembourg but for the first time as a Luxembourger! Whilst my presence may (or may not) be missed on the non-Luxembourgish electoral roll, hopefully enough foreign nationals will register in time to fill this gap. After all, non-Luxembourgers make up a huge part of the Grand Duchy's population (more than 47%) and surely deserve a greater say in issues that affect them.
And for anyone who thinks the municipal elections are not important, it is worth noting that the municipalities play a significant role in daily life in Luxembourg. As the country's only decentralised territorial authorities, they are responsible for issues ranging from transport and local housing to pre- and primary school education, sport and cultural activities, and essential services like water supply and waste management. I, for one, as a new Luxembourger but forever a foreigner at heart, look forward to having a say in such matters.
I must add that registering online, as I initially did, is a straightforward process, as is opting to vote by post (in case you are abroad on 11 June). All the relevant information is available on Guichet.lu.