C Explanatory memorandum by Mr Santini,
rapporteur for opinion
1. I would like to congratulate
our colleague Mr Gardetto on his report “For more democratic elections”
and I fully support the conclusions contained in the draft resolution.
2. My opinion is focused on the issue of migrants and how to
ensure that they participate and are represented so far as possible
in democratic elections. In this respect I would like to highlight
the importance of paragraph 1 of the draft resolution. In this paragraph,
the Parliamentary Assembly “emphasises once more that democratic
elections are decisive for ensuring that the will of the people
is respected in the shaping of the legislature and government at
all levels and that elected bodies are effectively representative”.
3. Furthermore, I welcome the fact that the fostering of participation
is listed as one of the three main imperatives to improve the democratic
character of elections (paragraph 7) and that “gender” and “ethnicity” need
to be taken into account when seeking to better reflect the opinion
of the people (paragraph 8.1.5).
2 The will of the
4. The “will of the people” is
essential, but one has to ask, who are the people? Over the last
centuries and even more over recent decades, “the people” is a term
that has become increasingly inclusive as universal suffrage has
developed, with suffrage becoming detached from, for example, wealth,
sex or owning land.
5. Nevertheless, migrants still have many limits on their right
to vote and participate in elections. However, the European Union’s
Maastricht Treaty has taken universal suffrage a step further, giving
European Union nationals resident in another member State the right
to vote in local elections and in elections for the European Parliament.
Furthermore, the Council of Europe, in its European Convention on
Nationality (ETS No. 166) and its convention on the Participation
of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level (ETS No.144), has promoted
both citizenship for migrants and voting rights and participation
6. Member States have increasingly become countries of immigration
and have recognised the necessity either of allowing residents who
are not nationals the possibility of becoming nationals, or of increasing
the opportunities for their participation in democratic life (for
example voting, participation in consultative bodies, etc.).
3 How many migrants
are potentially excluded from democratic participation?
The Russian Federation has
over 12 million migrants,Note
over 10 million, France, the United Kingdom and Spain each have
over 6 million and Ukraine has over 5 million.Note
According to the Organisation for
Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), immigrants account
for 13% of the population in OECD countries, with 37.6% in Luxembourg,
26.6% in Switzerland, 13% in Germany, 11.5% in the United Kingdom, 8.6%
in France and 8% in Italy.Note
A large number of these people do not
have a right to vote and have limited possibilities of participating
in political life. It thus becomes increasingly difficult to say
that the “will of the people” is taken into account.
4 Drawing from
the past work of the Parliamentary Assembly to propose solutions
It is therefore important that
measures be taken to improve the democratic participation of migrants,
and in this it is possible to draw on the previous work of the Assembly,
and in particular Resolution
“State of democracy in Europe. Measures to improve the
democratic participation of migrants”.
9. This resolution highlighted the need to encourage the integration
of migrants in order to facilitate their democratic participation.
It also highlighted a number of steps to remove the impediments
to democratic participation. These steps included facilitating access
to nationality, granting long-term residence status to those who
have been in the country for five years or less, regularising the
situation of irregular migrants who are not going to be returned
to their countries of origin, granting voting rights, including
the right to vote and stand in local and regional elections after
a residence period of five years (or less), signing and ratifying
the Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life
at Local Level, and, finally, lifting restrictions in order to encourage
migrants to join political parties or other forms of political association.
More recent research indicates the importance of these measures
highlighted by the Assembly in the above-mentioned resolution. The
limited data available indicate that migrants are under-represented
among likely voters, elected officials and members of political
It is also clear that migrants need
to have greater political opportunities, but these depend on matters
such as the political discourse of the day, opportunities for education,
migrants’ length of residence, their background, etc.Note
recent survey found that most migrants would vote if they had the
right and that they want more diversity in politics (including parliamentarians
from immigrant backgrounds who would better understand and represent
11. In conclusion, there is a democratic
deficit by not facilitating the participation of migrants in political
life, including voting and participating in democratic elections.
The number of migrants in member States without voting rights is
substantial and thus any steps seeking to achieve more democratic
elections need to look at how to have a more inclusive approach
to migrants. The effective disenfranchisement of many migrants does not
lead to more democratic elections: it leads to less democratic elections.
12. It is for this reason that I am putting forward the amendment
contained in this opinion.