• France edition
 
French PM slammed over votes for foreigners
French voters queuing up to cast their ballots in regional elections on March 21st 2010. Photo: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP

French PM slammed over votes for foreigners

Published: 31 Jan 2013 12:38 GMT+01:00
Updated: 31 Jan 2013 12:38 GMT+01:00

As the French National Assembly began its gay marriage debate on Tuesday, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault appeared to have opened another can of worms by turning his attention to another of President François Hollande’s pre-election pledges – voting rights for all foreigners.

Meeting with Green party deputies at Matignon – his official residence in Paris – Ayrault announced he would start consultations with government and opposition groups on “the next project”, a constitutional reform to allow all non-French citizens to vote in local and European elections.

The announcement sparked fury among certain figures on the right. Christian Estrosi, a UMP deputy and former minister under Nicolas Sarkozy, told Europe 1 on Wednesday “I’m outraged at this, because it would mean giving the right to vote to people who hate France, detest secularism, and reject our laws.”

The president of the National Assembly’s group of UMP deputies (France’s largest and primary opposition party), Christian Jacob, denounced the prime minister’s proposal as a “distracting manoeuver,” in the French daily Le Parisien.

"Every day we have new announcements of job cuts and instead we are being distracted by the issue of voting rights for foreigners," Jacob told Europe1. "An opportunity not to talk about the real issues," he added.

Repeated failure to pass legislation

Under the rules of  the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, France must allow citizens of an EU member-state, who are resident in France, to vote in its local and European elections, but extending those rights to all other foreigners would require further constitutional reform.

The policy has been floated in France on several occasions over the last three decades, but has never had enough support for it to become law.

Speaking to The Local on Thursday, vice-president of the Ligue des Droits Humaines (Human Rights League), Vincent Rebérioux, launched a counter-attack against Estrosi.

“[Mr. Estrosi] is quite simply trying to provoke fear among the French public. He wants to create the impression that all foreigners are Muslims, and that Islam is the number one problem in France today, and none of that is true.”

On the campaign trail before his victory in May 2012, President Francois Hollande made voting rights for all foreigners one of his 60 election promises.

However, facing a weak economy and an unexpectedly divisive debate over its proposed legalization of gay marriage, the Socialist government might struggle to gather the popular support – and legislative votes – needed to achieve the electoral reform.

Asked about the prospects of Prime Minister Ayrault’s project, Rebérioux said “public pressure” was its only chance of success.

However, he lamented the repeated failure of France to pass this legislation, which was first put forward by former President François Mitterand in 1981.

"Over the last thirty years, we’ve had four separate attempts [to extend voting rights to all foreigners], and every time, people like [Mr. Estrosi] use this kind of racism to scare off the public," he said.

Dan MacGuill (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
French language myths
'Sacre bleu!' Do the French really say that?
"Sacrebleu! Zut alorsù! Mon Dieu!, how many of these do the French really say? Photo: Shutterstock

'Sacre bleu!' Do the French really say that?

Do the French really say "sacre blue!" or "zut alors!" when they want to curse? Or is it just a myth Anglos and their media have engineered? And if they don't use them then what do the French really say when they want to swear? READ  

TV love affair for French and German leaders
Can you imagine a real-life romance between Merkel and Hollande? Photo: AFP

TV love affair for French and German leaders

France's president and Germany's chancellor are carrying on a passionate affair, or at least that's the story line of a new German TV show. If you find the idea a bit ridiculous, there's a few critics that think so too. READ  

Woman killed by TGV train as she chases dog
Photo: Marsupilami92/Flickr

Woman killed by TGV train as she chases dog

A woman was struck and killed by a high-speed TGV train in France this week when she ran out onto the tracks to try to catch her escaped dog. It's the latest in a series of tragic accidents that have seen people killed by the trains. READ  

Julie Gayet wins privacy suit against Closer
Actress Julie Gayet, who had an affair with Hollande, won her privacy suit against Closer magazine on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

Julie Gayet wins privacy suit against Closer

A French court has fined two tabloid magazine executives and a photographer over a photo of Julie Gayet, who became the subject of media hounding after her affair when President François Hollande was revealed in January. READ  

Valls vs Blair
Is Manuel Valls really a French Tony Blair?
Spot the difference. Or maybe there isn't any between Manuel Valls and Tony Blair? Photo: AFP

Is Manuel Valls really a French Tony Blair?

Is the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls really a Gallic Tony Blair? With the help of a political expert we taker a closer look to see if the oft-made comparison is fair or false. READ  

Trierweiler's new book 'won't spare' Hollande
Valerie Trierweiler has a potentially brutal book coming out on her time with President François Hollande. Photo: AFP

Trierweiler's new book 'won't spare' Hollande

A potentially explosive new memoir is due out this week from Valerie Trierwieler, France's ex-"first lady" who was dumped by the president for his mistress. The book apparently does little to "spare" François Hollande. READ  

France vows to get tough on job seekers
France orders crackdown on job seekers after it emerged tens of thousands of positions have been left unfilled. Photo:AFP

France vows to get tough on job seekers

The French labour minister has ordered a crackdown to root out those abusing unemployment benefits, after it emerged that hundreds of thousands of available jobs remain unfilled in France. READ  

Sarkozy's big return: Carla Bruni 'says non!'
Carla Bruni-Sarkozy does not want her husband to return to politics, according to reports. Photo: AFP

Sarkozy's big return: Carla Bruni 'says non!'

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy faces a few obstacles before he can fulfill his dream of becoming head of state once again - not least his numerous legal tangles. But it appears the biggest hurdle of all could be his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. READ  

Votes for expats: Plan to end UK's 15-year rule
Brits may soon get the right vote in the UK for the rest of their lives. Photo: Hagwall/Flickr

Votes for expats: Plan to end UK's 15-year rule

The Conservative party in the UK has made a bid to woo expat voters by pledging to end the controversial “15-year rule” that prevents millions of Brits abroad from being able to vote. READ  

Most French admit they 'don't know about wine'
Most French people know nothing about wine, a new survey has revealed. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

Most French admit they 'don't know about wine'

It may be the country’s most famous product but more than two thirds of French people admit they know nothing about wine, according to a new poll. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
Ten dos and don'ts for keeping your French in-laws happy
National
Unemployment: How does France compare to Europe?
International
Are all the talented professionals really leaving France?
National
La France profonde: Is it a rural idyll or a backwater hell?
Travel
Check out the four new attractions coming to Paris this autumn
Gallery
The French words you can't translate literally
National
Ten things you need to know about France's economics whizzkid
International
VIDEO: Watch the top five street scams to avoid in Paris
Politics
Take a look at the bulging to-do list that awaits France's new government
Politics
Six questions for France after Hollande ousts rebels
International
Choosing schools in France: Do you go international or French?
Gallery
From kissing to bad-mouthing: Ten ways expats in France drive you mad
Culture
Ten things you need to know about the Liberation of Paris:
Travel
Watch this impressive time lapse video and you'll want to move to Paris
National
Veiled Muslim woman on a French beach prompts politician's angry rant
Travel
Forget Paris and Provence where are the least touristy areas of France?
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The battle to liberate Paris from the Nazis
National
What France means to you in just one tweet
National
15 French 'false friends' you need to watch out for
International
12 reasons to invest in Paris and seven not to
National
French hamlet 'Death to Jews' mulls name change
National
French tourist caught in Pompeii brothel romp
International
'Forget the Anglo-media's image of France, the reality is much different'
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se