Spain to Allow Immigrants to Vote in Municipal Elections

AFP, July 30, 2008

Spain plans to allow legal immigrants from outside the European Union to vote in municipal’s elections, Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa de la Vega said Wednesday.

“If they live with us, work with us and pay taxes like us . . . it is fair that they could decide like us through the right to vote,” she told parliament.

De la Vega said her socialist government would only extend voting rights to immigrants from nations that allow Spanish citizens to vote in their local elections.

She said the government would appoint a “special ambassador” to negotiate reciprocity voting agreements with other countries, beginning with nations that have the highest number of immigrants living in Spain.

“The question presents a variety of difficulties which depend on the laws and situation of each country,” she said.

Spain’s ruling Socialist Party decided earlier this month at their annual congress earlier this month to extend voting rights to immigrants from outside the EU.

Around 1.5 million residents from EU member states who live in Spain have been allowed to vote in local elections since the early 1990s.

The next municipal elections are scheduled for 2011.

Traditionally a nation that sent workers abroad, Spain has seen the flow reversed in the past decade as its economy boomed.

The number of foreigners living in Spain, a nation of just over 46 million people, has soared from around half a million in 1996 to over five million.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s government provided an amnesty for more than 500,000 illegal immigrants in 2005.

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