No Right To Vote? Featured
Most BcnIn members are residents of Catalonia rather than visitors or tourists. The majority work here, pay taxes here and often raise their families here. The future of Catalonia is their future, the future of their businesses and of their children. Despite this, it is a future in which they have little say.
On November 20th, when Spaniards go to the polls to elect the politicians who will run the country during this economically perilous and perhaps historically significant time, the majority of expats will have no vote, and no voice.
It is not a problem that is unique to Spain. While the Maastricht treaty in 1992 established the right of European citizens to vote in municipal and European elections, the privilege is not extended to cover national elections. Compounding the issue, nationals of some member states (such as the United Kingdom) lose their right to vote in their country of nationality after a certain period of non-residence. In practice, this means that British citizens who have lived outside the UK for more than fifteen years can't vote in either their old or new country, though this is currently under review.
The only way to get full voting rights in Spain is to become a Spanish citizen which -- in most cases -- requires the renunciation of one's current nationality as Spain does not recognise dual-citizenship except with certain South American countries. Few people are prepared to hand over their passport and swear an oath of allegiance to the Spanish crown so it's not typically a feasible option.
"No taxation without representation" was a slogan at the heart of what became the American Revolution and while such dramatic events are highly unlikely here there is nonetheless a legitimate grievance among expats that they have no influence over who will be in charge of their deductions and the economic fate of the nation for the next few years.
It must be recognised that some expats have little or no interest in the political affairs of their adopted country. For them the complex legislative and party structures, the entrenched rhetoric and the interminable and internecine arguments between centralists, regionalists and separatists are features of a landscape utterly unfamiliar to them. Cocooned by a completely expat lifestyle and press they are unengaged and reluctant to tackle the historically-rooted, emotionally-charged and sometimes messy affairs of national governance and, indeed, identity.
This fact should not be a barrier to the inclusion of all foreign residents in the democratic process. The most recent statistics suggest that approximately 17.5% of Barcelona's population now consists of foreigners. Globalisation, free movement of workers across Europe and various economic factors have altered the demographics of Spain -- and many other countries -- beyond what was imaginable a couple of decades ago. Having almost a fifth of the population disenfranchised at a time when the social contracts of the country are likely to be redrawn in the wake of economic necessity is unsustainable and potentially a recipe for disaster.