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political participation Zurich mayor wants to offer voting rights to non-Swiss

zurich mayor corine mauch

Corine Mauch has been mayor of Zurich since 2009.

(© Keystone / Ennio Leanza)

Zurich mayor Corine Mauch plans to launch an initiative to give foreigners living in Switzerland’s most populous canton the right to take part in local votes and elections.

In an interview with the external linkTages-Anzeigerexternal link  newspaper published on Thursday, the left-wing Social Democrat politician said she will launch the proposal on behalf of the city government after the summer break.

Described by the newspaper as a “surprise”, Mauch’s idea is to get the initiative to cantonal parliament before giving individual municipalities the right to decide whether to grant foreign residents the vote in local ballots.

“Almost a third of the city’s population has no voting rights, and among 30-39-year-olds – the largest age group – it’s around a half,” she said. “In a very active phase of their life, these people have no decision-making power”.

If approved by the cantonal parliament, the constitutional amendment would be put to a public vote in a few years's from now. 

After two years

Mauch proposes that foreigners resident in Switzerland for two years be given limited rights, arguing that such participation improves both integration and democratic processes.

In 2013, a similar initiative to give the vote to non-Swiss in canton Zurich – in this case, those resident for ten years – was rejected by three-quarters of voters.

Eight of the 26 cantons and some 600 municipalities, notably in French-speaking western Switzerland , offer voting rights to non-Swiss passport holders, who represent a quarter of the total population of over eight million.

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