NEWS On 29 January 2014 the European Commission called on Malta and four other countries (Denmark, Ireland, Cyprus and the United Kingdom) to stop disenfranchising citizens by not allowing them to vote unless they permanently reside in their home countries.
In Malta, the issue becomes a bone of contention each time a general election rolls around, with political parties lodging court cases to have certain people struck from the electoral register under the voter registration rules in place.
In Malta, citizens are disenfranchised unless they have resided in Malta for at least six months within the last 18 preceding their registration to vote. The other four EU member states with rules that similarly disenfranchise voters are: Denmark, Ireland, Cyprus, Malta and the United Kingdom.
In addition to the five states mentioned, there are other member states which allow their EU nationals to maintain the right to vote under certain conditions, such as Austria, which requires overseas citizens to periodically renew their registration on the electoral roll, or Germany, which requires citizens to be familiar with and affected by national politics.
The main justification for disenfranchisement rules – that citizens living abroad no longer have sufficient links with their home country – seems outdated in today’s interconnected world, the Commission said yesterday.
Speaking at the European Commission’s mid-day briefing in Brussels on 29 January, Commissioner Reding said, “The right to vote is one of the fundamental political rights of citizenship. It is part of the very fabric of democracy. Depriving citizens of their right to vote once they move to another EU country is effectively tantamount to punishing citizens for having exercised their right to free movement. Such practices risk making them second-class citizens.
“We are calling on member states to show greater flexibility and are issuing proportionate guidance to the five countries concerned so that citizens can get back on the electoral roll of their home country. I hope member states will be ready to address these very concrete concerns, because disenfranchisement is a big deal for the individuals concerned.”