An expanded voting right for foreigners in Berlin, which is being discussed in the red-green-red coalition, has triggered sharp criticism from the largest opposition party. CDU parliamentary group leader Kai Wegner called it “just as hectic as it is dubious” and “a transparent maneuver” on Thursday to want to change the electoral law shortly before a possible repeat election.
The SPD, the Greens and the Left are planning a “blanket right to vote for everyone” regardless of citizenship, said Wegner. That is unlawful. Only those who are naturalized will also receive the right to vote “with this commitment to our state”.
In fact, the coalition partners want to devote themselves to state electoral law immediately after the summer break, as the Berliner Morgenpost first reported. The age limit for voting is to drop from 18 to 16 later this year. This constitutional change is only possible because the FDP also supports this goal politically – and can thus secure the necessary two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives.
At the end of September, Berlin’s constitutional court will decide whether last year’s super election day must be repeated in whole or in part after serious breakdowns occurred in numerous polling stations. Youth politicians from the SPD, the Greens and the Left want 16 and 17-year-olds to be able to vote when there are by-elections. According to coalition lawyers such as Sebastian Schlüsselburg (left), however, this is unlikely because the same basics as in the 2021 election would then no longer exist.
It is also being considered to give non-Germans the right to vote in a new state electoral law. Almost 800,000 foreigners live in Berlin, some of whom have been there for decades, and have not had the right to vote. As already agreed in the coalition agreement, the deputies of the government factions want to launch a Federal Council initiative after the summer to put active state and local voting rights for foreigners on a federal footing.
Because the initiative in the Bundesrat will probably not get past the CDU, Schlüsselburg, for example, does not rule out an approach via state law: This would lead to clarification before the Federal Constitutional Court more quickly.
Before that could happen, however, the FDP would have to be brought on board again for the two-thirds majority – and they see the right to vote for foreigners beyond EU citizens much more critically than lowering the voting age. “At the federal level, we as the FDP would rather encourage and facilitate naturalization,” said Björn Jotzo, parliamentary director of the Berlin Liberals, the Tagesspiegel.
However, his parliamentary group has not yet reached an agreement on extending voting rights for foreigners at state level. Also because there has not yet been any specific draft resolution or request from Red-Green-Red.