I want you to vote in the municipal and regional elections on November 21, especially if you’re an international worker or student. Unlike in many countries, these two levels of local government have enormous spending powers, and their political make up has a huge influence on everything, from health care and education, to daycare and transport.
And it’s likely that if you’re reading this, you can vote. All EU and EEA residents over the age of 18 are eligible. Other internationals are eligible after three years of residency in Denmark. You don’t even need to sign up – if you’re eligible, you’re automatically added to the voter registry and will get a poll card in the post in the weeks before the election. Want to know more about the election? We’ve got seven pages, starting on page 10, with loads of useful information – I’m sure there are plenty of Danes, too, who will benefit.
I really hope more internationals vote in this year’s election than in 2013, when only 33.5% made use of their right, compared to 74.8% of Danes. I get it – many don’t feel informed enough, or simply see themselves as just passing through the country.
To the first point, that’s what The Murmur is for! We really hope the election section informs you a little more, or at least helps point you in the right direction.
On the second point, it’s important that as many internationals use their vote as possible because it sends a signal that we are invested. The low levels of democratic participation by internationals strengthens the argument that non-Danes should feel and behave like guests in the country, regardless of how long they have been here.
It also makes it easier to justify weakening our rights. In May, the populist Danish People’s Party proposed limiting the vote to internationals who have passed a language test, while far right party Nye Borgerlige wants to completely revoke the right of all internationals to vote.
These proposals should not be taken lightly. International residents have been voting in local Danish elections since 1980. Denmark is, and always has been, a country with a large foreign population that have largely supported Denmark’s economic growth and therefore should be given a say in Denmark’s political direction.
I remember someone explaining the difference between an immigrant and an expat – the former was making an investment in remaining in the country, while the latter was only passing through. In which case, why should they have a say?
I don’t believe this distinction is relevant any longer. Sure, there are some people who expect to move home. But I also know many internationals and their families who thought they were only moving to Denmark for a short period and ended up staying for decades. Because they had internalised the ‘guest’ mentality, however, they didn’t do enough to integrate and later found themselves in limbo – no longer truly part of the Danish society or their home country.
Participating in the election aids integration, as it encourages internationals to learn about the political system, and the issues affecting Denmark. And it also sends a signal to Danish society that internationals are engaged and active members of their society.
The problem is, many Danes don’t realise that we exist. I moved here in 1994, and while most of my friends are Danes, I know how good they are at self-segregating. I am the first international friend some of my Danish friends ever made. I doubt most Danes realise that there are 360,000 eligible international voters in Denmark! Copenhagen Municipality has 413,000 adult Danish residents, and around 42,000 adult EU and EEA residents – around nine percent of the total electorate. That’s HUGE.
We must challenge the Danes who think opening their borders means a gradual undoing of Danish culture and identity, and show that we are a social and democratic resource. But we also aren’t here to keep our heads down and be polite and subservient second-class citizens.
So I implore of you, do your civic duty, and VOTE! M