By Veronique Poujol, AFP
LUXEMBOURG–Luxembourg overwhelmingly rejected in a referendum on Sunday giving full voting rights to foreign nationals, who make up nearly half the population. Just over 78 percent of voters in the tiny European Union country said ��No�� to granting foreigners the vote, according to final results. Had the vote been carried, the landlocked nation of over half a million people would have been the first in the EU to grant foreign-born residents the right to vote in all the country’s elections. Prime Minister Xavier Bettel had billed the referendum as a chance to boost the democratic credentials of the wealthy duchy, which is nestled between Belgium, France and Germany. But as it became clear voters disagreed with his arguments, he admitted defeat. ��The message in clear and has been understood. This is not a success for the governing parties,�� said Bettel. ��We will respect the result.�� While campaigning Saturday in the capital, also called Luxembourg, the premier said a ��Yes�� vote was also a vote for democracy and diversity. ��There is no other European country where only 40 percent of the population elects its representatives,�� Bettel told journalists ahead of the referendum, in which 244,382 people were eligible to vote. About 46 percent of the total population of 565,000 people are foreigners.
��No other country in the world, apart from Dubai, has our level of democratic deficit,�� he added. Bettel’s Democratic Party, which is in coalition with the Socialists and Greens, had proposed to enfranchise foreigners resident in Luxembourg for over 10 years.
Around 35,000 mostly European migrants met the criteria.