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The Role of Municipal Efforts to Mobilise Foreign Voters, Local Political Opportunity Structure and Immigrant-Related Determinants in Electoral Participation of Foreign Residents: The Cases of Local Elections in Belgium and in Luxembourg

Democracy
Elections
Integration
Political Participation
Representation
Voting
Immigration
Institutions
Louise Nikolic
Université Libre de Bruxelles
Louise Nikolic
Université Libre de Bruxelles

Abstract

During the past decades, many states have become more diverse ethnically mainly because of migration. This contemporary “age of migrations” is deeply affecting the processes by which established democracies define the means of the political participation of citizens of immigrant origin. After the Maastricht Treaty, voting rights were granted to EU residents in local and European elections, and 17 European countries (including Belgium and Luxembourg) extended this right to third-country nationals for the local elections. This study strives to shed new light on the determinants of the electoral participation of immigrants. It tries to explain the variation in registration rates of EU and non-EU residents in Belgium and in Luxembourg. This original research provides two main contributions. Firstly, this research fills an empirical gap, as it tests the combined effects of a set of factors that are generally distinctly studied. I argue that the dominant theory of political behaviour of migrants – namely the POS approach - is essential to analyse migrant turnout but needs to be combined with alternative explanations to the topic. As alternatives I propose to test innovative hypotheses concerning the impact of on the one hand, foreign voter outreach actions and, on the other hand, actions to facilitate registration procedures at the municipal level on foreigners’ registration. I also hypothesize that variables related to the immigrant population influence their turnout rates. Secondly, this study complements research that focuses more narrowly on small groups of immigrants at the micro level. Moreover, contrary to research on turnout at the national level, the local level enables to examine variables impacting foreigners’ registration in a large spectrum of cases. The hypotheses are tested through a multivariate analysis of a unique dataset combining both official figures and data on information campaigns organized by municipalities which I collected through a new survey.