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ELECTIONS

Britain to allow ALL citizens living abroad the right to vote

The British government said on Friday it will scrap the 15-year rule that had barred many British voters living abroad from casting a ballot in general elections back home.

Britain to allow ALL citizens living abroad the right to vote
Photo: AFP

The UK government said on Friday that the rule that has barred British nationals from voting if they have lived abroad for over 15 years, will be scrapped in time for the 2020 election.

The government published its intention to ditch the unpopular law, which Britons living abroad have long fought against, by publishing a policy statement titled “Democracy that works for everyone”.

“We believe that overseas electors contribute to British society and should be given that democratic right to vote,” the constitution minister Chris Skidmore said.

“We intend to give those overseas electors the chance to register quickly and securely so they will be able to register to vote in time of the 2020 election.”

 

Writing in The Telegraph newspaper Skidmore said: “Being British is about so much more than simply being resident in the UK.

“It doesn’t matter where they live, British citizens are still a part of British society, retaining strong cultural and social ties with their families at home and helping to build businesses abroad,” writes Skidmore.

“The decisions that are made on British shores impact our citizens around the world and indeed many plan to return to live here in the future,” he added.

The Conservative government had pledged to scrap the rule as a pre-election promise but many long-term expats living in the EU were left angered when it became clear the government would not push through the change before the crucial referendum.

Indeed the sentiment among many British nationals abroad on Friday was that the announcement had come too late.

“I would have been delighted. Just a few months ago I would have been ecstatic, but now, faced with the impending loss of my EU citizenship and associated rights, the triumph has lost some savour,” said The Local reader Yvonne Flavin.

Nevertheless those British citizens who had long campaigned against the injustice were happy at Friday’s announcement.

“This is great news,” says France-based Brian Cave. “We are nearly there. We shall vote at the next General Election. All those who have taken part in this long campaign will know that it was worth it and as we kept saying: ‘we will win because we are right’.

“Winston Churchill would have said: ‘This is not the end, but it could be the beginning of the end,'” said Cave.

The government will now draw up a bill which must be given the green light by parliament, but all being well all Britons abroad should be able to cast a vote in 2020. 

The next question is will they give Brits abroad our own MPs?

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ELECTIONS

Austrian president tasks Kurz to form another government

Austria's president on Monday tasked election winner Sebastian Kurz with forming another government, putting the 33-year-old conservative on course to start tough coalition negotiations after his far-right former ally was brought down by scandals.

Austrian president tasks Kurz to form another government
Photo: AFP

Kurz's People's Party (OeVP) came out ahead with 37.5 percent in September 29 elections, but the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) with who he governed from 2017 until the “Ibiza-gate” scandal in May tumbled 10 points down to 16.2 percent.

A big winner of the elections were the Greens with 13.9 percent, up by 10 points, as climate change became a top voter concern.

This places Kurz, who has driven a hard anti-immigration line, in a tough spot to find a suitable coalition partner.

After President Alexander Van der Bellen tasked him to form the government, Kurz said he would start official talks with all parties this week, insisting fighting illegal immigration continued to be a top priority.

“It will be important to continue the resolute path to fight illegal immigration in Austria and also Europe,” he said in a statement broadcast live on national television, standing next to Van der Bellen.

His other priorities are fighting climate change, fending off any economic downturn, offering tax relief and reforming the social welfare system to ensure it is sustainable, even if that's unpopular, he said.

Coalition negotiations are expected to take months.

FPOe leader Norbert Hofer said last week that he didn't see the election result as a mandate to enter a government, but that the situation could be “reassessed” in the “unforeseen situation” that Kurz failed to find a 
coalition partner until next year.

One option, which looks increasingly likely, would be for Kurz to govern with the Greens, but he would need to rebrand himself and may anger some of his more right-leaning voters.

Greens leader Werner Kogler also has said he wants to first assess if it makes sense to enter negotiations, saying he would need a “sign of reversal” from Kurz's past policies.  

The OeVP's partner for decades in the past, the Social Democrats (SPOe), fell to a historic low of 21.2 percent, according to official final results, making them also potential partners for Kurz but leaving them much weakened.

The liberal NEOs took 8.1 percent of the vote.

Kurz became the world's youngest elected leader in 2017, but his government fell apart in May after his vice-chancellor, FPOe leader Heinz-Christian Strache, was seen in hidden video footage appearing to offer public contracts in exchange for campaign help to a fake Russian backer.

Strache, who led the party for 14 years, resigned from all posts amid the so-called “Ibiza-gate” scandal, and the fresh elections were triggered.

Following further, more recent allegations against Strache — that he abused his party expense account — that cost the party votes, he announced last week that he is withdrawing from politics and public life.

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