Right honourable friend of Costa del Sol

The French government has recently passed legislation that will give French citizens who live abroad their own MPs in the 2012 national elections. Madrid based author Giles Tremlet argues that with over a million expatriates living in Spain alone, the British diaspora needs representation - back home as well as in its countries of adoption.

Published on 2 November 2009 at 17:04
Image: Presseurop, Sanyam Sharma, Cleopatra

It may have a strange ring to it, but it is time the House of Commons reserved a place on its benches for "the honourable member for the Costa del Sol". An idea that was once deemed impossible now seems, thanks to President Sarkozy's decisionto introduce 11 expatriate seats into the French parliament, not just sensible but obvious. If the French of South Kensington deserve an MP of their own, why not the British of Málaga, Alicante and Tenerife?

About a million Britons live for most or all of the year in Spain. Of these, 352,000 have registered at Spanish town halls as being fully resident. Hundreds of thousands of Britons live elsewhere across the European Union. Those who left the country in the past 15 years (the vast majority) can vote in UK elections. Most, however, do not bother. This is hardly surprising. They must send their postal vote to the place where they last lived in Britain. People now living in Torrevieja, Marbella or Barcelona thus end up voting for candidates who are only interested in, say, the problems of Luton, Lambeth or Dumfries. That is not fair to them. What do they care, or know, about hospitals, post offices and planned ring roads a thousand miles away? It is also not fair to the people living in those constituencies. Read full article in the Guardian...

REPRESENTATION

Expats already have MPs in three national parliaments

11 MPs for 1,270,000 French nationals living abroad: the project presented by the French government will create regional constituencies, of which six will be located in Europe, to enable expatriates to directly vote for MPs who represent their area of residence — which is not the case with the 12 senators who are currently designated to represent French expatriates by an electoral college.

The measure, which marks a new departure in French politics, is not unprecedented in Europe. Italian, Romanian and Portuguese citizens living abroad already elect representatives in their home countries: Italian expats elect 12 MPs and six senators, Romanian expats vote in four MPs and two senators, and the Portuguese parliament has four MPs for its expatriates. The 11 million Greeks who have left their homeland have a special Deputy Minister for the Diaspora. In 2001, Silvio Berlusconi created a similar position for a minister responsible for Italians worldwide, which did not survive his departure in 2006.

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