Academic journal article Insight Turkey

External Voting: Mapping Motivations of Emigrants and Concerns of Host Countries

Academic journal article Insight Turkey

External Voting: Mapping Motivations of Emigrants and Concerns of Host Countries

Article excerpt

Introduction

External voting denotes procedures which enable some or all electors of a country who are temporarily or permanently abroad to exercise their voting rights from outside the national territory. (1) The term is used interchangeably with absent voting, absentee voting, external enfranchisement, diaspora voting or out-of-country voting. Many countries enable external voting through general provisions in their electoral laws. Additional regulations on its implementation are often administered by legislatures or electoral commissions. (2) Postal voting, e-voting, voting by proxy, voting in diplomatic missions or military bases, or other designated places are main options utilized by home states. Countries either choose one of these options or use different combinations of them. (3)

External voting has emerged as a field of research in the last two decades due to many intertwined factors. First of all, growing cross-border migration has produced populations that are excluded from politics in both their home countries and their countries of residence. Many countries of origin have tried to develop some means to grant them political rights and secure their political participation. More than 115 of the world's 214 countries have allowed external voting for nationals abroad. (4) Recent additions include Ecuador (2008), Egypt (2011) and Libya (2012). In many other countries, that have no system of placing ballot boxes abroad, non-residents are able to vote if they fly to their country of origin such as in Lebanon, India, Zimbabwe, Israel, and Malta. So, granting external voting rights has virtually become a worldwide practice and an international norm. Meanwhile, the interest of migration scholars in transnational political participation has intensified and greatly contributed to knowledge on external voting practices. Existent scholarship provides general explanations for external voting introduction by emphasizing that contextual, country specific factors concerning the history and nature of the relationship between home states and emigrants usually influence its initial introduction and nature of systems. (5)

The arguments supporting external voting are related to the democratic principle of universal suffrage. It is considered that external voting guarantees the political rights of the citizens. It increases political participation given the fact that citizens living abroad are excluded from political life in their host countries and increasingly demand to exercise their right. (6) Their participation makes the home country's political system more inclusive and enhances its legitimacy. Thus, external voting is approached as a critical contribution to democratization. (7) Furthermore, it can be viewed as a reflection of government's political/pragmatic intention to maintain close ties between emigrants and home states. (8) As Lafleur notes, external voting is a part of broader diaspora policies in which states develop external citizens mainly to benefit from emigrants as a source of support. (9) Some other home state motivations' include the symbolic acknowledgement of emigrants' contribution to the home country, the presence of a party which sees political advantage in doing so and emigrants' campaigning for its introduction.

Arguments against the introduction of external voting are related to territoriality of citizenship rights and difficulties in managing the process, as well as the possibility of low-turnout versus higher cost compared to in-country voting. A traditional republican position conceives polity as something that is drawn by territorial and membership boundaries. Voting rights is an exclusive privilege of citizens who are present in the polity, in other words, requiring residency inside the state territory. (10) It is argued that those individuals who bear the consequences of their electoral decisions should be entitled to vote. In the cases of countries who have a huge number of external voters, if they are long term non-residents, their preferences might be decisive and binding for citizens residing inside the state territory. …

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