Rwandans set to get vote in UK elections (updated)

Back last year I asked the question “Rwandans set to vote in UK elections?” The answer has now arrived and it is ‘yes’.

As I blogged last November:

One of the quirks of Britain’s imperial past is that Commonwealth citizens living here are able to vote, including in Parliamentary elections. This includes Mozambique residents who are able to vote because, although Mozambique was not part of the British empire, it was admitted to the Commonwealth in 1995 for political reasons.

As with Mozambique previously, Rwanda has now joined the Commonwealth despite not having been part of the British empire. In Rwanda’s case the move is part of its deliberate shift away from close relations with France, a move driven by arguments over France’s role in the genocide that savaged the country in the 1990s.

There is no provision in electoral law for a time lag between a country becoming a member of the Commonwealth and its citizens being able to join the electoral register in the UK, so people will be able to start registering with their local councils as soon as the councils have got their systems in place.

(Update 11 December) Although there is no provision in election law for a time lag between a country becoming a member of the Commonwealth and its citizens being able to join the electoral register, the view of the Ministry of Justice is that technically a country does not become a member of the Commonwealth for the purpose of such UK law until the British Nationality Act 1981 is amended to add Rwanda to the list of Commonwealth countries. Therefore the Electoral Commission’s current guidance to councils is that they should not register Rwandans for the time being. There is as yet no news on when the law might be changed.

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3 Comments

  • David Blake 7th Dec '09 - 10:48am

    I think it’s also the case that although Zimbabwe left the Commonwealth in 2003, Zimbabweans in the UK are still entitled to vote here.

  • Mark Wright 7th Dec '09 - 11:42pm

    Cue Daily Mail article: “UK elections to be dominated by African voters, in EU conspiracy!”

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