Rwandans set to vote in UK elections?

The recent news that Rwanda is seeking membership of the Commonwealth means that, if successful, we would therefore be seeing Rwandan citizens resident in the UK also voting in elections here.

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.

Rwanda’s application to join is part of its attempt to move away from its Francophone past. The recently announced plan to switch to teaching in English rather than French was justified on the basis of reflecting the relative importance of the two languages around the world but in truth part of the motivation is hostility to France on the part of the Tutsi-dominated Government for France’s alleged role in supporting the murderous Hutu regime under whom around 800,000 were murdered in the genocide of the mid-1990s.

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  • Interestingly, Portugal seems to be edging toward a sort of post-imperialism commonwealth of former colonies.

    We held an event in Crewe (!!) for the Portuguese/ Brazilian/ East Timorese diaspora in the North West attended by the Consul General. He was telling me that they are trying to build links with and between their ex-colonies. But I’m glad Mocambique joined the commonwealth – otherwise I’d never have had the chance to see one of the world’s greatest athletes, Maria Mutola [Commonwealth Games, Manchester, 2002]

  • Interesting.

    The issue of Commonwealth voting was brought up at last month’s Liberal Youth conference. Although it was not eventually passed, a motion was brought which would have meant calling for universal voting rights for all legal residents of the UK – thereby abolishing the Commonwealth preference.

    It will probably be brought again.

  • Hywel Morgan 1st Nov '08 - 10:54pm

    The Commonwealth citizens voting (and eligibility to stand is a pretty anachronistic provision. Would do no harm to end it and replace it with a residency qualification for non-EU citizens in local elections.

    Voting in national elections (bodies with legislative powers) should be restricted to UK citizens IMO.

  • Hywel Morgan 2nd Nov '08 - 11:34pm

    Ah – now allowing citizens of ICC member nations to vote I could go along with đŸ™‚

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