samedi 25 janvier 2014

My voting hall of shame

Voting is a topic often discussed by expats. Should residents (non-citizens) be able to vote in elections taking place in the countries they reside in? Should citizens living abroad be allowed to vote 'back home'? Should people who gain citzenship via Jus Sanguinis have the right to vote? There are no easy answers to these questions. 

The last time I voted was in the year 2000 back when I was still living in Canada. I had just turned 18 and was led into the voting booth by my father to vote in the general election. I had no idea what I was doing and didn't really have an solid understanding of Canadian politics. That was the first and last time I ever voted. 

I no longer have any voting rights in Canada. It is somewhat surprising that Canadians living abroad lose their right to vote after only 5 years out of Canada. So I lost my right to vote years ago. 

Montreal during winter. Author of photo: Den Nation.

In my case, I agree that I shouldn't have the right the vote. I am totally cut off from Canadian politics and I am barely further than where I was at 18 and voting for the first time. I have no idea what is going on there. Back in 2009 I noticed some of my Canadian friends were talking about a certain Stephen Harper on Facebook. This is shocking - I had no idea he was the prime minister of Canada and I had no idea that the Conservatives had taken the power from the Liberals. I started to think about it and I realised that it had been years that I had had no idea who the prime minister of my own country was. I couldn't believe it. 

Expats like me shouldn't be allowed to vote in elections 'back home'. I do think that maybe 5 years is too short a period, but in my case, it was all it took for my home country to fade to the background. On the other hand, there are many expats who are completely up-to-date with what is happening back in their 'home country'. I think they should be allowed to vote. The problem is, how can a country weed out the 'bad voters' like me from the 'good voters', the ones that should be voting because they are really involved with the situation 'back home' and/or probably will move back one day.

I could have voted in Canada's 2004 and 2006 elections. I didn't. I could have voted in countless local elections in the various European countries I've lived in. I haven't. I could have voted in the UK general election back in 2005 (all Commonwealth citizens legally residing in the UK have this right). I didn't. I could have voted in the Italian general elections. (Note: I actually tried to vote in the last one with the sole purpose of getting rid of Berlusconi but was unable to because the election took place right at the time I moved to Denmark.) I haven't. I could have voted in EU elections. I haven't. When my friend proposed going to the town hall to register for the next EU elections and local elections, I just waved her off. 

The Italian Alps. Author of photo: Den Nation.

A few weeks ago, I passed in front of the town hall and I thought, "Enough is enough, people have died for the right to vote and you just throw every chance you have to vote out the window." This is so true, why don't I care? I should. So I got my papers in order and went to the town hall and registered myself to vote.

My mantra has always been that if someone is not informed, than they should not be voting. People like me who have no idea really should not be voting. These are just excuses in my case, though. I have everything at my disposal to make an informed decision. I am a highly educated person who can easily access information over the internet, call embassies, talk to other people to learn more (including my friends and family back in Italy and Canada), read books, take an interest in politics, etc. After all, politics has an effect my everyday life. I should be interested. It doesn't take much work to change my status from 'not informed at all' to 'somewhat informed'.

So in a bid to get more informed, yesterday I went and looked on Wikipedia to learn more about the last elections I missed in Canada. And that's when I learned about the existance of Paul Martin, Canada's prime minister between 2004-2006. All this time, I thought that Stephen Harper had succeeded Jean Chrétien. What Canadian doesn't know this? I started watching interviews with Canadian prime ministers on YouTube. This is when I learned that Brian Mulroney (prime minister in the 80s and 90s) was actually québecquois. Say what? I had always thought that he epitomised anglophone Canadians. I never would have associated him with a québecquois (no negative undertones here). I was surprised to learn this. Actually, in this interview he says that most anglophone Canadians think he is anglophone and most French-Canadians think he is francophone. (at the 3:39 mark for those who are interested). I was so surprised when I saw this video and heard him speak French. And I had no idea that he was a personal friend and political colleague of Lucien Bouchard. It's funny how in French his voice sounds deeper than his English voice. Now that I've watched the English video a second time, I'm starting to think that he sounds more like a native French speaker than a native English speaker, but it's really hard to say.  

Anyway, now it's high time to learn more about EU and Italian politics. I am priviledged to live here thanks to my Italian passport. I feel I should step up to the plate and do something in return. I owe Europe and Italy that much.

Thanks for reading my ramblings!