Models of Expatriate Representation in Europe
In a global context where increasing numbers of states are enfranchising their expatriates and enabling them to vote from abroad, a growing body of research has developed seeking to investigate this phenomenon. Two basic models of implementing ‘external voting’ have emerged: an ‘assimilationist’ model, which integrates expatriates into the existing electoral system, or a ‘discrete’ model, which offers them ‘special’ representation through reserved seats in overseas constituencies. Most academic analysis of these two contrasting models has so far tended to focus on ‘top down’ explanations of why states chose/choose particular models and what the electoral outcomes of those choices have been/could be.
By contrast, the aim of this panel is to generate a more ‘bottom-up’ exploration of the quality of representation in overseas constituencies as perceived by expatriates on the one hand and by their elected representatives on the other: does this model produce a more effective and responsive method of democratic representation than assimilated systems? How ‘close’ do expatriates feel to their elected representatives? How well are the elected representatives of large geographical areas able to respond to the interests of their disparate populations? Can overseas constituencies be considered a suitable model for emulation by other European states?
Presentations of the Symposium
The Organisation of the French Abroad: a Bottom-up Institutional Approach
Governments sometimes think of their emigrants as an (extra)territorial extension of their administrative system. Ecuador or Chile’s emigrants have thus been described as respectively the country’s 5th or 14th region (Boccagni, 2014; Baeza, 2010). According to Michael Collyer (2014), this is a “rhetorical device” to create a “symbolic connection between core state institutions and emigrants” and reincorporate them into the body politic (Collyer, 2013). It is not only symbolic though. Increasingly, nation-states have been developing not only discourses, but also legislative and administrative devices to integrate better the emigrants in their home country political body (Levitt and Dehesa, 2003; Ragazzi, 2014; Délano & Gamlen, 2014; Østergaard-Nielsen, 2016), and not only among emigration countries. In fact, France is one of the countries which has gone further in that direction. French abroad do not only keep their voting rights, they are also represented at the local (with 443 consular councillors in 130 consular councils), “regional” (Assembly of French Abroad), and central levels (with 11 deputies and 12 senators). The aim of this presentation will be therefore to analyse this French model. We will first analyse the path-dependent process which created this very strong system of representation of expatriates. We will then assess its politico-administrative reality, in comparison to the “internal” regions. We will finally question its symbolic dimension, as far as the imagination of the French nation-state is concerned. Is this new empowering of emigrants a tool to reimagine sovereignty? How do emigrants participate to this new political and ideological opportunity structure?
The Representation of Expatriates in the French National Assembly (2012-2018) An Impracticable Mandate?
The 2.5 million French citizens living abroad benefit from a substantial political representation in their home country, one of the largest in the world. They who were already represented in the Senate for decades, have recently also been granted a special representation in the National Assembly. In the 2012 legislative election, French expatriates were thus called for the first time to elect their deputies in eleven enormous extra-territorial single-mandate constituencies. The purpose of the paper is to look into the nature and quality of this newly created representation of French living overseas in the National Assembly. Are the profiles and political backgrounds of the deputies for French overseas similar to that of their “metropolitan” counterparts ? How do they organize their time and work between their constituency abroad and the National Assembly in Paris ? Do they tend to focus their parliamentary activities and public statements on sole issues related to expatriation ? Those are the main questions that are addressed in the paper using original research based on semi-structured interviews with twelve deputies (or former) deputies for French overseas, media content and archival documents of the National Assembly. Through a study of the characteristics and activities of the deputies for French overseas during the 14th Legislature (2012- 2017) and the first year of the 15th Legislature (2017- 2018) of the French Fifth Republic, the paper shows that, while they do not constitute a homogeneous group, they all face common – and specific - challenges in the exercise of their mandate.
The Evolution of Expatriate Representation in Italy : a Comparison between Two Legislatures
Despite its many limitations and the attempts to change it, the Law Tremaglia still provides the basis for the representation of Italians living abroad within the national institutions. After the setting up of representative bodies for Italian Communities (Comites, 1985; Cgie, 1989), the law further expanded the space for participation by instituting a new constituency (Circoscrizione Estero) for Italian emigrants and by introducing postal voting in general elections and referendums. Italians living abroad are able to elect 12 deputies and 6 senators, and only those who reside permanently in a foreign state are eligible for election (passive electorate). Who are these MPs? How do they represent the “Italians” abroad? What is the quality of their parliamentary work? This paper analyses two different Legislatures (XVII and XVII) to explore how representation changed as a result of systemic transformation in the Italian political system. The study, based on interviews, analysis of draft bills and the ‘index of productivity’ of Italian MPs activities in Parliament, focuses on candidates' strategies in terms of political issues, communication tools and linkage with the territory.
The Fragile Italian Expatriate Voting Model and Prospects for its Future
The results of the March 2018 Italian elections saw the emergence of an anti-establishment government comprised of the Five Star Movement and right-wing Lega. The elections also observed the fourth occasion in which Italian eligible voters abroad could vote in national elections electing their overseas representative. This “right” was introduced in 2001 when the Italian passed the Law 459, which introduced the phenomenon of expatriate voting. Introducing expatriate voting into the Italian voting process was a complex process requiring significant amendments to the Constitution. Expatriate voting carried significant legal repercussions, first proposed in the 1950s and required significant debate and compromises for it to see the light of day. The technical arrangements for the implementation of expatriate voting required setting up four external electoral colleges (Europe, North America, South America and Africa-Asia-Oceania and Antarctica) with 12 House of Deputies seats and 6 Senate seats allocated to these four colleges. The first test for expatriate voting occurred in the 2006 elections which eventuated with the loss of the centre right coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi.
Since 2006, Italian elections have embraced expatriate voting as part of its overall electoral results. This has included elections in 2006, 2008, 2013, 2018 and since 2003 this has also included expatriate voting in 9 referendums.
The objective of this paper is to analyse the journey of expatriate voting in Italy, how it impacted the voting results overall and the peculiarities of Italian expatriate electoral behaviour. Finally the paper will seek to evaluate the viability of this model and its political sustainability.