The 'punishment' myth

Is voting in Luxembourg really compulsory?

Last case of punishment for not voting in Luxembourg was over 40 years ago!

Photo: Shutterstock

(ADW) Luxembourg, Belgium, Cyprus and Greece are the only countries in Europe where the participation in elections is not only a right but also an obligation, but are there any consequences for not voting? Apparently not, as the last case of a non-voter being penalised in the Grand Duchy, dates back more than 40 years ago!

According to state records, the last cases of registered non-voters being pursued and punished in Luxembourg were in 1963 and 1964. Since then nobody who registered to vote but didn't visit the polling stations on election day, has been penalised.

However statistics from the election that followed those cases show that not a single eligible citizen stayed at home on that election day.

This came to light just over a year ago after a parliamentary question was posed to the Department of Justice as to whether or not residents registered to vote were being penalised if they did not cast their ballot.

Justice Minister at the time, François Biltgen, responded in a statement that the law could be left open to interpretation. He said: “If the Department of Justice was to officially announce that it is not pursuing election violations, it would be violating the law”.

Obligatory voting is a major sticking point for many foreign residents used to voluntary voting in their country of origin. They are often worried that once registered in Luxembourg and they leave the country or will not be in the country at the time of an election, or be unable to vote for whatever reason, will be punished with a fine or even imprisonment! This is simply not the case in the Grand Duchy and if this information was more widespread, possibly more foreign residents would register to vote in the European and communal elections.

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