Editor’s note: The author, Alexandra, is a candidate herself and has been a Leipzig Glocal contributor off and on since the beginning of the project in 2015. The Leipzig Glocal does not officially endorse a particular candidate for the Leipzig Migrants’ Council and encourages all candidates to reach out to us for coverage at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
For all international people living in Leipzig, this year is quite important. For the first time since its creation in 2009, the Migrants’ Council will now be partially elected. The new process will include an online vote from all registered migrants living in Leipzig.
The online election will be open from the 22nd to the 29th of March. In this article, we are going to explain everything you need to know about the council and what you need to do in order to vote.
What is the Migrants’ Council?
The Migrants’ Council is an advisory board of the City of Leipzig, usually appointed every five years. It is supposed to bring the perspective of migrants living in Leipzig to local political discussions and represent their interests, since many of them cannot vote for the City Council and the Mayor. It is a way for the city to make sure that all the voices of those living here are heard somehow. Though this level of participation is not the same as being able to vote in City Council elections (which non-Europeans still cannot do), it is a start.
Although the council exists since 2009, this year is special because it includes an online vote in which ALL registered foreigners residing in Leipzig will be able to participate.
This is the first time that this process will be implemented.
The council is composed of 22 people divided into three categories (explained in the graphic below), all usually serving five-year terms. The first category has 10 members who will be chosen on the basis of the online vote, though technically it is not a direct election. It is more of a selection process where the public can vote.
The results of the online vote will be a recommendation to the Leipzig City Council. The City Council will appoint six members on the basis of an open call. The political groups of the City Council will choose the remaining six members, one for each group. Therefore, the AfD will be there as well.
Each person can vote for up to three candidates for the Leipzig Migrants’ Council.
Does it replace participation in City Council or state-level elections?
No, this is still quite far from it. However, it is better to have international people living in the city have, at least, some kind of say in the designation of those supposed to represent their perspectives. This process is far from perfect. It has caused a lot of discussions in the City Council and we have to be cautious about the phrasing.
Who votes and how?
There are basically three main conditions for eligibility:
- You must be a foreigner with a valid stay permit or be an EU citizen. Lastly, you can also be a German who got the German citizenship later in life (Eingebürgerte). However, the latter must register to be eligible to vote.
- You must be 18 years old by March 28th, 2021.
- You must have had your residence in Leipzig for at least three months.
IMPORTANT: Non-German citizens residing in Leipzig have automatically been registered as foreigners and should receive a letter by post until March 21st, 2021, with instructions on how to vote if eligible. German citizens who want to vote in the Migrants’ Council selection process must register here until March 7th, 2021.
In case of any doubts or if you do not receive a letter to vote as a foreigner residing in Leipzig, reach out to Stadt Leipzig.
Why vote in the Migrants’ Council selection?
It is crucial that the online vote have the largest participation possible. This will increase the legitimacy of the chosen members.
The online vote opens the field of representation a bit. In the past, it would have been possible, in theory, for the city to just appoint the so-called “good migrants” – ones who will be cooperative and not stir things up. With the online vote the chance that someone who will bring up difficult topics and push this administration to wake up to the new reality in Leipzig is higher.
In Leipzig, there is a large diversity in migrants. Often, this diversity divides them.
According to the statistics of the city, in 2020, 10% of the Leipzig’s population were foreigners. To that you need to add 5% who are German citizens with a migration background. In 2011, foreigners in Leipzig (like myself) made up only 5% of the population, and Germans with migration background 3%.
For those of us who came to Leipzig 10 years ago, it is obvious that the city has changed for the better, if you ask me. Today, we are 92,000 people! It is high time these communities were brought into the selection process of the Migrantenbeirat.
The Stadt Leipzig administration has a huge impact on our everyday life. Its responsibilities include: schools, kindergardens, public transport, garbage disposal and infrastructure. I always saw it as a democratic deficit that migrants cannot vote in the local elections.
The Migrants’ Council is a step towards political empowerment. However, once again, it does not replace participation in City Council elections, which is ultimately the goal. After all, it is the closest level of power that people can experience and actually have some sort of impact. At this level, democracy should not exclude people.
The other major aspect is that the Migrants’ Council will have an “Antragsrecht.” This means that it will have the right to make proposals to the City Council. This significantly helps its influence and power within the city.
The full list of candidates will be announced on March 12th (the registration deadline to run is the day before) and The Leipzig Glocal will be keeping an eye on it for further coverage.
Here is a video produced by the Verband für Binationaler Familien und Partnerschaften detailing the process visually: