This situation occurred when the socialist party in Lagoa, Algarve, included foreign citizens on the party's lists to represent expats on the council, but the court, by asking for more documents, ended up blocking these citizens' access to the world of politics.
In this sense, “foreigners were not treated as equals to Portuguese. The socialist party prepared its lists with some foreign citizens, but the judge asked for additional documents from foreigners," said Luís Encarnação, head of the socialist party of Lagoa, which won the elections on 26 September.
More and more paperwork
To shed light on how these processes take place in Portugal, let’s say that local parties, when drawing up their lists of candidates for local elections, have to take these lists, along with all the paperwork, to the court for validation. In short: “the documents requested from a Portuguese person are the citizen's card, the residence declaration and a proof of electoral registration”.
However, for foreigners these documents weren’t enough. “The court asked for additional documents, such as proof that they do not vote in local elections in their countries of origin”, among others.
When trying to meet the judicial requirements, the party attached that extra paperwork, but it was too late. “After all, the court ruled that the deadline was not meet so, even with these extra documents, these citizens were kept away from the electoral process”, the mayor explained.
“I think the court was excessively careful and asked for too much paperwork and, although it was delivered afterwards, it ended up not being accepted because the court considered it was past the deadline. Obviously, we are not happy because what we want, above all, is to integrate all of our citizens in the community”, he said.
That's why they appealed to the constitutional court, but without success. “We appealed to the constitutional court to try to verify the legality of the court's decision. However, the constitutional court only decided on the non-compliance with the deadline when delivering the additional documents, so we ended up not knowing whether we were right or not regarding the excess of requested documents,” Luís Encarnação stated.
Who can stand for municipal elections?
EU citizens can stand as a candidate under the same conditions as Portuguese citizens. However, only nationals are allowed to be mayors and some other positions may be also reserved for nationals.
In addition to Portuguese citizens over the age of 18, all expats from the European Union are entitled to stand as candidates, as well as third country nationals residing in Portugal for more than five years, if they are from one of these countries: United Kingdom, Cape Verde and Brazil.
The framework of this right may vary according to the agreements between the countries, providing that the same rights are granted to citizens of both countries. For example, if in a European country it is necessary for the foreigner to reside there for more than three years, the other country can make the same demands for expats from that country that live there and want to apply - through a reciprocal agreement.
Few expats listed to vote
Despite this unfortunate situation, the mayor now wants to focus his efforts on raising the number of foreigners on the electoral roll, through an awareness campaign.
“This year only around 600 foreign residents registered to vote in Lagoa, and we should have more people involved. According to the Census 2021, of the 23,718 residents in Lagoa, more than 20 percent are foreigners,” he highlighted.
For that reason, in a way to contribute to the integration of all citizens in local politics, the mayor told The Portugal News that the chamber will increase the awareness around this subject and try to make the procedure as easy as possible in order to attract more people to the polling stations in the next election.