Only 3% went to vote

Sunday, 29th November, 2015 saw the chance for the foreign residents in Oberursel to vote: for a new Ausländerbeirat.  The committee, which is supposed to represent the interests of the foreigners in the town.  Committee members not only have the right to speak at town council sub-committee meetings, for the past year they have also been able to table motions directly to the council itself.

At the last election five years ago the turnout had only been 3.43%, so one of the targets for this election had been to get more voters to the ballot box.  In terms of voters they managed it, but only just: 188 instead of 171 went to the town hall to cast their vote.  But due to the increased number of foreigners in the town, the turnout as a percentage sank to a record low of 3.08%.

The committee’s representative in the town’s administration, Thomas Eifert, explained how they had tried to get the figure higher.  All eligible voters had received information about the election in advance in nine languages (German, English, Polish, Somali, Russian, Arabic, Korean, Portuguese and Greek), as well as a link to translations in other languages (Albanian, Bulgarian, Chinese, Farsi, French, Italian, Croatian, Romanian, Swedish, Serbian, Spanish, Tigrinya, Turkish and Urdu).  The candidates had spoken to a lot of people, he said, but they had still not reached their target on the day.  The lower percentage turnout he put down to the number of registered refugees who had other problems than having to go and vote.

For the first time it was possible to chose between two lists and to use the “kumulieren and panaschieren” system, ie. to combine candidates from both lists.  Voters had 9 votes to cast, with up to 3 votes per candidate possible.

The “Internationale Liste Oberursel” (ILO) led by current chairman Dr. Franz Zenker receive 58.79% of the votes, whilst the list “Alle Zusammen Oberursel” (AZO) led by Natalia Bind received 41.21%.  As a result, the ILO have 5 of the 9 seats on the new committee, which will convene for the first time on Friday, 8th January, 2016, at 6pm in room E02 of the town hall.

There was criticism on social media on the day of the election from some voters, that they did not know anything about the candidates or what they stood for.  Some were not prepared to vote simply based on recommendation of their friends, and so they stayed at home instead.  Others criticised that even though the information had been available in multiple languages, the method of voting itself had been too complicated.

The turnout in general throughout Hessen was low and Dr. Zenker saw it as a signal to the regional government, that they needed to changed the whole concept of the Ausländerbeirat.  He suggested a single elected representative with access to the town’s resources.  “It makes no sense to have a political representation, if it is not embraced by the foreigners” he said after the election.

This article appeared in German in the Oberurseler Woche on Thursday, 3rd December, 2015.

About Graham Tappenden

Graham Tappenden is a British ex-pat who first came to Oberursel in 1993 and returned with his family to live there in 2003. He has been writing for AllThingsGerman.net since 2006. When not writing blog posts or freelancing for the Oberurseler Woche he works as a self-employed IT consultant solving computer problems and designing websites. In 2016 he gained German citizenship.

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