Thursday, April 25, 2024

How diaspora communities might affect upcoming elections around the world

By Lori Lee
NDG Contributing Writer

Those who have chosen to live outside their countries of citizenship often continue to care about their home countries, including their elections. These dispersed populations, the diaspora, can be consequential to elections, especially when the elections are close or in countries with proportionally large diasporas, such as El Salvador, with at least 20% living abroad.

While three quarters of countries in the world allow their citizens to vote abroad, about a quarter of those make voting difficult, explained Senior Fellow and Co-Founder of the Migration Policy Institute Kathleen Newland.

For countries where voters are required to travel home to vote, plane fares can effectively exclude them. Immobility can also make registration, voting, and gaining information on the right to vote difficult. This is especially true for women in some countries, said Newland.

Mexican citizens who live abroad or are born abroad can now register and vote with ease electronically, by mail, or at the consulate’s office. (Filip Gielda / Unsplash)

In countries where voting systems are more advanced, access may not be an issue, said Newland. However, some countries, such as the U.S., treat overseas voting in a hands-off manner, failing to inform their citizens who live abroad of how to register or vote. The U.S. falls into this category, said Newland.

The proverbial melting pot that is the U.S. has more immigrants than any other country in the world. Having maintained a healthy flow, effectively absorbed into society, the flow has increased to produce pressure more recently, even quadrupling since the ’60s.

There are now 11 million Mexican citizens living and working in the U.S., said Diana Alarcón González, chief advisor to the mayor and foreign affairs coordinator for Mexico City.
This expansive diaspora could be a powerful influence on Mexican elections, said González. Yet potential voters seldom participate, this, despite that Mexican citizens who live abroad or are born abroad can now register and vote with ease electronically, by mail, or at the consulate’s office.

With the election of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in 2018, only about 90,000 people voted from abroad, said González. Obrador, who won by a large margin proposed a transformation of the Mexican government, with goals of eradicating corruption and improving wellbeing for the Mexican people. The election of this opposition party was an important sea change for Mexico, said González.

The upcoming June 2 election will be equally historic for Mexico, with close to 20,000 positions open, including the presidency, she said. After combining second, third, and fourth generations, about 30 million of 98 million potential Mexican voters will be living abroad. One in ten Mexicans live outside of Mexico, while about 98% of those live in the U.S., the Wilson Center reports.

Many who are a part of the Mexican diaspora maintain ties in Mexico and therefore take an interest in the Mexican government. And because Mexico allows dual citizenship, Mexican citizens can have their feet firmly planted in two countries, with high stakes in each country, said González. Mexicans living abroad send important resources to Mexico, and they have a right to express their views, she said.

There are a number of reasons why citizens living abroad would care about their home country’s elections. Mexico recently became America’s largest trading partner (Statista), and the relative efficiency of the Mexican government can affect migration patterns and organized crime in the U.S.

So, why this lack of participation among the Mexican diaspora? A somewhat recent phenomenon, Mexicans living abroad have only had these rights since 2005, with many undoubtedly unaware they can register to vote from abroad.

Mexicans who live abroad can register to vote at any Mexican embassy or consulate, said González, and the deadline for registration is February 20 in order to participate in this June’s elections.

The Indian diaspora will not be enough to affect the outcome in India, where incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to win big, explained Dr. Arvind Panagariya, a professor at Columbia. Modi has remained popular, despite having served two terms, with an expanding economy that is expected to become the third largest worldwide in a few years, he said.

During their upcoming parliamentary elections, about 500 political parties will participate, said Panagariya, as 11 million election officials travel by foot, train, boat, and elephant to reach remote polling locations, which are even set up in forests in order to serve everyone.
Taiwan has already held a high-stakes election this year, the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) William Lai winning the presidency and holding a congressional majority, while losing its majority in the legislature.

The DPP, which amended its charter to allow a Taiwanese vote on whether to become an independent country, has toned down its image as the independence party, said Rong Xiaoqing, a reporter for the Sing Tao Daily in New York. The party is now represented as simply wanting to allow the people a choice rather than pressing for independence, she said.

Though Taiwanese have pushed for mail in ballots in recent years, Taiwan still does not allow overseas voting, she said. The Taiwanese diaspora must go back to their home cities to vote.

There is a political calculation behind this coming from the recently formed DPP, said Xiaoping, since Taiwanese who live abroad tend to be businessmen and students, which relate more to the older parties in Taiwan that support closer ties with Beijing over independence.

The collapse of Hong Kong increased support for democracy and resulted in protests in the U.S. supporting Taiwan, she explained. Mainstream media coverage of these protests has only helped the pro-democracy movement, said Xiaoping. If there is a walk, Asian hate waves will be perpetuated, as people brace for an unpredictable future, said Xiaoping.


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