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Immigrant Access to Local Politics in Amsterdam and Paris


This contribution investigates immigrants’ access to elected office in two different political contexts: Amsterdam and Paris. I look at the socio-demographic background and at the political experiences of immigrant councillors and explore what may have favoured their careers. I further consider the role of the electoral and political context in facilitating immigrants’ access to politics. This context plays an important role in immigrants’ rate of access to politics, but similarities exist in their pre-electoral experience.

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  1. I would like to thank Irene Bloemraad, Karen Schönwälder and the anonymous reviewer for their comments on an earlier version of this contribution.

  2. By immigrants, I mean people born in a foreign country or who have at least one parent born abroad. People born in Dutch colonies are also included in this category.

  3. A comparison of the presence of immigrant politicians in the French and Dutch parliaments is interesting, but would be significantly limited by the fact that (since 2007) only four of the 555 MPs elected in metropolitan France are of non-Western origin (Keslassy, 2009).

  4. District councillors in Amsterdam are members of the ‘stadsdeelraden’ in Paris this concerns the members of the ‘conseils d’arrondissement’.

  5. The data was collected in Paris between March–June 2007 and June–July 2008, and in Amsterdam in January–May 2008. Information on the representatives was used only when cross-checked.

  6. Those holding a seat in the city council are elected at the level of the districts: they are both district councillor and city councillor.

  7. In addition, the incumbent mayor in Paris was almost certain to win the election and therefore had a large room for manoeuvre in the composition of the lists of the Socialist Party and its allies.

  8. Data on the development of political careers of immigrants, elected in 1990 in Amsterdam, shows otherwise (Michon, 2011a: 104), but this might have changed since then.

  9. Those holding a seat in the city council are elected at the level of the districts: they are both district councillor and city councillor.

  10. Only figures for country of birth, that is, first-generation immigrants are available in France.

  11. It is noteworthy that immigrants from European countries are present at much higher rates than in Amsterdam, where their presence is marginal.

  12. This sample is not representative of the population of immigrant representatives with respect to the share of those elected to the Conseil de Paris and with respect to party membership; it is, however, with respect to gender, origins and incumbency rate.


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  • Onderzoek en Statistiek Amsterdam (Amsterdam Statistics Bureau)

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michon, l. Immigrant Access to Local Politics in Amsterdam and Paris. Eur Polit Sci 12, 490–499 (2013).

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  • immigrant political participation
  • local politics
  • Amsterdam
  • Paris
  • Netherlands
  • France
  • local councillors