In a significant shift, long-term British expatriates residing in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are celebrating newfound rights as changes in British law grant citizens the ability to vote in UK

general elections, irrespective of the duration spent outside the country. This transformative move eliminates the previous 15-year cap on voting eligibility for UK citizens living abroad, marking a positive turn for overseas residents who are now also entitled to contribute financially to UK political parties and campaigns.

Effective from Tuesday, the revised legislation, part of the UK government's Election Act passed in 2022, is set to impact up to three million citizens living abroad, encompassing those who have either previously resided in or been registered to vote in Britain. This alteration in voting rights comes ahead of the anticipated general election this autumn, offering a significant development for long-term British expats residing in the UAE.

Addressing the perception that long-term expats might have weaker ties to the UK, Jennifer Bell, a Scot residing in Abu Dhabi for the past 19 years, emphasized that many maintain only British citizenship, maintain family ties in the UK, and visit regularly. As citizens with a genuine concern for their home country, they believe in the importance of their voting rights for the protection of their interests.

Keren Bobker, administrator of the British Expats Dubai and UAE Facebook page, welcomed the change, expressing her delight and noting that the announcement had been long overdue. She highlighted the importance of many expats owning property and assets in the UK and contributing to taxes, making their participation in the democratic process crucial.

This legislative shift resulted from a challenge brought forth by the late Harry Shindler, who dedicated 20 years to campaigning against the 15-year limit on voting rights. Shindler's efforts culminated in a case presented to the European Court of Justice. The recent amendments extend the opportunity for more British citizens living abroad to participate in UK Parliament elections and contribute financially to political causes.

As this change coincides with the likelihood of a general election in the coming year, the Electoral Commission emphasizes the importance of awareness among the newly enfranchised voters. Registering to vote is a straightforward online process taking just five minutes. With this new development, the UK aims to ensure representation and participation for citizens residing abroad in the democratic process. Photo by domdomegg, Wikimedia commons.