Foreign nationals living in Belgium have until 31 July to register if they wish to vote in the municipal elections on 14 October. Around 400,000 resident in Belgium would be entitled to vote if the registered. However, many of them are unaware of this entitlement or are simple not interested in registering.
All EU nationals over the age of 18 that are registered in the municipality in which they lived may vote in the municipal election providing they register to do so. Those that are registered to vote are subject to Belgian electoral law that obliges voters to turn up at the polling station. Failure to do so can result in a fine being issued.
Non EU nationals wishing to vote must be able to provide a document proving that they have lived in Belgium legally for at least 5 years, be over 18 and registered as a resident of the municipality in which the wish to vote. They must also sign a document stating that they respect the European Treaty on Human Rights and the Belgian constitution.
Despite being entitled to vote, just a fraction of foreigners living here register to do so.
Didier Vanderslycke of the Ik stem ook group that tries to encourage non-Belgians to register told VRT Radio 1 that “People have to register at their local Town Hall. They have until 31 July to do so. The deadline is in a week’s time”.
However, the campaign to encourage foreigners to register hasn’t been a great success. “We believe that around 1 in 6 are registered. It is because people haven’t mobilized, but also because this year there wasn’t any campaign by the Flemish Authorities. This is strange because it is in every party’s interests that voters turn up to vote. Here there are 400,000 potential voters and that’s a lot.
“Take Dilbeek (Flemish Brabant) for example. There are 2,500 EU nationals that would be entitled to vote, but just 294 have registered. And there are 640 non-EU-ers. This is a total of 3,100 voters. This could count when it comes to seats. When you tell them they are surprised even move. However, all too often they simply didn’t know”.