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Your vote counts! Communal elections in October (Brussels)

Dear IN members,
many xpats do not make use of their right to take part in communal elections and miss the chance to have their needs taken into account in the communes they live in!
Make your voice heard and register to vote!

There is a very interesting article on Protected content which I am copying below to give you more info:

Poll position: What you need to know about the Belgian local elections in October

With voters heading to the ballot boxes in October, don’t miss your chance to have a say in how your local commune is run. As a first-time voter, here’s what you need to know

This autumn, voters across the country will decide how they want their local communities to be run for the next six years. In communal elections, “what voters do is literally elect the municipal council,” says Pascal Delwit, a professor in political science at Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB). The seats in the municipal councils – which function like local parliaments – are divvied up among the parties after the elections, based on a proportional representation system. “After the election, a council made up of the mayor and councillors is formed, so the mayor is the equivalent of the prime minister and the councillors are the equivalent of the ministers,” says Delwit, comparing the local and the federal level.

By casting a vote for a political party, you’ll be able to decide on many of the things affecting the day-to-day goings-on in your neighbourhood. Compared to countries like the UK and France, municipalities have much more power in Belgium, says Delwit, as they are able to decide on matters from land planning, public roads, cleanliness and economic development to social aid and the municipal schools in their territories.

Like in any other EU member country, EU nationals have the right to vote in local elections in Belgium, though they must register to do so. Where Belgium differs is that non-EU citizens who have lived in Belgium for five years also have the right to vote in local elections, as the result of a still-controversial decision made in Protected content the then Belgian government.

Belgium is by no means alone in offering these extended voting rights – approximately half of the EU member countries allow nonEU citizens to vote in local elections under certain conditions, explains Thomas Huddleston, research director at the Migration Policy Group.

Karin Impens, deputy to the Brussels commissioner for Europe, points out that expats account for almost 52% of the population in some communes. “The realisation is growing that when there are that many of you, you can and have to weigh in on policymaking,” she says.

“We are 310,000 people in Brussels and a couple of hundred votes can change the outcome of an election in some communes,” adds Huddleston, who is from the US and moved to Belgium in Protected content . “I think a lot of non-Belgians have woken up to the fact that they feel more at home in Belgium than they do in their country of origin, and that instead of complaining they can actually get involved,” he says, adding that developments like the Protected content attacks, the UK’s decision to leave the EU and the presidency of Donald Trump have pushed people to become more politically engaged.

It’s hard to say whether we would see a complete reshuffling of the political power if all non-Belgians suddenly decided to head to the ballots, as Huddleston is hoping. “Non-Belgians tend to care about the same thing as Belgians,” he says, particularly those who have lived in Belgium for some time, with political preferences that cover the left-right spectrum.

But, he adds, newcomers to Belgium are often frustrated with the limited offer of government services in English and the cleanliness of their neighbourhoods. If a political party decided to run on making more government services available in English, they would have a good chance of getting the expat vote, Huddleston says.

Election checklist

Three months before the election
Register to vote through your commune before 31 July – a straightforward and simple process, says Huddleston. “It’s super easy to send in your one-page form by post, to vote by proxy on the day of the election if you’re sick or abroad and to deregister afterwards if you no longer want to vote in Belgium,” he says, adding that it’s important to bust the myths among some expats that paint the voting procedure as complex or cumbersome. The form is available from your local commune or you can download it from commissioner.brussels. You may already have been sent it in the post. Sometime after, you’ll normally get a letter inviting you to vote, telling you which polling station you should head to on 14 October. “This is often a public place, a venue owned by the commune, where they’ll put up the voting booths,” explains Impens.

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Written by Linda A Thompson

Brussels Forum