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Campaign group VoteBrussels warns that local democratic deficit is growing in Brussels

16:26 30/05/2024

New figures published by the Belgian interior ministry about non-Belgian voter registration raise the alarm bell that the democratic deficit in Brussels is growing, says VoteBrussels.

The non-profit campaign group issued the warning in a press statement ahead of federal, regional and European elections in Belgium on 9 June.

It has launched a new campaign stepping up efforts to encourage non-Belgians to register by 31 July for municipal elections on 13 October. The latest action is supported by Bruxelles Pouvoirs Locaux, the Brussels Commissioner for Europe, Restless Brussels and Stand Up for Europe.

The group once again highlighted the potential problem of the majority of residents in Brussels, “the democratic world's most cosmopolitan city” not voting in the local elections.

According to interior department statistics, the number of eligible international voters increased by nearly 30,000 to reach 314,986 potential voters (or 34% of the electorate). Some 77% (24,3025) are EU citizens from another EU Member State, while 23% (71,961) are non-EU citizens with 5+ years of residence.

However, points out VoteBrussels, the non-Belgian voter registration rate has fallen by 30%, from 17% to 12%. It says communes have not been registering newcomers as voters and research shows that municipal and regional authorities have not engaged in ongoing voter information.

This lack of information about how to vote has drawn the attention of the Brussels Regional Parliament, points out VoteBrussels. Its cross-party resolution on 3 May called for facilitated, ongoing voter registration, although the reform will depend on the new Brussels coalition government.

Why internationals should vote

VoteBrussels says the some 315,000 eligible international voters represent one third of all potential voters across the 19 Brussels communes and up to one half in Etterbeek, Ixelles and Saint-Gilles.

It points out that voters have more powers and more political choices at local level in Belgium than anywhere else in Europe.

“The 2024 elections in Brussels are very competitive and close, so a lot could change in your commune,” VoteBrussels says in its appeal.

“Hundreds of EU citizens have run in local elections as candidates for the city council and dozens have been elected to represent Brussels' cosmopolitan culture, dynamic economy and status as Capital of Europe,” it adds.

How to register for municipal elections

Responding to voters fears about registering for the compulsory vote, VoteBrussels, says: “There’s no need to worry about signing up... If on election day you’re traveling or unavailable, you can vote by proxy.”

To further spread the word, the campaign is offering volunteer trainings, information sessions and touring "voting box" presentations in city halls and public spaces throughout June and July, ahead of the 31 July voter registration deadline.

In addition, the trade unions of the European institutions, coordinated by U4U Union for Unity, are also mobilising the thousands of civil servants working in Brussels.

International voters are encouraged to sign up online here. More information available at www.vote.brussels.

Written by The Bulletin