Active campaign for expat voting rights
15 November 2005, BRUSSELS — Every Flemish municipality will have to inform its EU and non-EU nationals about their voting rights at next year's local council elections.
15 November 2005
BRUSSELS — Every Flemish municipality will have to inform its EU and non-EU nationals about their voting rights at next year's local council elections.
The Flemish government made the decision after reaching a compromise over the decisive issue granting foreigners voting rights.
Federal legislation passed in February 2004 means non-EU nationals will be able to vote for the first time at the local elections in October 2006.
It will also be the first time that many EU nationals will be able to vote because the expansion of the union by 10 member states in May 2004 took place after the last local council elections.
Both EU citizens and non-EU nationals will first need to register before they can place a vote. However, the number of EU nationals who registered for the 2000 local elections was disappointingly low.
While a campaign has already been started in Wallonia to convince foreigners living in Belgium to vote at the local elections, no such campaign has been initiated in Flanders.
Consensus was clearly lacking within the Flemish government about the granting immigrants voting rights, with both the Liberal VLD and Christian Democrat CD&V opposed to the proposal.
Waging a pro-voting rights campaign was then perhaps too much to ask, newspaper 'De Standaard' speculated over the weekend.
However, a compromise has now been reached. The Flemish government will now send a memo to every municipal council obligating them to inform foreigners about their local council voting rights.
Each municipality is free to decide how they will carry out the information campaign. They can either send a letter to constituents or place the information in a free local newspaper.
The Flemish government will compile a document outlining the practicalities of how voters can register for the elections. The text will be written in every EU and non-EU language.
Municipalities will then be able to distribute the information to constituents in the required languages.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian news