August deadline for expat voters to register
7 February 2006, BRUSSELS — Non-EU nationals living in Belgium who want to vote in the local council elections on 8 October will need to register before 1 August, Interior Minister Patrick Dewael has announced.
7 February 2006
BRUSSELS — Non-EU nationals living in Belgium who want to vote in the local council elections on 8 October will need to register before 1 August, Interior Minister Patrick Dewael has announced.
Parliamentary approval for the legislation granting Belgium's non-EU residents the right to vote was accompanied by heated debate in 2004.
The federal coalition government party Liberal VLD — which was opposed to granting expats the vote — plunged itself into hot water as it argued for months on end about the issue.
However, MPs eventually approved the legislation and the federal government has now finalised its preparations.
Dewael published the details of the plan in the government newspaper on Friday. However, the instructions were primarily of importance for local councils.
Municipalities must make available to residents an application form in which immigrants can register to vote. They will also need to arrange the registration.
They can register up to and including 31 July 2006.
Non-EU nationals can personally report to municipal council offices to register or send the application form via the post, newspaper 'De Standaard' reported on Tuesday.
Foreigners who wish to vote need to be listed on the population or aliens register of their local municipality where they will lodge their application.
They will need to have been a resident in Belgium for five uninterrupted years. An expat's residence status can be confirmed via a yellow, white or orange card or an exceptional residence document.
He or she will also need to be 18 years old on the day of local elections and must not have been convicted of a crime in Belgium that would lead to a definitive or temporary suspension of voting rights.
Finally, the foreigner will also need to lodge a declaration pledging to comply with the Constitution, Belgian laws and human rights treaties.
The conditions imposed on foreigners also led to heated debate in the Senate and Lower House of Parliament when the legislation was debated.
Minister Dewael has entrusted municipalities with the responsibility of informing non-EU residents about how they can register to vote.
Government authorities are now investigating how many immigrants will avail of their voting rights.
[Copyright Expatica News 2006]
Subject: Belgian news