Registration campaign for foreign voters starts

23rd February 2006, Comments 0 comments

23 February 2006, BRUSSELS — Cities and municipalities have launched their information campaign in a bid to inform foreign residents of their voting rights for the October local elections.

23 February 2006

BRUSSELS — Cities and municipalities have launched their information campaign in a bid to inform foreign residents of their voting rights for the October local elections.

However, the clock is ticking: all eligible immigrant voters — those who have lived in Belgium for at least five years and are prepared to honour the Belgian Constitution — must be registered by 1 August.

And some groups fear only a small number of eligible foreign voters will register to vote because they are not aware of their rights.

The association of Christian workers groups ACW-Antwerpen said at the 2000 elections — when only EU nationals could vote — most foreigners did not vote. Of the 500,000 eligible EU voters, just 90,000 registered to vote.

ACW secretary Annemie Verhoeven said this was due to a poor information campaign and is urging for greater efforts this time around. The ACW is a solidarity group that works for a more livable society.

An information campaign was launched in Wallonia last year, but an official Flemish campaign will not be staged, newspaper 'De Standaard' reported on Thursday.

Nevertheless, Minister Marino Keulen has urged municipal councils in Flanders to inform their residents about their new-found voting rights. The larger cities have already started on this project.

In Antwerp, an action week has been planned for 4-13 May, while Ghent will unveil its full plan on Friday, aiming also to involve immigrants beyond the local elections with special informative gatherings.

Leuven and Ghent will send individual letters to residents, as will Brussels. However, Brussels also intends to pay the postage costs for eligible voters, stressing that authorities cannot expect residents to register at council offices.

[Copyright Expatica News 2006]

Subject: Belgian news

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