Expatica news

‘Miserable’ response to foreign voter drive

25 July 2006

BRUSSELS — The new-found right to vote at October’s local elections has failed to excite Belgium’s foreign residents, who have stayed away from registration centres in droves.

Less than a week before the deadline, just 2,338 non-EU nationals living in Flanders have registered to vote. That represents just 5.48 percent of the target population.

Left-wing Spirit Senator Fouzaya Talhaoui said the figures were “miserable” and accused the government of taking insufficient action by failing to invest in information campaigns.

On a local level, she said cities with Socialist SP.A mayors made some efforts to address foreign residents, but cities with Liberal VLD mayors deliberately opted against urging foreigners to vote.

But Flemish VLD Interior Minister Marino Keulen rejected the criticism, claiming that foreign residents are simply disinterested in voting, newspaper ‘De Standaard’ reported on Tuesday.

He said in Wallonia — where an active government information campaign was waged — the registration drive also met with little success.

The federal Parliament approved at the start of 2004 legislation granting non-EU nationals who have lived in Belgium for five years the right to vote once they have registered with electoral authorities.

Among the Flemish parties, only the Socialists and Spirit supported the controversial legislation. The green party Groen! was not represented in the federal parliament.

But the registration figures have disappointed. Leuven and Ghent have performed best with 10 percent of eligible foreign voters registering. Antwerp came in second with 6 percent.

Municipalities such as Mechelen,Oostende and Sint-Niklaas recorded zero percent, while in Genk, the 3 percent figure was also disappointing.

[Copyright Expatica News 2006]

Subject: Belgian news