12 December 2003
BRUSSELS – The Belgian Senate agreed Thursday to accord regional-level voting rights to non-European immigrants.
Francophone parties, bar the far-right National Front, and the Flemish Socialists voted in favour of the bill, which was passed with a majority of 41 to 29.
Only two members of the Flemish Liberal party (VLD) voted in favour of voting rights. The VLD, Flemish Christian Democrats and far-right Vlaams Blok, all voted against the bill.
“Nobody can deny that two thirds of the population are against this. People are going to feel frustrated because this law was imposed on the Flemish people by francophone parties with the help of Flemish socialists,” VLD MP Hugo Coveliers told La Libre Belgique.
For the Flemish Liberal Democrats (CD&V), although largely in favour of the participation of immigrants in Belgian political life, believes prospective voters should first apply for Belgian nationality.
Francophone Socialists (PS) however upheld the law as a fundamental step in terms of tolerance and democracy.
Under the bill, non-European immigrants in Belgium should be able to register in communal elections if they have lived in the country for five consecutive years.
A written request would have to be lodged at voters’ respective communes, where they would have to make a pledge to respect the Constitution, abide by Belgian laws and uphold human rights.
[Copyright Expatica News 2003]
Subject: Belgian news