1.3 million corresponds to 16.7% of the total number of people obliged to attend a polling station in October. Belgium is one of the rare countries where voting is obligatory. The requirement affects some 1.1 million people of foreign descent who have acquired Belgian nationality plus people who register. All Belgians are obliged to vote in elections in this country.
Research conducted by sociologist Jan Hertogen indicates that a further 200,000 foreigners both from inside and outside the European Union will register to take part in the poll. By registering the foreigners will be treated in the same way as Belgians and will be obliged to vote too. Otherwise they risk a conviction and a fine.
The number of people of foreign extraction expected to take part in the local elections is double the number that took part in the second but last poll in 2000. By 2018 one in five voters is expected to belong to the ethnic minorities.
Today there are still major regional variations: in West Flanders only 3.8% of voters hail from the ethnic minorities, while in the Brussels Region the figure rises to 62.3%.