1 in 5 expats from the EU going to the local polls in October

According to official figures supplied by the Home Office, 18.48 percent of European expats living in Belgium registered to vote in October's local elections. For expats hailing from countries outside the EU, the figure is 14.02 percent or 1 in 6.

Foreigners living in Belgium have the right to vote in October's local elections if they have reached the age of 18 but they had to register in their municipality before 31 July. Since 2000, this is possible for EU citizens and since 2006 also for foreigners from outside the European Union provided that they have been living in Belgium for 5 consecutive years.

In all, 7,966,698 people will go the polls in Belgium on 14 October. Among them are 120,826 EU citizens and 20,571 people from outside the EU. In absolute figures, there is a slight increase, as in 2006 we had 110,973 and 17,065 respectively.

However, if you take into account the surge in the number of expats living in Belgium and look at the percentages, there is a slight drop. In 2006, there were some 2 percent more expats from the EU going to the polls (20.94 percent) and 1.5 percent more people from outside the EU (15.71 percent).

The figures don't reveal too much enthusiasm among expats to choose a new Burgomaster and determine local policies in their municipality. However, the Home Office points to the fact that the number of European expats is relatively high if you compare it to other EU countries and to the EU average of 10 percent.

Interior Minister Joëlle Milquet (Francophone Christian democrat) also said that an awareness campaign that was started in the final days before the deadline to registers had a positive effect.