Expats hardly register to vote in local elections: "It is a bit embarrassing"

The deadline is only on 31 July, but still: at present only 9 percent of the Brussels expats has registered to vote in the upcoming local elections, De Morgen reports. Six years ago, at the previous elections, this number eventually reached 13.7 percent. Apparently, local politicians don't find the way to European citizens living in Brussels. And this is despite the expats making up a potential 25 percent of their electorate, De Morgen calculated.

The total number of voters in the city of Brussels is estimated at 900,000. At the same time, there are many expats living and working in Brussels: they represent a total number of 220,000 potential voters, or almost 25 percent of the Brussels electorate. A potential goldmine for local politicians, one would think.

But expats need to register first. They often fail to do so, thinking this involves a lot of red tape. "Most of them are not informed, or not well informed", Thomas Huddleston of the NGO Migration Policy Group is quoted by De Morgen. "But actually the procedure is quite simple. If you inform people correctly, you see that they soon become enthusiastic."

Local politicians hardly find the way to expat voters, it can be heard. Also, local campaigns only reach cruising speed after the registration deadline (which is 2.5 months before the actual elections this year, red.) For many European expats, it is more efficient to exert pressure through European institutions than to do so by voting, experts think.

In the meantime, it looks as if hardly more voters will register than 6 years ago, unless the present trend is reversed. Brussels has a poor score compared to other capital cities. "Actually, it is a bit embarrassing for all the 'eurocrats' working for big political institutions", says Dirk Jacobs of the Francophone Brussels University ULB.

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