Although voters are obliged to turn up at the polling station they are not obliged to actually vote. Those that wish to can vote “blank”, giving their vote to no party or candidate that appears on the ballot paper. As well as a polling card sent to the voter’s home in the weeks prior to the elections, an identity card is also required when going to the polling station.
Polling stations in the 308 Flemish, 19 Brussels and the 262 Walloon municipalities opened at 8am. Those voting in the 163 Flemish municipalities that vote using voting computers have until 3pm to vote. Those voting using paper ballot papers have until 1pm. In the Brussels-Capital Region where everyone votes using a voting computer, the polling station are open until 4pm.
Municipal elections and provincial elections
The elections are in the first instance to elect new municipal councils for the next 6 years. The newly-elected councilors will in turn elect the new Mayor and Aldermen that will form the municipal cabinet. Mayors are not elected directly.
From January 2019 a number of Flemish municipalities are set to merge. From then the number of municipalities in our region will fall from 308 currently to 300.
As well as electing representatives for their municipal councils, voters outside Brussels will also be voting to elect representative on the 5 Flemish and 5 Walloon provincial councils. In Flanders some responsibilities were taken away from the provinces at the start of the year. Consequently the total number of member of the 5 provincial councils in Flanders has been cut by half, from 350 to 175.
Voters in the City of Antwerp are also voting for their representatives on nine district councils.