In Belgium all those registered to vote, including EU nationals that have are registered to vote here, are obliged by law to turn up at the polling station. Failure to do so could result in a fine.
Representatives are being elected for the European Parliament, the Chamber of Representatives, the Flemish Parliament, the Walloon Parliament, the Brussels-Capital Regional Parliament and the Parliament of the German-Speaking Community.
Computer or pencil and ballot paper?
Voters in 157 of the 300 Flemish municipalities are voting in polling stations equipped with voting computers. In the other 143 municipalities voters will cast their votes using a pencil and a ballot paper.
Voting computers are also being used in the whole of the Brussels-Capital Region. All of Wallonia with the exception of the 9 German-speaking municipalities in Liège Province vote using pencil and ballot paper.
“The mother of all elections”
As all the elections coincide ,as was also the case in 2014, their result could produce big changes in Belgian politics. As in 2014 they have been dubbed the “Mother of all elections”.
The Federal Government made up of Francophone and Flemish liberals, Flemish Christian democrats and until the end of last year the Flemish nationalists is keen to defend its record on job creation and the the tax shift that saw take home pay rise. However, there is also plenty of criticism of the Federal Government’s record.
The budget deficit still hasn’t been bridged, the Justice Department is said to be under-funded and there is criticism of the decision to raise the retirement age to 67. The Flemish socialists and greens want to turn the tide, while the Flemish nationalist warn voters to be beware of a “red/green tax tsunami” that threatens to spill over into the whole country from Wallonia. In Wallonia the socialist, the greens and the far-left PTB are all doing well in the polls, while in Flanders the far-right Vlaams Belang appears to have arisen from the ashes of its crushing defeat in the 2014 elections.
Who will be Flanders’ new PM?
The question on the lips of those following the campaign for the elections to the Flemish Parliament is who will be the next Prime Minister of Flanders. The two main candidates to take over from Geert Bourgeois are the Flemish nationalist party chairman Bart De Wever and the current Flemish Education Minister Hilde Crevits (Christian democrat).
Unlike the Federal Government, the Flemish Government succeeded in balancing the budget, passed education reforms and gave more that 330 million euro in extra funding to help people living with disability.
Nevertheless, the next Flemish Government will still have its work cut out. There are calls for increased funding for and improvements to education. There are still waiting lists for care homes and the traffic jams are as bad as ever.
All change in Brussels?
Whatever happens at least half of the regional MPs elected to the Brussels Regional Parliament on Sunday will be new to job. The legislature that has come to an end was marked by scandals such as Samusocial, Logement Molenbeekois and the state of the capital’s road tunnels.
The regional government also spent a lot of time working out what to do with the additional competences it had been given as a result of the 6th round of state reforms. The Francophone greens are scoring well in the polls as are the Flemish nationalists. Could we be in for a change of coalition?
In addition to our representatives in the regional and federal parliaments we will also be electing 21 men and women (12 Dutch-speakers, 8 Francophones and 1 German-speaker) to represent us in the European Parliament.
The Flemish MEPs that are standing for re-election are Guy Verhofstadt, Hilde Vautmans and Lieve Wierinck (liberal), Kathleen Van Brempt (socialist), Bart Staes (green), Tom Vandenkendelaere and Ivo Belet (Christian democrat), Gerolf Annemans (far-right Vlaams Belang) and Mark Demesmaeker and Ralph Paquet (Flemish nationalist).
The current Flemish Prime Minister Geert Bourgeois (nationalist) and the Federal Deputy Prime Minister Kris Peeters (Christian democrat) are standing for election to the European Parliament for the first time.