Yorick Jansens

Reform package for local government elections in Flanders given the green light

The Flemish Government has approved measures that will reform the rules under which local government elections take place in our region. The rules will apply the next time Flemings go to the polls to elect their representatives on municipal, city and provincial councils in October 2024. As well as scrapping the rule that obliges everyone that is on the electoral register to turn up at the polling station, the influence of the so-called “list vote" will also be scrapped.

This means that in future the candidate that had the highest number of personal votes will be elected regardless of their position on the electoral list. For example, under the current system if a party or list had enough votes to entitle it to one seat the list vote would ensure that the first candidate on the list was elected regardless of the preference votes he or she had gained. In future the seat will go to the candidate with the most preference votes regardless of her or his position on the list. 

The Flemish Government's decision to go ahead with the reforms comes after they were given the thumbs up by the Council of State. Voters will also have more say in who becomes Mayor of their city or municipality, as after the next local elections it will be the candidate that gained the most votes on the party list of the largest coalition party that will become Mayor.

Speaking about the reforms the Flemish Interior Affairs Minister Bart Somers (liberal) said that "Each party will have to defend democracy as such and explain why voting is important. Voters will go and vote not because it is mandatory, but because they want to”.

The abolition of the list vote is seen by the Interior Affairs Minister as offering voters more say on who gets elected. “By abolishing the list vote, we are giving more weight to the choice made by voters and shifting power from the parties to citizens”.

The changes to how who will become Mayor is decided are seen by Mr Somers are offering “Less partocracy and more democracy”.

 

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