Elections 2024: Belgians abroad vote in record numbers, but late ballot papers cause problems

On Wednesday, Belgians abroad were able to cast their votes at their embassy or consulate. A total of 255,000 Belgians have registered with the FPS Foreign Affairs to vote.

About half of the approximately half a million Belgians abroad have declared their intention to vote. According to the FPS Foreign Affairs, this number is increasing with each election: in the last election, only 178,000 people registered.

There are several ways for Belgians living abroad to vote. They can give a proxy to someone living in Belgium, but this involves a lot of administration and has to be done months in advance. Belgian citizens can also vote at the embassy or consulate of the country where they live, but this can mean long journeys and extra costs.

This is why the vast majority, 178,000 people in this election cycle, vote by absentee ballot. Under Belgian law, the FPS Foreign Affairs can only send the papers up to 24 days before the election. Ballots must arrive back in Belgium before the weekend of 9 June for their votes to count.

Late ballots

As a result of these rules, would-be voters in several countries have encountered problems. Because of problems at the Canadian postal service, not everyone in the Quebec region received their ballot papers on time, according to the FPS Foreign Affairs. Another unofficial source says that not everyone in Australia received their ballot papers on time.

"I'm not voting, simply because these letters arrive much too late," Tania Kessens, who lives in France, told VRT NWS on Wednesday. "I only received my letter on Monday, just like in the previous elections. It's really not possible to get this letter back to Belgium by post in time."

"I'm not voting, simply because these letters arrive much too late"

The FPS Foreign Affairs denies that the letters were sent too late. "It is true that the electoral law imposes regulations on us when these ballot papers are sent out," spokesperson Wouter Poels told VRT. "We find that regrettable, but Foreign Affairs sent all the letters on time."



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