Belgium launches campaign to boost turnout, despite compulsory voting

Belgian Interior minister Annelies Verlinden has launched a campaign to increase participation in the regional, federal and European elections, taking place on 9 June. The campaign focuses on 16- and 17-year-olds, who will be voting for the first time.

In these elections, 800,000 young people will vote for the first time. Among them are 245,000 16 and 17-year-olds, as this is the first time minors will be able to vote in the European elections. As part of the campaign, they will receive a letter explaining what the elections are about and why their vote matters.

As well as young voters, the campaign is aimed at anyone who does not plan to vote in June. Voting is compulsory in Belgium, and anyone who does not vote risks a fine of up to 80 euros. In practice, fines are rarely imposed, and in 2019 more than 10 per cent of Belgians cast a blank or invalid ballot, or didn't show up at all.

"The more people participate, the more representative it is"

Verlinden points out how important it is for democracy that as many people as possible vote. "The more people participate, the more representative it is. It is important that everyone can be heard in parliaments and that their voices can be heard. After the last elections, it turned out that certain groups did not feel heard."

Young and elderly

Youth and elderly councils are also involved in the campaign. Manon Quinet of the Flemish Youth Council says it is especially important for young people to vote because "the decisions we take today will have a big impact on the rest of our lives, even in 10 or 20 years".

Jul Geeroms of the Flemish Council for the Elderly, on the other hand, notes that research shows that older people do not lack motivation. "It's because of the past. I was born just after the Second World War and I have heard the stories of what it means to live not in a democracy but in a dictatorship."


A polling station in Limal, Belgium, during the 2019 elections © BELGA PHOTO ERIC LALMAND

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