Elections 2024: The many expats in Belgium have little influence on politics or policy
With EU institutions, the NATO headquarters and many multinational companies in Brussels, Antwerp and elsewhere, Belgium is home to many expats. But their political influence tends to be limited. This is in contrast to the "migrant population", which is more active in politics.
Belgians living in another country can vote in the federal and the European elections (not for regional or local) if they register beforehand. For the 2019 elections, some 180,000 Belgian expats did so, far more than in previous elections. This is mainly due to a simplification of the rules, at the instigation of the francophone liberal party MR, which believes it has a disproportionately large number of voters among expats.
Then there are foreign nationals in Belgium: diplomats, eurocrats, employees of multinationals. An EU expat can vote under conditions at municipal and European level, while an expat from a third country can only vote for the municipality.
These conditions limit the influence the expat community can have. Those living in the municipalities around Schuman tend to work in politics and thus know how to have their voices heard. This is particularly true when it comes to day-to-day concerns such as mobility, crime, housing and health.
Then there is the "migrant community". In the 1950s and 60s, Belgium "imported" a lot of workers from Italy, Turkey, Morocco and Algeria. Little effort was made to help them integrate. Because they have Belgian nationality, they can fully participate in all elections, but because of the lack of structured integration, many identify foremost with their own community. Candidates of Turkish descent will get most of their votes from the Turkish community, for example
In constituencies where a major part of the electorate is from migrant descent, this has a clear influence.
© BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK