EU citizens must register by Sunday to vote in European elections in Belgium

Citizens from other EU member states who wish to vote in Belgium instead of their home country for the upcoming European elections must register by Sunday 31 March.

While Belgians are automatically registered and required to vote, nationals of the other 26 EU member states must first register to be able to vote from Belgium. Once registered, they are obliged to attend the polling station on 9 June. The deadline for online registration is midnight on Sunday.

Low international voter turnout

International voter turnout remains low. Figures from the Brussels-Capital region indicate that only 8.4 per cent of citizens of other EU countries who live in Brussels registered to vote in the 2019 European elections. This is only a slight increase in turnout compared to the 2014 elections.

Bryn Watkins, communications and project manager at the Office of the Brussels Commissioner for Europe and International Organisations, told news platform Bruzz that are several reasons for the low numbers of expats registering to vote.

"The fact that in Belgium people are obliged to go to the polling station also puts people off registering"

“Some people aren't well-informed, others don’t understand the Belgian party system, while others have difficulty with the registration procedure," he said. "The fact that in Belgium people are obliged to go to the polling station also puts people off registering."

Registering to vote does not appear to be the only deterrent; even when casting a ballot from their home countries, only 20 per cent of EU citizens voted in the last European elections.

Citizens of other EU countries can already register to vote in the Belgian municipal elections, held on 13 October and must do so before 31 July. Non-EU citizens who have lived continuously in Belgium for at least five years can also register to vote in the municipal elections.

In April, Belga will publish a series of articles looking at the Belgian and European political systems through the lens of expats.


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