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'Let foreigners vote in Brussels regional elections'

20:39 07/02/2018

If you could vote in Brussels regional elections, would you? That’s what expats will be asking themselves if the citizens’ initiative One Brusseleir One Vote (#1bru1vote) is successful.

A group of 120 Brussels residents have signed an open letter, published today in Le Soir and De Morgen, announcing the campaign and the reasons behind it. The group has also launched a website and online petition.

#1Bru1Vote is asking that non-Belgians living in Brussels be allowed to vote in the election of representatives of the Brussels-Capital Region. This would give foreigners the right to elect members of the Brussels parliament. The next regional election is May 2019.

Although all Brussels residents – citizen or not – can vote in municipal elections, voting in regional elections is limited to those with Belgian nationality. “One in three adult residents in the Brussels-Capital Region – 310,000 adults – are denied the right to vote and are prevented from taking an active political role because they are non-Belgian,” says the campaign.

35% of Brussels is foreign

There are some 220,000 EU residents and 90,000 non-EU residents in Brussels, the campaign states, who are treated like “second-class citizens since they are excluded from the democratic process. And yet they are Brussels residents, like everyone else – who live, love, work, study, pay taxes and contribute in so many ways to making Brussels-Capital a better home for everyone.”

The petition – which is addressed to prime minister Charles Michel, Brussels minister-president Rudi Vervoort, chamber speaker Siegfried Bracke and Senate speaker Christine Defraigne – launched today and has already garnered 560 signatures.

EU law states that EU citizens living in other Members State have the right to vote and to stand in municipal and European elections. The option to open up regional or national elections to foreigners, however, is up to each member state.

Photo: Siska Gremmelprez/BELGA

Written by Lisa Bradshaw