According to official figures supplied by the Home Office, 18.48% of European expats registered to vote in October's provincial and municipal elections, Flandernews.be reported. For expats hailing from countries outside the EU, the figure is 14.02% or 1 in 6.
Foreigners living in Belgium have the right to vote in local elections if they have reached the age of 18. But they are required to register in their municipality before 31 July.
Since 2000, this is possible for EU citizens and since 2006 also for foreigners from outside the European Union provided that they have been living in Belgium for 5 consecutive years.
In all, 7,966,698 people are registered to vote in Belgium on 14 October. Among them are 120,826 EU citizens and 20,571 people from outside the EU. In absolute figures, there is a slight increase from 2006, when the corresponding figures were 110,973 and 17,065 respectively.
However, despite a rise in the number of expats living in Belgium, there is a statistical drop in the number registered. In 2006, EU expats represented 20.94% of eligible voters and non-EU citizens 15.71%.
The figures don't reveal too much enthusiasm among expats to choose a new mayor and determine local policies in their municipality. However, the Home Office points to the fact that the number of European expats is relatively high compared to other EU countries and to the EU average of 10%.
Interior Minister Joëlle Milquet (Humanist Democratic Centre) was quoted as saying that an awareness campaign that was started in the days before the deadline to register has had a positive effect.
The campaign is hardly visible in the streets. Most of the communication appears to be made by leaflets distributed in mailboxes.
Since the last Belgian local elections in 2006, the voting is organised by regions rather than at the federal level.
Brussels has 19 municipalities, Flanders has five provinces and 308 municipalities, and Wallonia has five provinces and 262 municipalities.