Belgians overseas have trouble voting in European elections

Summary

Outgoing minister-president Geert Bourgeois has expressed disappointment over the situation that led to Flemings living overseas not receiving a ballot for the recent European elections

‘Not transparent’

Geert Bourgeois, outgoing minister-president of Flanders, has issued a request to the new federal government to make it easier and more transparent for Belgian citizens living outside of Europe to vote in European elections.

There is an apparent lack of communication and straightforward process for Belgians living outside the European Union to register to vote for the European elections, signalled by “many Flemings living abroad,” said Bourgeois, following the recent elections. The organisation Vlamingen in de Wereld, which represents Flemish people outside of Belgium, has also complained about the situation.

The procedure for registering to vote in the European elections is “not transparent,” said Bourgeois. “Aside from a lack of clear information from the consulates, it appears that it was very difficult to figure out how to vote in the European elections. The procedure is confusing and complicated. The complaints we have received suggest that tens of thousands of votes were lost to us because of it.”

Pull quote:
I have asked the federal minister for foreign affairs to take the necessary measures to safeguard the interests of our voters
Geert Bourgeois

More than a year before the elections, the federal department of foreign affairs sent out a notice to Belgian citizens overseas to register for the elections. This was apparently for the federal and regional elections only, but this was never mentioned on the form. A second registration is apparently required for the European elections.

There is also no mention of the European elections on the foreign affairs website that answers questions about overseas voting. The lack of information left many Flemings living outside the European Union without a way to vote.

“This is very regrettable, and I have asked federal minister for foreign affairs Didier Reynders to take the necessary measures to safeguard the interests of our voters.”

Photo: Eric Lalmand/BELGA