Expats speak up during Local Elections: The Day After


A crowd of both foreigners and Belgians gathered in the EU district on Monday evening to talk about how local elections work and what effect the results will have in the coming years

Flanders in Dialogue

Personal trust in politicians is a big part of local elections, and Flanders appoints its mayors very differently than in Wallonia. Those were two of the messages that came out of Local Elections: The Day After, a discussion held on Monday evening as part of the Flanders in Dialogue series of events in English.

Flemish political science professor Tom Verthé talked to the crowd of about 75 people gathered at the offices of Vleva, Flanders liaison to the EU. He addressed issues specific to local elections in Belgium, which took place on Sunday.

Verthé went over topics like the merger of towns, which can have an effect on election results, how coalitions are formed and gender quotas for candidates. He then sat down with Flanders Today editor-in-chief Lisa Bradshaw to discuss other matters that are important – or confusing – to expats, such as how some cities are able to announce who their next mayor will be on election day itself, while others take days or weeks of negotiations.

The pair also talked about what might have led to the surge in votes for the Groen and Vlaams Belang parties, whether small, citizen-run parties have any chance at getting seats and how to get out the vote among expats.

The discussion was followed by a Q&A session with the crowd, who were very enthusiastic in their responses to the evening. Questions revolved around Belgium’s mandatory voting policy, the legal voting age and how the Flemish region or municipalities could do more to inform foreigners of their right to vote in local elections.

Flanders in Dialogue is a series of free events in English that introduces expats to various topics. It is sponsored by the Flemish Department of Foreign Affairs, Vleva, De Warande and De Rand. The next edition is in April.

Photo: Political scientist Tom Verthé and editor Lisa Bradshaw rap about the local elections during Flanders in Dialogue
©Courtesy Vleva