Local Elections 2018: Inform First, Vote Next
In the past few weeks, we've seen and heard a lot more of Belgian politicians than we do all year. From the posters on windows and front lawns to the debates in every possible media outlet, they're everywhere. It's easy to lose track of what people are saying and promising in their campaigns. If you want to make an informed decision, there are some things you need to know before you vote. Luckily we've gathered everything for you right here! Just 5 steps until you're ready to vote on the 14th of October.
Written by Nadia Hanssens
Step 1: Know Your Government
Belgium is a democratic country. This means the citizens choose people from parties on a political spectrum, to represent them in government. That way, different views from "left" to "right" are represented. The political spectrum is quite wide in Belgium, so that means we have a lot of options and a lot of opinions to side with. All of these people representing us need to be elected every so often, to make sure that new and different voices can also be heard.
Belgian citizens have a mandatory vote, so you're actually obliged by law to vote. Some people don't see the point anymore, even though you could be fined for it. But that's up to you! We're only here to help you see things clearly in this crazy campaigning chaos.
Step 2: What These Elections Are For
The October 2018 elections are meant to choose the next city councils and provincial councils. If you live in Antwerp city, you'll also have to vote for the district council. That means we'll be essentially voting for the next mayor and councillors, the ones that will be running your city, districts, and provinces.
Some cities are larger than others, but the stakes are high everywhere. Local elections may have a direct impact on your daily life. So you might want to check out what the hot topics are in your city.
Step 3: Know Who You're Voting For
Different parties represent different ideologies: socialist, liberal, conservative, nationalist, marxist, ecological... All of these are views on society and how to achieve the best for the people in it. There are parties that combine parts of different ideologies. Together, they make up the political rainbow that represent (almost?) everyone.
Now, were not going to list each and everyone here. But there are a LOT of lists already made up for you. Sihame, a law student, made a blog guiding you through these parties. You can also find out who's running for mayor right here. When you know what their views are, what promises they make, you can move on to the next step.
Step 4: Match Your Views
So now you know who's out there trying to get your vote and what they represent. Time to check with your own views and see where you match. Do you think environmental issues are a huge priority? Or maybe you're more interested in preserving culture? Or strengthening our economy? Mobility and public transport could be a hot topic for you?
There are so many topics in society you can relate to. But we understand it can be puzzling sometimes. That's why you can take a test to see which party you relate to the most. Go to Stemcheck or Mijn Stem Telt (translation: my vote counts) to try it out! Debattle.be also shows you everything about voting in a no nonsense way.
You can also hear other people, citizens and politicians debating on all of these topics. There are several debate events across the country. There's one in the city of Leuven next week. Some of these are televised or streamed live on Facebook. Make sure to check those out and also convince your friends to make an informed decision.
Step 5: How to Vote
If you're a Belgian citizen, meaning your nationality is Belgian, your vote is mandatory. If you're not a Belgian national, but you've been living in Belgium for five years, you have a right to vote. You can apply with your local government to do so. Unfortunately, you had to apply before august 2018 for coming elections. But don't worry, you can file for voting on next elections here.
If you can't make it, you can still vote! Find someone close to you that can hand in your vote at your local bureau. If you're not able to make it to the bureau, you have to hand in a form and evidence of your absence to your local city hall.
When D-day arrives, you go to your local voting bureau with the letter you got at home. They're open from 8:00h until 15:00h in case of a digital voting system, and 8:00 'til 13:00h when it's voting on paper.
Then, when you're in the booth, you'll find lists of all parties. These lists will also have names. You're not obliged to choose any of them. You decide yourself if you would like to vote for a person, the party itself, or vote blank (blanco), which means you voted for no-one. In that case, you don't have to choose anything, and your vote will not be considered in any counts.
These elections will have an impact on the city, town or village you live in. So we hope you will inform yourself, before you vote and convince your friends to do the same!