Belgium | In the heart of Europe...

Article published on April 9, 2009
Article published on April 9, 2009
Around 90 % voter turnout in Belgium in all elections of the European Parliament since 1979 - more than in any other European country. But the extraordniary result is not owed to the more democratic or more European attitude of the Belgians, but to the obligation of Belgian voters registered on the electoral roll. Is that democratic?
It is, says Philippe Lamberts, belgian candidate for Ecolo, member of the European Green Party, and their co-spokesperson: “I can’t understand the problem with obligatory voting. If you register, then this indicates you want to vote. Registry is free. The obligatory vote is more democratic than the non-compulsory vote. It’s not too much to ask a citizen to exercise their democratic responsibility once in a while. I believe that living in a society entails rights as well as obligations, or responsibilities”. Problematic is rather that the decision to commit citizen to vote rests on the national state. There is no common election policy in the European Union, aside from the democratic process to elect the European Parliament itself. The mode to do so is not stipulated and in that way it is causing concern when several municipalities deny to organise an election. Such a refusal was made by eight belgian municipalities. It is democratically not admissible that the "one person, one vote"-principle is undermined by excluding altogether 160.000 potential voters from exercising their right. Now an infringement procedure by the European Commission impends.The problem is kind of typically Belgian, because of being Europe´s polyglot. The dutch speaking north will elect 13 upcoming members, the french speaking south eight and the german speaking minority in the east one member. Flemish politicians say the current Belgian election system is discriminatory, because it assures French-speaking voters electoral advantages over their Flemish compatriots. To sum up: Belgium itself is like Europe: United in diversity...

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