Reform Brussels? Start from your commune and work your way up!

A lot could change in Brussels with this October’s communal elections and next May’s regional elections. The 310,000 non-Belgians in Brussels could have a major effect…on both!

Grassroots activism is growing. In recent years, you’ll find non-Belgians active in many neighbourhood committees and local movements on airplane noise pollution, clean air, cyclists, mobility reform and welcoming migrants.

But, so far, most non-Belgians have not voted in Belgium before because they did not get the right electoral information in time.

If non-Belgians in Brussels send in their 1-page voter form by 31 July, they could amount to over 1/3 of all voters in the Brussels-Region and nearly half in communes like Etterbeek, Ixelles and Saint-Gilles! In the past month, non-Belgians have started to send in their forms, debate Brussels politics with local groups and volunteer with non-partisan campaigns like MPG’s EU-funded VoteBrussels, Objectif and Ik Stem Ook.

Some communes have also started to do their part. Saint Gilles was the first to write directly to all potential voters, while Etterbeek and Ixelles invited VoteBrussels to train their Consultative Councils on European Affairs (join us in Ixelles on 20 March!). Basic information is now also available in French and Dutch from the Brussels Region and in English from the Brussels Commissioner for Europe.

Looking ahead to the 2019 regional elections, non-Belgian citizens do not have the right to vote…yet! The 1bru1Vote petition for regional voting rights has run a blitz campaign and already received 3000 signatures, including prominent Brusseleirs and politicians from all mainstream parties. One of the big surprises in the communal election campaign is that Brussels reform is becoming a major issue and non-Belgians are alongside Belgian opinion-makers in leading this call.

1bru1vote team

Now 1bru1Vote local groups are being formed to get more support from local residents and city councils. These local citizens’ initiatives and city council motions are effective ways for residents, including non-Belgians, to influence debate on regional and federal policies. In Brussels, communal authorities can often block or set the agenda of regional authorities, given their overlapping competences and mandates in a region of only 19 communes. Your commune is supposed to defend your interests with regional and federal authorities. So even if non-Belgians have not yet won the vote for 2019, they can significantly influence the debate by signing up to vote and demanding that their local candidates stand up for reform!