Elections are mandatory in Belgium even for expats in some cases (almost all except national electrions). I have heard that you risk a crime record if you don't vote.

Is this factual and next to a crime record, what do you risk if you don't vote. Is it prison time, or simply a ticket? Apparently the last decades failing to vote wasn't prosecuted.


You only are obliged to vote IF you register and are listed on the polls.

EU expats must register to vote for EU elections

If you qualify (See conditions on that page) then you can register, and if you register, then you're compelled to vote.

If that's the case, then you will be required to vote in all of Belgium’s local elections too.

Compulsory voting in Belgian elections

The legal proceedings and the penalties for neglecting the compulsory vote are regulated in the articles 209 and 210 of the Belgian Electoral Code.

A first illegitimate abstinence is punished with a reprimand or a fine of 5 to 10 Belgian franks (to be increased by 1990 additional tax, that is to be multiplied by 200), meaning 1000 to 2000 Belgian franks.

Repetition of this offence will lead to a fine of 10 to 25 Belgian franks (= 2000 to 5000 Belgian franks).

A replacement imprisonment is not pronounced.

If the illegitimate abstinence occurs at least four times in 15 year, the elector is dropped from the list of voters for 10 years, and during that period, he cannot get an appointment, a promotion or a decoration of a public authority.

However, neglecting the compulsory vote is only punishable if it is done illegitimately. The justice of peace can freely judge whether the neglect is illegitimate or not.

Within eight days after the announcement of the elected persons, the public prosecutor draws up the list of the voters who have not participated in the vote, and whose excuse is not accepted. Finally, the Prosecution Counsel decides which offences will be prosecuted.

The voters who have not performed their duty to vote, appear, served with a summons, before the magistrates’ court, that judges without a possibility of further appeal.

Belgian voters who repeatedly fail to vote in elections may be subject to disenfranchisement (ie not allowed to vote).

  • 1
    The Belgian franc appears to have been replaced by the euro at a fixed exchange rate of 40.3399 francs per euro. So the fine for a first offense seems to be 25 to 50 euros. Nov 3 '14 at 2:37
  • @NateEldredge heh, totally didn't notice that the first time, good point, they've had Euros for a while now.
    – Mark Mayo
    Nov 3 '14 at 3:32

While voting is, as you said, mandatory, it is not actively being prosecuted. You will normally not suffer any consequences if you do not vote. There is no prosecution; the courts have other priorities. You will certainly not get a crime record. If it does go to court, it is dealt with by the Justice of the Peace, which deals with trivial matters (neighbours who have arguments, etc., and not showing up to vote).

The only exception that I've heard of is for government employees who repeatedly don't vote (4 times in a 15-year-period), the cannot get a promotion, tenure, or distinction. Funnily enough, you will also be banned from voting for a 10-year-period, which is, if you haven't voted before, probably not really a punishment at all.

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