At least 1.25 million ballots were not counted in the Belgian federal election at the weekend, following a choice by several voters in the country to stay home on election day or to cast blank or invalid ballots.
In comparison to the previous election, general abstention numbers were on the decline, as figures published by the Federal Bureau of the Interior on Monday showed that 9.99% (7.218 million) out of the approximately 8.167 million Belgian registered to vote stayed at home, down from 10.32 % in 2014.
Almost 450,000 Belgians cast ballots that were either blank or invalid, making up for 6.07 % of voters, up from 5.77 % in the past federal election, according to HLN.
Belgians who over are 18 are automatically added to electoral rolls and are subject to compulsory voting. Voters can render a ballot invalid by voting for more than one party in a paper ballot, but can only render their vote blank when voting electronically.
In comparison to other areas, the number of people who chose to skip election day was among the highest in Wallonia, where the overall abstention rate was of 8.36 %, up from 7.41 % in 2014. In the city of Charleroi, only 82.4 % of registered voters cast a ballot — 11.4% of which were invalid.
In the Brussels Capital Region, turnout reached 83.5 %, marking a slight increase in the abstention rate, which was 6.65% this year against 5.35 in the last election.
Some voters in Flemish cities also chose to skip the lines at the polls, as the numbers show an abstention rate of 12 % in Antwerp and of 6 % in Ghent. Overall, the abstention rate in Flanders was of 4.95%.
The German-speaking Community registered the highest drop in abstention numbers, with only 7.78% of voters skipping the polls, down from 11.13% in 2014.