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Ethnic voting in Brussels: Voting patterns among ethnic minorities in Brussels (Belgium) during the 2006 local elections


In recent years immigrant origin ethnic minorities have become a non-negligible electoral group in Belgian cities. Numerous studies have been undertaken in Belgium on the link between immigrant associational life and political participation and on the profiles of politicians of immigrant origin, but not yet on party choice and voting patterns among ethnic minority groups. In this article, we present the first analysis of voting patterns of ethnic minority groups in Belgium, making use of exit poll data on the local elections for three municipalities of the Brussels Capital Region. We investigate whether non-EU immigrant origin voters have a particular party preference which cannot be explained by other background variables such as educational level or socio-economic position. We also look into the issue of preferential voting for candidates of immigrant origin. According to the theory on political opportunity structures, one would expect a lesser importance of ethnic voting in the Belgian context (in which ethnic mobilisation is discursively discouraged). Ethnic voting, however, turns out to be quite important in the Brussels’ context.

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Figure 1


  1. There are currently no official ethnic statistics available in Belgium, only figures distinguishing nationals and non-nationals (see Jacobs and Rea, 2009).

  2. In French public discourse, Communautarism refers to the valorisation of cultural difference and the process of mobilisation around an ethnic identity. It is widely seen as something negative among French political elites.

  3. Voting is compulsory for Belgian nationals. Non-compliance leads to a fine. A large majority of ‘new’ Belgians thus participate in the elections.

  4. We will not discuss the presence of immigrant origin politicians on the federal level in this article, but let us just mention there have been several MPs of Moroccan or Turkish origin in both the federal as the European Parliament since 1999.

  5. See

  6. Cramer's V for Schaerbeek: 0.800 (p<0.001), for Forest 0.831 (p<0.001) and for Molenbeek 0.869 (p<0.001).

  7. Cramer's V: 0.331 (p<0.001).


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We thank the Faculté des Sciences sociales, politiques et économiques/Solvay Business School of the Université Libre de Bruxelles for financial assistance in organizing the exit polls. We also thank the two anonymous reviewers of Acta Politica for their comments and suggestions which have helped improve this contribution.

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Correspondence to Celine Teney.



See Tables A, B and C.

Table a Comparison of exit poll results and real election results for Forest (valid votes)
Table b Comparison of exit poll results and real election results for Molenbeek (valid votes)
Table c Comparison of exit poll results and real election results for Schaerbeek (valid votes)

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Teney, C., Jacobs, D., Rea, A. et al. Ethnic voting in Brussels: Voting patterns among ethnic minorities in Brussels (Belgium) during the 2006 local elections. Acta Polit 45, 273–297 (2010).

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  • electoral participation
  • ethnic minorities
  • Brussels
  • Belgium