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For or against compulsory voting in Britain and Belgium

By Jacqui Briggs and Karen Chellis


In the UK and in Belgium there is a debate regarding compulsory voting. Belgium has had compulsory voting in place since 1893 but recently some commentators would wish to change this situation. In part, these voices are motivated by the fear of the rise of the right. In Britain, on the contrary, there are those who would wish to see the introduction of compulsory voting – their main argument being the low turnout in recent elections. Starting from the literature on compulsory voting, this article analyses the key arguments that are present in contemporary debates surrounding compulsory voting in both countries. The article deals with the effects regarding the political strength of parties, the overall turnout and the turnout of specific socio-demographic groups in society. We also question prominent politicians in Belgium and the United Kingdom concerning their views on the importance of the major arguments in contemporary politics for and against compulsory voting; namely, democratic values such as freedom, citizenship and equality, voicing the will of the people, legitimacy of representative institutions, education and information, and the financial aspects. By doing so, the article assesses the key arguments in the debate regarding maintaining or changing the status quo concerning compulsory voting in Britain and Belgium. Our findings indicate that matters of legitimacy of the democratic institutions and voting as a civic duty would be the main features of eventual debates concerning introducing or abolishing compulsory voting

Topics: L243 Politics of a specific country/region, L410 UK Social Policy, L420 International Social Policy, L200 Politics, L400 Social Policy
Publisher: University of Plymouth Press
Year: 2010
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