Vote with 16: young people claim their right to political participation

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It is not the first time that the debate has been opened in Parliament. Youth associations see "unfair" that they are considered "not mature or not developed to be able to vote, but they can have all the obligations as a citizen"

The government coalition agreement signed by the PSOE and United We Can included the opening of a d
ebate on the possibility of lowering the voting age to 16a right claimed by associations and entities on the occasion of International Youth Day.

The National Youth Institute (INJUVE), dependent on Social Rights, and the Spanish Youth Council, a platform of youth entities, have been calling for the reform for years because, they now explain to Efe, it is at 16 when young people acquire a large part of their responsibilities as citizens.

An impractical proposal in the short term

Last May, the Minister of Social Rights and the 2030 Agenda, Ione Belarra, encouraged the parliamentary groups in a plenary session of Congress to debate and approve the lowering of the voting age to 16 in the remainder of the legislature.

If at that age you can work, get married and pay taxes, "you can also decide on who administers them," argued the minister.

This is not the first time that this debate has been opened in Parliament. In October 2020, the Senate rejected a reform of the electoral law proposed by ERC to lower the voting age, which was opposed by the PSOE, PP and Ciudadanos. He only got 26 votes in favor.

It is practically impossible for the measure to see the light of day this legislature. The Director of the National Youth Institute (Injuve), María Teresa Pérez, assumes, in an interview with Efe, that the approval of this proposal will take more time than they would like.

Are 16 and 17 year olds ready to vote?

Youth associations have it clear. The political head of communication of the Spanish Youth Council, Juan Enrique Gallo, sees
“unfair” that young people are considered “not mature or not developed to be able to vote, but if they can have all the obligations as a citizen«.

Like Belarra, he argues that if they can work, marry, drive, authorize an operation, have criminal responsibility and even use weapons to hunt or participate in sports competitions, they should also be able to "decide how they want their country to advance."

"If they can work, marry, drive, use weapons, hunt, authorize an operation and have criminal responsibility... they should be able to vote"

In statements to Efe, Gallo believes that the disaffection with politics on the part of the youth is a solely "partisan" disaffection.
It is a "critical generation" involved in multiple causes, from feminism to the fight against climate change, but "they do not feel represented by the current political parties."

The director of the Youth Institute agrees with him,
asks "to leave behind the vision that infantilizes young people and looks at them with superiority".

The Youth Strategy 2022-2030, designed by the Ministry of Social Rights and approved in May by the Council of Ministers, included the long-awaited lowering of the voting age to 16.

"It was in an open process for a year in which 40 youth organizations and all the ministries were working together on several drafts and many proposals from the young people themselves were accepted," explains Pérez.

The director of Injuve is satisfied with "having opened the debate" and, although she does not know when it could be implemented, she assures that the "ideal" would be "as soon as possible".

Background in Europe

Spain is not the only country in which this debate is on the agenda and European institutions have been encouraging member countries to apply this change for years.

Already in October 2015, the Council of Europe proposed in a resolution that the minimum age for voting in local and regional elections be reduced to 16 years, a decision that has already been adopted by several German federal states.

Currently
only two countries of the European Union allow voting in national elections from the age of 16:
Austria, which made it effective in 2007, and
malt in 2018.

Both countries also authorize this age group to participate in the European elections, a step that Belgium has also taken in May this year.

Greece, for its part, set the minimum age at 17. to vote in the national elections in 2016.

Hungary allows 16 and 17-year-olds to vote if they are marrieda peculiarity that the Council of Europe has already branded as discriminatory.

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