Este vorba despre o recomandare adresată statelor membre, adoptată de Adunarea Parlamentară a Consiliului Europei (APCE), de a analiza această problemă.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – The next item of business this afternoon is the debate on the Report titled “Expansion of democracy by lowering the voting age to 16”, Document 12546, presented by Mr Miloš Aligrudić on behalf of the Political Affairs Committee.
We have agreed to interrupt the list of speakers at about 7.20 pm to allow time for the reply and the Vote.
I call Mr Aligrudić, rapporteur. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between presentation of the report and reply to the debate.
Mr ALIGRUDIĆ (Serbia) – I have today the pleasant duty of presenting the draft resolution on the expansion of democracy by lowering the voting age to 16. There are at least four reasons for adopting the resolution. First, significant demographic changes in Europe could lead to the increasing marginalisation of young people in the political process, which could easily destabilise democracy at a time when social cohesion is more important than ever. Secondly, the increasingly low turn-out at elections throughout Europe shows that something must be done to involve more of society in the election process. Thirdly, young people are a part of the world’s population that is usually neglected as people often cannot see the difference between children and young people and forget that young people can sometimes be more rational than adults. Fourthly, the resolution is not merely about lowering the voting age, because that could not be our only goal. It is a resolution on expanding democracy and on inclusion.
The Political Affairs Committee discussed the issue at a meeting in Belgrade on 6 and 7 September 2010 and exchanged views with a representative of the European Youth Forum at a meeting in Paris on 14 and 15 December 2010. The Assembly has long been concerned with youth participation in politics and civic life. Its Recommendation 1019, from 1985, on the participation of young people in political and institutional life, the Assembly declared that it was “convinced, if democracy is to survive and develop, of the importance of the active and effective awareness, understanding, participation and commitment to young people in political and institutional life at local, national and European levels”.
In June 1996, the Assembly adopted Order 523 on the situation of young people in Europe and noted that: “Key areas for policy discussion at national level…(include) whether or how to lower the minimum age for voting”. In Recommendation 1315, from 1997, on the minimum age for voting, the Assembly called on member states rapidly to harmonise the age of 18 as the age at which people have the right to vote and stand for election in all countries and for all elections. The recommendation also called on member states to create the necessary preconditions for the participation of young people in civic life through education and the promotion of community involvement. Resolution 1630, from 2008, on refreshing the youth agenda of the Council of Europe, emphasised that encouraging the active participation of young people in civic and institutional life had been a key element of the youth policy of the Council of Europe.
In parliaments throughout Europe, the question of lowering the voting age to 16 is being increasingly discussed. It is even being adopted in certain Council of Europe countries. In 2007, Austria became the first member state to adopt a voting age of 16 for all municipal, state, national and European elections. Germany has also lowered the voting age to 16 in some Länder, such as for municipal elections in Lower Saxony. In Switzerland, the canton of Glarus lowered the voting to 16 for local and regional elections. It has also happened in some British Crown dependencies between 2006 and 2008.
In Hungary, in certain circumstances, young people are permitted to vote at the age of 16. For instance, those people who marry before reaching 18 enter into full adult legal rights and can therefore vote. In Slovenia, young people can vote at 16 if they are employed. In Norway, 16-year-olds have the right to vote in 20 selected municipalities in the 2011 local elections. Some European countries have considered lowering the age of voting, including Finland, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Malta and the United Kingdom, where extra-parliamentary and parliamentary debate has lasted for years, since 1992. Outside Europe, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador and Nicaragua have a voting age of 16, and Indonesia, East Timor, Sudan and the Seychelles have a voting age of 17. In Israel, 17-year-olds can vote in local elections. In the Philippines, 16-year-olds can vote in all elections if they are married.
As for international non-governmental organisations, the Brussels-based European Youth Forum, an independent youth-led platform representing 98 national youth councils and international youth organisations from across Europe is leading the way in calling for the voting age to be lowered to 16.
Now for the arguments. The first is the expansion of democracy. Since the onset of democratic revolutions in Europe, beginning with the French Revolution 1789, there has been a continuous movement towards a more inclusive democracy, with civic rights given to more and more citizens. An election that includes 16 and 17-year-olds is more representative than one that includes only those over 18. A threshold at 16 is consistent with the age at which compulsory school education is completed in most Council of Europe member states. Those aged 18 to 24 are the least likely to cast a vote at election time. Some research shows that the exclusion of 16 and 17-year-olds from elections is thought to fuel the disengagement of 18 to 24-year-olds, so lowering the voting age to 16 could motivate young people to participate more in democratic processes.
Research by the Institute for Social Research and Consulting and the International Sociological Association found that, in Austria, more than three quarters of first-time voters in the 2008 elections followed political issues more than once a week, and more than two thirds of the electorate who were between 16 and 18 years old stated that they were interested in the election campaign. Lowering the voting age would contribute to maintaining a demographic balance between youngsters and adults. The average of Europe’s voters is rising inexorably, year by year.
Many 16-year-olds are already active participants in society. In many states, they are allowed to leave school and find full-time work. Those who do that pay taxes and take on civic responsibilities, yet they cannot vote at elections. From a psychological point of view, the moral and cognitive development of young people is completed by the age of 14, so from that age, young people are capable of knowledge-based decision making. There is a lack of consistency across Europe when it comes to the age of adult responsibility, as can clearly be seen if we consider the widely different approaches taken across Europe to the minimum age for consuming alcohol, the age at which young people are allowed to marry, and the age of criminal responsibility. Sometimes it seems that everyone thinks that the young are capable of assuming duties, but should not be granted rights.
Recommendation 1315 from 1997 urged states to reduce the age at which people can stand for election. The main argument for preserving a higher threshold is that a greater degree of maturity is required to act as a political representative than is required to elect such a representative. The general perception among the national youth councils working for votes at 16 is that the age at which one can stand for election should be 16. When it comes to minimum candidacy age, there is a less clear picture internationally. In many countries, the minimum age is 16, but in some countries it is 19; that is the case in Austria, although it has lowered its voting age to 16. In other countries, the minimum candidacy age is 21, or even 23 in the case of France. In Italy, to be President of the Republic, one must be 50, and to be a senator, 40.
As I have said, this text is not on lowering the voting age, but on including young people in the streams of civic life and the political decision-making process. We have to make them feel worthy and valuable, so that they are motivated to participate. If they think they cannot have any influence on society, they will never play an active role. That is exactly what has happened to 18 to 24-year-olds.
The Assembly should therefore call on member states to: create the necessary preconditions for the participation of young people in civic life through education and the promotion of community involvement; investigate the possibility of lowering the voting age to 16 in all countries and for all kinds of elections; and examine the possibility of lowering the minimum age to stand for different kinds of election – election to local and regional bodies, parliaments, senates, or presidencies – whenever advisable.
These recommendations to member states have been made bearing in mind that the issue is in some respects controversial, and that many countries need to pass constitutional amendments in order to lower the voting age.
(Mr Kox, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Mignon.)
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Aligrudić, for your most interesting introduction to the report and draft resolution. You have three minutes left. We have six speakers in the debate – five speaking on behalf of the political groups and one other speaker – so I propose that you answer after the six speakers have spoken. First in the debate, I call Ms Kovács, who will speak on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.
Ms KOVÁCS (Serbia) – On behalf of the political group that I am representing, I congratulate wholeheartedly our dear colleague Mr Aligrudić on his excellent report on an issue that contributes to the strengthening of our core principles and democratic values, namely a more humane and all-embracing diversity, so that we have participation by the largest possible number of people in democratic processes.
The Group of the European People’s Party has tabled several motions referring to the situation of young people and the promotion of their role in society, as it deems those matters to be of crucial importance to the advancement of the family role in upholding our common beliefs.
Young people have the right, and should have the opportunity, to have a real say when decisions affecting them are made, whether at local, regional, national or international level. Participation means being involved in community life. I am convinced that we should support youth participation by ensuring that young people experience opportunities and face the consequent challenges.
As we have heard, the report states that the voting rate among young people is significantly lower than among the rest of the population. The new generation is less interested in politics, as there is a feeling among them that they cannot influence any political decisions in their country at all. To be honest, their opinion is indeed rarely taken into consideration; political parties address young people’s problems only occasionally.
What is lacking is a continuous structured dialogue, as only a small number of young people are consulted when policies in the youth field are discussed. Part of the solution might be a better structured dialogue between politicians and young people who are not represented by any organisation, and encouraging young people to become interested and active in politics.
Actively voting is of key importance in a democratic society, so we should motivate young people to go out and vote, thus involving them in decision making. As soon as our societies become more youth friendly, we will find that that is a driving force for the promotion of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. It is indeed nonsense that young girls or boys of 16 are liable for prosecution but cannot take part in political decision-making; they can be convicted of a crime, but do not have the right to vote. We must change that situation as soon as possible by lowering the voting age to 16. With that in mind, we have to provide a proper environment and prepare young people for their active participation in civic life by providing better education about democratic citizenship and facilitating their full integration into the structures of our society.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Kovács. I call Mr Mogens Jensen, on behalf of the Socialist Group.
Mr M. JENSEN (Denmark) – It is a particular pleasure to speak on behalf of the Socialist Group on the expansion of democracy by lowering the voting age to 16 as I was the initiator of the motion for a resolution that was presented in the Parliamentary Assembly in May 2009, which has now led to this report.
On behalf of our group, I thank Mr Aligrudić for a good and clear report on the important subject of our expansion of democracy in European countries.
First, it is important to stress that a voting age of 16 is not new in Europe, as shown in the report. Mr Aligrudić shows us that Austria, Germany, Hungary and Norway have taken steps to offer the possibility for young people to vote as 16-year-olds. Other European countries are also giving serious consideration to lowering the voting age. The Irish Parliament is doing so and the Finnish Government has decided to investigate the possibilities.
In my own country, Denmark, a suffrage commission was established in autumn 2010 and is expected to deliver by late 2011 a report on lowering the voting age. At the 2009 local elections, 31 municipalities organised shadow elections for 16 and 17-year-olds.
The Czech Republic is considering lowering the voting age and such discussions have taken place in Malta and in the United Kingdom. Europe is on its way and is clearly moving to an expansion of our democracy.
The report gives good reasons for lowering the voting age in all European countries. The first argument is the expansion of democracy. An election that includes 16 and 17-year-olds is more representative than one that includes only those over 18. Including another section of society would make those elected more representative.
It is argued, however, that a lower voting age would increase the problem of low turnout, but it is obvious that if people are given the chance to vote at a younger age, they are more likely to vote as they grow older.
There is good reason to take note of the work of the researcher Mark Franklin, which is cited in the report. He has been studying election turnout in European elections for the past 20 years and he concludes that a stable context in terms of school, living at home and friends, which 16-year-old youngsters have, has a great positive influence on first-time-voter turnout.
In fact, a voting age of 18 is more sensitive due to the more insecure environment that most 18-year-olds encounter at this time, when they are leaving home, beginning their studies and making new friends. Lowering the voting age to 16 would therefore increase the chances of higher turnout among first-time voters, and thus of continued higher turnout.
It is important to remember that many 16-year-olds are already active participants in our society. In many states, they are allowed to leave school and find work, and those who do so pay taxes. They are also able to get married and take on civic responsibilities.
Even though in many countries 16-year-olds cannot vote, they can take driving lessons, buy alcohol, have sexual relations, marry, have children, claim benefits and join the armed forces, and they can be convicted of a criminal offence. Arguably, they should therefore be entitled to complete their civic rights by casting their vote in elections.
In addition, experience shows that the political voting pattern of the 16 to 17 age group is very similar to that of the 18 to 24 age group. They do not vote more radically.
There are many arguments in favour of lowering the active voting age to 16 and very few – perhaps none – against. The candidacy age should of course follow this.
The Socialist Group wants our democracies to be active, representative and sustainable, so we fully support the report and its recommendations along the path to lowering the voting age to 16 for local, regional, national and European elections in all European countries.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you, Mr Mogens Jensen. I call Mrs Guţu, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
Mrs GUŢU (Moldova) said she wished to tell the distinguished members of the Assembly how much she welcomed the opportunity to speak on behalf of the ALDE group. She congratulated the rapporteur, Mr Aligrudić, on his excellent report. The report, and the draft resolution contained within it, was extremely exhaustive and well-argued, and was of particular significance given the geo-political situation in Europe and elsewhere. Even if the issue seemed marginal to some given discussions about the future of the Assembly.
This was a debate about democracy. Access to democracy meant access to decision-making at all levels of government. Democracy was by its nature participatory. That was the scientific definition of democracy. The right to vote when a person reached maturity was a metaphysical overlay of democracy. But the reality must also be reflected upon, and reality was multi-faceted. The information society had exploded; the population continued to grow; migration was an increasingly salient issue and countries continued to face economic and social problems.
Young people should be allowed to participate at all levels of elections: local, national and European. However she would be honest and admit that it was not a view shared by all ALDE representatives who came from many different countries and democratic histories and cultural traditions. Nevertheless, she believed they were approaching a consensus.
The revolutions in many countries were in large part caused by young people, some of whom were younger than 16. The Venice Commission was currently drawing up draft constitutions for a number of north African countries which would require the extension of the voting franchise to 16-year-olds.
Moldova was in a transition towards greater democracy. The Twitter revolution of 7 April was a youth revolution and this had changed the distribution of power in Moldova. A new draft constitution was being drawn up by a committee of experts that would extend voting to 16-year-olds. If the Parliamentary Assembly adopted the draft resolution, it would be of great support to national parliaments in their efforts to lower the voting age. She believed that governments should give young people what they had been demanding for so long: the right to participate in democracy.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mrs Guţu. I call Mr Bosić.
Mr BOSIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina) – My compliments to the rapporteur, Mr Aligrudić, on his report. I am sure that the poor attendance for this debate is due to the fact that it is a Thursday evening and does not reflect the interest in this topic, which is extremely important for the future of Europe and democracy. We are sure that 15, 16 and 17-year-olds today have much more information than they had 20 or 30 years ago. The question is: are they capable of processing that information? Can they identify what is important and what is not? My group has a different point of view on this topic.
This draft resolution on lowering the voting age to 16 is a very serious matter, so we should raise a few questions. Is this honourable Assembly entitled to make this kind of recommendation to national parliaments? Is voting age a matter of human rights? If so, why are the human rights of 15 and 14-year-olds and younger children not violated? Shall we lower the voting age every 10 years? Connecting human rights to voting age is a slippery slope. Is it a question of increasing voter participation among the younger population? If so, another set of measures should be implemented. If we need more young people in parliaments, this is not the solution to that problem.
Many respectable national parliaments have recently discussed this kind of initiative, and very few adopted a change in the voting age. Only one, the Austrian Parliament, adopted the change. If we have rejected these initiatives in our national parliaments, why would we vote for this resolution in the Council of Europe Assembly? Would it not be wiser to wait and see the effect of such decisions in countries that have already lowered the voting age?
It is for national parliaments to decide on voting age thresholds, bearing in mind the cultural differences and habits that exist in different countries. It would not be correct to suggest to national parliaments that they lower the voting age to 16. Thank God my children did not have the right to vote when they were 16. I can imagine different political parties chasing them during school breaks. I am also sure that if they voted for me as a candidate at that time, they would have been the most demanding voters I ever had.
It is my group’s opinion that we should not push children into the cruel real world too early; we are convinced that it is not in their best interests.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Mrs Andersen on behalf of the Group of the United European Left.
Mrs ANDERSEN (Norway) – The Group of the United European Left supports the report and thanks the rapporteur for it. It is important and concerns one of the pillars of the Council of Europe, namely democracy. We can argue that voting is a human right: I think it is. However, we cannot argue that it is not an important part of the pillar of democracy. The UEL believes it is important to limit to a minimum the number of people who cannot exercise the right to vote. Minimising the number of people who cannot vote is an important principle.
Then we have the argument about who cannot vote and why. I have not heard good reasons why 16-year-olds should not vote. Compare them to people of other ages. Adults can make wrong and foolish decisions. They can be influenced, like young people, by extremists or, indeed, by anybody. Maybe my colleague from Bosnia is afraid that his children will be influenced by people like me, a socialist. However, young people can think for themselves, just like you, Mr President, me and everybody else. Grown-up voters vote for extremist parties throughout Europe. I am a little afraid of this, but I cannot say that those people should not vote.
I have heard it argued that if you allow 16-year-olds to vote, their school teachers will influence them. That is true, but that problem should not be dealt with by raising the age at which people are allowed to vote. We would have to raise it to, say, 25, because some young people today are still in school at 30. It should be dealt with by making it compulsory for every school to teach young people about democracy and political parties. The political parties must also make arrangements to meet young people and be where they are – for instance by using social media.
I also support the idea, which has been mentioned, that young people have responsibilities. They can go to work, pay tax, decide on their education and go to jail if they violate the law. Therefore, it is only logical that they should vote in the elections that will elect the people and political values that will take decisions on how to spend common assets, or create or change the laws that they must abide by. As the rapporteur said, some people think that young people should be able to assume duties but not to exercise rights. I agree with the rapporteur.
It has also been discussed that young people do not take an interest in politics; I do not think that is true. Young people are more likely to show their engagement in areas other than political parties. That is a challenge for us. Young people are active in NGOs, on environmental questions and in the field of anti-discrimination. Now we see them in North Africa, where they want democracy. The signal that we send now is very important. The UEL supports the proposal.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The last speaker in this debate will be Ms Palihovici from Moldova.
Ms PALIHOVICI (Moldova) – I appreciate this project, which I consider a cornerstone in strengthening democracy, especially in young democracies, such as Moldova. I thank the rapporteur for the comprehensive analysis and his exemplary presentation, which demonstrated that several countries have changed the law and given voting rights to young people from the age of 16. Positive examples from countries that have accepted a lower voting age remove the suspicions of those who believe that lowering the voting age limit is not a good idea.
Europe in its entirety and each individual country needs an active young generation that is involved in building awareness and promoting democratic values. This cannot be learned only from the family and in school; it does not appear on its own or from books. This activism and interest in community, national and international issues will be developed and strengthened over time only by participating in the decision-making process at all levels. In that way, you and your opinion count and you are convinced that you can influence the decision.
We will reach this point only through introducing the right to vote at 16. Youngsters will, thus, feel useful, responsible and accountable for their actions. The right to vote at 16 would increase their confidence and their confidence in other community members, who would treat them as equal decision-making partners. I firmly believe that more young people voting will bring about a change of priorities in government agendas and a change of emphasis in national policies. The knowledge and abilities that young people accumulate and develop in formal and non-formal educational systems allow them to make well-informed and well-documented decisions. The current opportunities for young people to get involved in various projects and activities from an early age allow them to know their communities, their politicians, and their political system and how it works, so they mature much earlier in their civic activism.
Young people are often presented as being apathetic and uninterested in political life, but we should not forget that history is full of cases where only the activism of young people has changed the course of a state’s development and moved it from a totalitarian regime to a democracy. Moldova is one of the countries that has had such an experience. The Council of Europe supports many projects that encourage the participation of teenagers and young people, but that is not sufficient. After 20 years of debate on this subject, it is time to give 16-year-olds the right to decide the fate of their communities and countries.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Palihovici. The advantage of having a short speakers list is that we have some time left available to us. According to the rules, I am allowed to ask whether any other member present wishes to make a contribution in the debate. Do any colleagues wish to contribute at this point? I call Mr Loncle.
Mr LONCLE (France) thanked the President and said he was sorry to drag out proceedings. He had listened carefully to the debate and with interest to the rapporteur, whom he considered to have hit the nail on the head. The debate was not just about lowering the voting age but about the up-and-coming generation. No one could dispute that European society was ageing at a rapid rate and thus so was the electorate. He himself was a part of that ageing process. That trend was very worrying for democracies. Young people were now claiming their right to vote at 16 or 17. He was sure that they would be equally as capable of voting as older people. The rapporteur had outlined the problem very well and the speakers in the debate had convinced him that lowering the voting age was exactly what should be done.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. Does anyone else wish to speak in the debate? That is not the case.
I call the rapporteur to reply to the debate. Mr Aligrudić, you officially have three minutes left but you could take a bit longer.
Mr ALIGRUDIĆ (Serbia) – I thank all the participants in the debate for their contributions and for their support, with one exception – the representative of the European Democrat Group, Mr Bosić. As our previous speaker said, lowering the voting age is not a goal in itself, and this report is about inclusion. We know, and we knew when we prepared this report, that this proposal is not easy to implement in the member states, owing to some reasonable reasons. For example, the constitution of some countries, including my own country of Serbia, prevents us from changing or lowering the voting age without changing the constitution itself – the process of changing the constitution is way too complicated.
We are aware of such facts and absolutely understand them, so the way for this Assembly to communicate with member states is through provoking thought and debate. We need to provoke the start of the process; we can never know how and when it will end, but we want to provoke the start. I draw the attention of members to the exact phrase that our report used in this regard. Paragraph 7.2 of the draft resolution states that the Assembly calls on member states to “investigate the possibility of lowering the voting age to 16 years in all countries and for all kinds of elections”. We do not say, “this must be done at all levels.” Instead, we talk about investigating this possibility for all kinds of elections.
You spoke of maturity and a threshold, Mr Bosić, and you discussed whether this could be at 16, 15 or 14. As I have explained to you, we decided that the threshold should be 16 because of the simple fact that compulsory education in schools finishes at 16 in many member states. That means that we are taking an objective approach. We could move the voting age to 14, 13 or even 25. Many psychologists agree that 14 is the minimum possible threshold in respect of young people understanding the processes in the same way as adults. Even at 14, they would thus be morally and educationally capable of understanding, of telling right from wrong and of detecting differences in political aspects. However we are not proposing that 14 should be the voting age; we suggest that it should be 16.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Aligrudić.
Does Lord Tomlinson, representing the Political Affairs Committee, wish to speak? You have two minutes.
Lord TOMLINSON (United Kingdom) – Just briefly, on behalf of Mr von Sydow, whose absence was unavoidable this evening, may I say that the report was adopted overwhelmingly in committee, without any amendments? I am sure that he would want me to take the opportunity on his behalf, and on my own behalf, to congratulate Mr Aligrudić, our rapporteur, on his exemplary and unifying work. I hope that everybody will vote for the report.
THE PRESIDENT – The debate is closed.
The Political Affairs Committee has presented a draft resolution to which no amendments have been tabled.
We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 12546.
The vote is open.
S-a votat astfel:
Doc. 12546, 22 March 2011, Expansion of democracy by lowering the voting age to 16
Expansion of democracy by lowering the voting age to 16 Resolution 1826 (2011)