Greece lowers voting age to 17
Greece has become the latest European country to lower its voting age in a bid to enhance the democratic participation of young people.
As part of a larger revamp of Greece’s electoral laws (which included a change to a more proportional system of allocating parliamentary seats), the Greek Parliament voted on July 21st to lower the minimum voting age from 18 to 17 years.
The Greek Interior Ministry stated that the bill would “sharpen democratic reflexes” amongst young people by involving them in politics earlier.
Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras, leader of the leftist Syriza party, said that “voting at 17 is a motivation for young people to be politicized, to take a step forward and take their life in their hands.”
The bill recognized the enormous burden placed upon young people by the country’s continued economic crisis and austerity measures, stating that “we chose to give younger Greeks a voice, a more essential role, since this is the generation which risks suffering the impact of the crisis”. The youth unemployment rate in Greece currently stands at over 50%, the highest rate in the EU.
European Youth Forum President Johanna Nyman said: “The European Youth Forum welcomes this progressive decision as a step forward for young people’s rights to participate in democracy, and we call on other European countries to do the same and indeed to go beyond this to lower the voting age to 16. Greece is recognising that engaging young people in politics will empower 17-year-olds and is a step towards young peoples’ having access to their rights.”
A lower voting age has become increasingly popular across Europe in recent years, with Austria (national elections), Germany (some federal elections), Scotland (parliamentary and council elections) and Estonia (local elections) all deciding to enfranchise 16- and 17-year-olds.
The European Youth Forum supports the lowering of the voting age to 16, along with the provision of high-quality citizenship education for young people, as a means of boosting the democratic participation of young people. For more on this topic, see the microsite here: http://www.youthforum.org/vote-16/