GIOVENTU » 16 year olds to get the vote in Italy?

16 year olds to get the vote in Italy?

Italy is the country with the oldest population in Europe. To counterbalance this, debate has opened to the hypothesis of granting the right to vote to the under-eighteens. Many other European countries have been considering this possibility as a way to reinforce the interest of young people in politics and force governments to take into more consideration young people's needs.

The only European country where 16-year-olds can vote is Austria since 2007. In the Uk the Labour leader Miliband announced during the electoral campaign that in case of victory he would have granted the vote to 16-year-olds. In Scotland the right to vote for under-eighteens will be extended to the next political elections in May after the 16-year-olds had participated to the referendum on independence.

 

To the south of the Brenner, instead, a real debate on the vote to 16-year-olds has never caught on. In Italy, the country with the oldest population in Europe this issue has always remained outside the political agenda, apart from the regional law introduced in Tuscany three years ago for the initiative of the then councillor Riccardo Nencini. This law provides for the possibility of lowering the voting age in the towns below 250,000 inhabitants. There were also some timid proposals by the Sel and M5S parties.

 

The age of voters in Italy has dramatically increased over the years. There are usually three voters over 65 for every voter under 25. Extending the vote to 16-year-olds would be a no-cost reform and it would expand the proportion of young people in the electorate, the most interested in making sustainable choices for the future of the country.

At the present time 70% of young Italians under 25 think that to have a future career they must go elsewhere.

 

The latest ISTAT figures published in 2014 on political participation showed that young people in the 14-17 age group get the first information on politics from the family and friends. Only 0.3 of the information comes directly from political parties or organizations. 70% of these teenagers then use social media and Facebook, in particular, to form their political knowledge.

 

The arguments against votes for 16-year-olds are almost always focused on maturity. 16- and 17-year-olds are considered too young to drive a car and they are not allowed to marry without their parents' consent. So why should they be mature enough to choose the government? According to some, the case for lowering the voting age can only be convincing if it’s made as part of a larger attempt to make 16-year-olds adults.

 

It's necessary to recognise that political engagement of youngsters takes time and political education in schools should be improved to guarantee an effective larger participation to kick-start in the promotion of politics to young people and their participation, awareness and cognisance of political issues affecting them.

Giulia Lombardo

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