Parties support lowering voting age for local elections

Summary

Two of the three coalition partners in the government of Flanders are in favour of lowering the voting age to 16 for local elections, but they need to convince N-VA

Young people ‘live longest with consequences’

Two of the governing parties in the Flemish coalition government – CD&V and Open VLD – have come out in favour of lowering the voting age for municipal elections to 16 years. The legal age now is 18 years, in line with the right to take part in regional, federal and EU elections.

The two parties have the support of opposition parties SP.A and Groen, but not of the third coalition partner, N-VA. This means there will not be enough support for the measure to pass when it comes up for discussion in a few weeks’ time.

The youth wings of all parties except N-VA and Vlaams Belang have expressed their support, as has the Flemish Youth Council, the government’s official youth advisory body.

“We are calling for some political courage to amend the voting decree and give young people access to the ballot box,” said Youth Council chair, Nozizwe Dube (pictured). “Young people have to live longest with the consequences of decisions, but they have the weakest voice.”

But while the organisation is in favour of extending the right to vote to 16- and 17-year-olds, they are not in favour of extending the obligation to vote that applies to adults over 18 in Belgium. “We want young people to be given the right to take part in elections, but not to be forced,” said Dube, adding that some teenagers did not feel ready to cast a ballot.

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Belgian government

Belgium is a federal state made up of three regions and three communities, based on language (Dutch, French and German). The federal level is responsible for issues such as justice, defence, finances and foreign affairs – matters that affect the entire country. Belgium is also a constitutional monarchy.
Regions - The regions are comparable to American states or German Länder. They are geographical entities, responsible for matters related to their territory, such as public works, environment and economy. Belgium’s three regions are the Flemish Region, the Brussels-Capital Region and the Walloon Region.
Communities - Communities are responsible for matters that directly affect residents, such as education, welfare and culture. Belgium’s three communities are the Flemish Community, the French Community and the German Community.
Flanders - Although regions and communities do not overlap exactly, the Flemish Region and the Flemish Community have merged into the Flemish government. Its official language is Dutch. The Flemish Parliament sits in Brussels, which is the official capital city of Flanders (as well as Belgium).
11

population of Belgium in millions of people, with 6.2 million living in Flanders.

6

number of state reforms that have resulted in the federal system as it is today.

4

number of years for which the federal House of Representatives and the Senate are elected.