The Riigikogu hath decided: at next local elections in fall of 2017, the youth aged 16 and 17 may cast their votes as well. Up to now, the level was 18 and up. A remarkable change which may make the society stronger by the added votes while overall political environment and culture are key factors.
The public debate o’er the change went on for years, various opinion leaders took the floor. A considerable support team formed out of youth organisations themselves. Opposing arguments were also voiced. A central against-thing has by now been answered. Namely, some cited lack of social maturity. In Austria, which lowered voting age in 2007, scientific research has shown this not to be an argument.
Laws touching different domains do set their own age limits. The 18 years was as agreed, mostly. Agreements are set by culture and customs. Come to think of it, even an 18 years old is not fully adult biologically and socially in his his/her development. In this regard, Vienna University social scientists say there’s no difference with 16 and 17.
These days, information technology provides the young with better options to be in the know. The privilege is used eagerly and why not let the voice to the local life issues. Even so, as also proven by the Austrian experience, our 24,000 new voters will not automatically spell boosted voter activity among the young.
Perhaps the serious part here is how the politicians will behave. Or, putting it bluntly: hunting for the votes, they might forget the manners, morals and ethics perhaps? The schools are ever excited about exciting guests... Meanwhile, if it gets to frenzied political propaganda or doubtful approaches, the thing may speedily turn into a farce. Let’s herewith remember the Centre Party secretary-general Priit Toobal affair where the public opinion went straight against the misleading of the young by a grown-up.
Thus the positivity of the impulse is largely in the hands of the very politicians so we’d not lurch back but rather move ahead, giving the young a chance to get involved at also electing the Riigikogu and the European Parliament.