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Voting age lowered to 16 in local elections

The Estonian Parliament has approved constitution change that gives 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote in the Estonian local government elections.

Changes to constitution need to be approved by two parliaments to take effect. The bill was passed by the 12th Riigikogu in February and by the 13th today, with 62 votes in favor, 10 against and 2 absentations.

An estimated 24,000 16- and 17-year olds can now vote in the 2017 local elections. Considering that not all will use this right, the electorate is expected to increase by approximately 14,000-15,000 people.

Political scientist Tõnis Saarts told ETV that no party is likely to profit or lose as a result. According to him, young Estonians do lean more to the right, but their preferences do not differ significantly from those of the adults. In addition, young people of other ethnic backgrounds and non-citizens can also vote.

The initiators of the bill explained that the Estonian society keeps ageing, so the importance of senior voters is increasing in the elections and the age of those who pass decisions on the issues concerning the life of younger people is ever growing. Lowering the voting age would increase the percentage of young people among eligible voters.

The initiators also believe that the amendment might increase the interest of young people in politics, the state and the development of the local government. Most of the decisions concerning the young people – on the schools network, sports facilities and possibilities for leisure activities, for example – are made locally.

Prior the vote, EKRE announced its opposition to the constitution change. The Free Party said they will not pursue a party line in this matter. The bill needed 61 votes to pass.

Editor: M. Oll

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