At the national level – After years of wrangling, the voting age of 16 is off the table – News

  • 16 and 17 year olds will not be able to vote and vote at the national level, at least in the near future.
  • After years of dispute, the National Council has definitely buried a proposal for the introduction of active voting rights from the age of 16.
  • The SVP and FDP factions, as well as part of the center faction, spoke out against the voting age of 16. The SP, Greens and GLP were in favor of voting age 16.

With 106 votes to 84, the large chamber decided to write off a parliamentary initiative by Sibel Arslan (Greens/BS) on the voting age of 16, i.e. to delete it from the business register. In June 2023, the National Council voted in favor of drawing up a template – with 98 votes to 93. In the new composition after the national elections, a center-right majority has now prevailed.

The Council had previously voted in principle three times for the voting age to be 16, while its State Political Commission (SPK-N) had opposed it each time. Arslan wanted to give 16 and 17 year olds the right to take part in national elections and votes. However, they should be denied the passive right to vote, i.e. the ability to be elected.

Opponent: You come of age at 18

In the debate, opponents of the voting age of 16 said above all that a consultation carried out last year had shown a clear result: of the 25 participating cantons, 15 said no, 7 said yes, and 3 said neither yes nor no. In previous discussions in the National Council, it was also argued that it would not make sense to decouple the age of consent of 18 from the right to vote and vote. It is also problematic to separate the age threshold for active and passive voting rights.

The supporters said, for example, that it was important not to leave young people behind. Austria has the voting age of 16. The median age of the voting population in Switzerland is currently 57 years. SP spokeswoman Nadine Masshardt (BE) said that in the consultation, for example, the Commercial Association and the Scout Movement said yes to the voting age of 16.

In previous debates, supporters said that young people’s political engagement had increased significantly. They are often the ones who are affected by political decisions, such as a climate protection law or the structure of pension provision.

Accusation of refusing to work

What was particularly talked about on Wednesday was the SPK-N’s decision not to develop a template despite a request from the National Council. Commission spokesman Christian Wasserfallen (FDP/BE) also justified this decision with the clear result of the cantonal vote on the introduction of the voting age of 16 in the canton of Bern in September 2022. 67 percent of Bernese said no at the time. According to Wasserfallen, the voting behavior of the canton of Bern is mostly representative of Switzerland.

The result therefore shows that a majority of the population is against the voting age of 16. Achieving the majority of the cantons and the people in a referendum on voting age 16 would therefore be “simply unattainable,” according to the Bernese National Council. This statement brought Wasserfallen the accusation from Masshardt, Arslan and Green Party spokesman Balthasar Glättli (ZH) that there was currently no vote.

This is a National Council procedure. Masshardt and Glättli described it as “pure refusal to work” when the SPK-N ignores an order to prepare a template. Such an approach would lead to a “dysfunctional parliament”. A template is needed, and one can always reject it, says Glättli.

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