- Title: ARGENTINA: Lawmakers lowers voting age to 16
- Date: 1st November 2012
- Summary: BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA (OCTOBER 31, 2012) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF YOUTHS SITTING IN THE BALCONIES OF CONGRESS WATCHING THE VOTE
- Embargoed: 16th November 2012 12:00
- Location: Argentina
- Country: Argentina
- Topics: Politics
- Reuters ID: LVAVBRGXYYQD50L645NZLGHFGMY
- Story Text: Argentine lawmakers lowered the country's voting age to 16 from 18 on Wednesday (October 31), a move that could help politically ailing President Cristina Fernandez court the youth vote ahead of 2013 mid-term elections.
Dozens of opposition members of the lower house walked out of the rancorous late-night session just before the bill was approved by a 131 to 2 vote.
Lawmaker Patricia Bullrich argued against the reform saying the youth vote should also be compulsory, not optional.
"The vote of minors of 16 and 17 years (of age) should also be compulsory if they want to be included. Their votes should not be optional. The optional vote is exactly the vote that can be manipulated, it's the vote from the registry. It's the vote from the one who registers and the one who can be registered while the compulsory vote is everyone's vote. Not only from the one one who is involved in politics but rather from the whole," she said.
Laura Alonso also argued against the reform saying the measure would take away the liberty of being young.
"We are going to vote against it and I would like for you all to listen. This reform does not seek to expand rights. This reform seeks to limit the liberty of being young," she said.
Fernandez, who polls well among younger voters, has not ruled out a bid by her supporters to change the constitution to allow her to run for a third term in 2015. Legions of youthful activists have joined the "Campora" movement, known for its rowdy demonstrations in favor of Fernandez's heterodox policies.
The makeup of Congress will be key to any effort by her allies at opening the door to a third term cabdidacy. The 59-year-old Peronist leader won a blow-out re-election last year and no strong opposition figure risen since.
But her popularity has faltered as the economy gets hit by sluggish world growth, sputtering demand from top trade partner Brazil, double-digit inflation at home and government-imposed currency and trade controls that hurt business confidence.
Skeptics say the law is aimed at conjuring up support for the president before legislative elections scheduled a year from now.
Supporters say the measure aims to bring Argentina in line with progressive countries such as Ecuador and Brazil that have already extended voting right to people as young as 16.
Maria Eugenia Bernal voted in favour of the law.
"Because at one time, it was also said that blacks could not vote, that women could not vote. History demonstrates that that is not true. Yes, they could (vote). So, for that reason, we welcome the youths to this challenge and to this political responsibility. We praise this youth vote because it not only expands the rights of the young but rather it becomes an option of ethics for all of you," she said.
Fernandez-allied lower house member Diana Conti said the bill "is neither opportunistic demagogic," but rather seeks "to widen the electoral base of our democracy."
More than a million new voters are estimated to be eligible to cast ballots now that the bill has passed both houses. The Senate voted on the measure earlier this month.
You still have to be 18 in Argentina to get married or buy alcohol or cigarettes.
Voting is compulsory for Argentines between the ages of 18 and 70 but it will be discretionary for 16 and 17 year olds under the new law.
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