- Title: ARGENTINA: Argentina debates allowing teenagers and foreigners to vote.
- Date: 5th September 2012
- Summary: VARIOUS OF PEOPLE ON THE STREETS (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) IVAN BERNAL, COLOMBIAN RESIDENT OF BUENOS AIRES, SAYING: "I think that if they plan if they plan to make this equal, I don't know, it should be more than two years. In those two years you barely can understand what Argentina is politically. I think you should have to live here a longer time."
- Embargoed: 20th September 2012 13:00
- Location: Argentina
- Country: Argentina
- Topics: Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA45XL4S4IR5H4KCP5N0ZAB22N9
- Story Text: Argentina's Senate debates lowering the countries voting age to 16-years old and allowing foreign nationals to vote.
Argentina's senate on Wednesday (September 5) began deliberating a new proposal to lower the country's voting age from 18 to 16.
The proposed amendment to the country's electoral law would make it possible for those between the age of 16 and 18 to vote, but would not make voting obligatory.
Supporters of the measure argue that 16 year-olds are mature and mentally developed enough to vote, and should be given the same rights as adult members of society.
"The assessment is that if in 1912 one was above age at 22 and able to vote at 18, I can not understand why 100 years later they want us to believe that a 16-year old is less prepared than an 18-year old in 1912. It's random," said Senator Anibal Fernandez of the Perionist Front for Victory party, a sponsor of the measure.
If the measure passes, Argentina will join Brazil, Austria, Nicaragua, Cuba and Ecuador in allowing 16-year olds to vote.
Opponents of the measure believe that extending voting rights to teenagers is an attempt by President Cristina Fernandez to gain support for the next election.
Fernandez's popularity declined to 30 percent in August, less than half of what it was a year earlier, according to a recent poll that portrayed a country worried about crime and high inflation.
Luis Naidenoff, a senator from the social liberal Radical Civic Union (UCR) party said that at this point the discussions are purely speculative.
"At this juncture we are purely speculating. We are discussing impossible missions, of installing politicians with indefinite re-elections, of indoctrination in our schools. It is in this context we are discussing the issue. Now, independent of what occurs, when we discuss expanding rights we will debate them, but seriously and responsibly," he said.
Opinion on the measure was mixed among young Argentines.
"I think it's a good thing. In my opinion, at that age you are able to reason and calmly vote. It's not much of a difference. Only two years," said Alan Romero, 19.
Pablo Aguirre, 20, said that politicians will find young people easier to influence than older voters.
"Being younger, they are less aware of things, in this case of politics. It is easier to buy them," he said.
Brian Pacheco, 18, said he believes that young people will vote for the first politician they think can benefit them.
"I do not agree. I think that at 16 people are not fully developed enough to know who to vote for or not. They are going to vote for the first person that proposes something that benefits them," he said.
Julieta Sosa, 15, disagreed, saying that young people are Argentina's best hope for reforms.
"I think we should include the youth more fairly. If young people aren't going to rebuild social structures, nobody will," she said.
Dante Marchetti, 13, said that he believed that the voting age should be even lower, noting that many Argentines begin working at a very young age.
"I think it's good that it's optional, because I think everyone should choose how much influence they will have, and I also believe that it (the voting age) could be even lower. There are young people that have been working very hard, and they should change that," he said.
Senators on Wednesday also discussed another measure which would extend voting rights to foreigners who have resided in Argentina for at least two years.
Ivan Bernal, a Colombian expatriate living in Argentina, said that he believed that foreigners should have to live in the country longer before being granted the right to vote.
"I think that if they plan if they plan to make this equal, I don't know, it should be more than two years. In those two years you barely can understand what Argentina is politically. I think you should have to live here a longer time," he said.
Together, the changes to Argentina's voting regulations would expand the country's electorate by approximately 3 million people, of which a million would be foreigners and two million would be young Argentines.
Very few countries allow foreigners to vote. Neighbouring Chile, for example, allows foreigners to vote after living in the country for five years, and Uruguay allows foreigners to vote after 15 years of residency. Venezuela allows foreigners to vote in local and state elections if they have lived in the country for more than 10 years.
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