Inquiry: 'Give Swedish 16-year-olds the vote'

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Inquiry: 'Give Swedish 16-year-olds the vote'

Sweden's 16-year-olds could be allowed to vote in local elections if the government and parliament heed the call of a key national inquiry, set to be presented later this month.


Sweden's so-called 'Demokratiutredningen' was launched by the former centre-right government in 2014 to investigate how to boost political participation and voting numbers.

And its chairman Olle Wästberg sparked headlines on Tuesday when he revealed he plans to propose lowering Sweden's voting age when he presents his report on January 18th.

"For those who just moved away from home, started university or started a job, it's often not a given to go and vote – turn-out is low among first-time voters," he wrote in an opinion piece published by the Expressen newspaper.

Wästberg, who has previously rejected suggestions of lowering the voting age, wrote that he had made a U-turn after speaking to experts and looking at trials in other countries.

"If you vote for the first time when you're in school you're part of a context that increases the likelihood of going to the polls," he added.

Following in the footsteps of nations such as Norway, Austria and Scotland, the proposed pilot project would allow 16-year-olds to have their say in municipal elections in 2018 and 2022.

The voting age for parliament elections, which in Sweden take place on the same day as the local and regional votes, would remain at 18. However, in the event of a successful trial it could be extended to national elections by 2026.

Wästberg added that he was hopeful the ideas, which are still at an early stage and first have to be examined at government level, would eventually be approved by parliament.

"Interestingly enough, this proposal – when we've tested the thoughts – has almost not received any oppositions from MPs and councillors," he said. 

READ ALSO: Sweden's top feminist wants voting age from 16

Culture and Democracy Minister Alice Bah Kuhnke, a member of the centre-left Green Party, said she looked forward to reading the full report and added that she welcomed its conclusions in principle. 

The Social Democrat-led coalition government's junior partner is one of the main proponents of lowering the voting age, along with Feminist Initiative, which is not represented in parliament.

"For the Green Party, this is not a new concept. But the government puts forward proposals to parliament. I look forward to reading the report and preparing it, but to me it is not a strange thought," Bah Kuhnke told the TT newswire.

"This is an issue that has been discussed and debate both in Sweden and internationally for some time. (…) Young people today are more engaged and knowledgeable which equips them for taking responsibility," she added.

All EU citizens over the age of 18 who live and are registered in Sweden are allowed to vote in local and regional elections, but not in parliamentary polls. Other foreign nationals may vote for local and regional governments if they have lived in Sweden for at least three years.


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