On Tuesday, the Spanish parliament rejected a proposal to consider reducing the voting age to 16. This is the third time such a proposal has been made; the others were turned down in 2016 and 2020. The idea had the support of Unidas Podemos, Más País and EH Bildu, while the PP, PSOE, Ciudadanos, PNV and Vox voted against.
Unidas Podemos, the party governing in coalition with the PSOE, said reducing the voting age was a matter of demographic reality. A country with an ageing population, it claimed, gives older voters a greater say in things, and it is ‘incongruous’ to think that 16 and 17-year-olds can work and pay taxes but not vote in elections.
The measure would have benefited 999,977 people aged 16 and 17 (according to figures from the National Institute of Statistics at 1 January this year), which would be just over 2% of the electorate. Sociologists such as Narciso Michavila, the president of GAD3, believe it would be beneficial because more young people would start to take an interest in politics.
“If people start voting at 16 they become responsible citizens earlier and by 18 they are much better prepared,” he has said.
The PSOE party voted against because it said that reform of the general electoral law is currently being studied by a parliamentary sub-committee, so that is where the proposal should be discussed, not as a separate bill.
The PP pointed out that under the Constitution people have to be of adult age in order to vote, while José Antonio Bermúdez de Castro (PP) said during the debate that if 16 and 17-year-olds were able to vote they could also stand for election, and that could mean a teenager became mayor and had to ask their parents’ permission to carry out some political decisions.
In Europe, the first country to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote was Austria, which approved the move in 2007. In Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia these teenagers can only vote if they are working, and in Hungary they are only permitted to vote if they are married.