Reactions: Malta becomes second EU state to grant 16-year-olds vote

Last night, Malta made history by becoming the second European Union member state to lower the national voting age to 16

Last night, Malta made history by becoming the second European Union member state to lower the national voting age to 16
Last night, Malta made history by becoming the second European Union member state to lower the national voting age to 16

Malta has become the second European Union member state to lower the national voting age to 16-year-olds in all elections.

Yesterday evening, the Maltese government and Opposition unanimously voted in favour of the Vote 16 act to go through. The act amends the Constitution, allowing the voting age to go down to 16 from 18.

The act passed with 64 votes in favour, with no MPs abstaining or voting against.

Both political parties were in favour of the change.

This will open up national elections and elections for the European Parliament to another 8,000 voters.

READ ALSO: The kids will be alright: parties agree it is high time Maltese 16-year-olds get to vote

In 2015, 16 and 17-year-olds were allowed to vote in local elections for the first time. According to the Electoral Commission from the 4,485 youngsters who were eligible to vote, 62.3% cast their ballot. The outcome dispelled the impression many have had; that 16-year-olds would not even bother to head to the polling station.

READ ALSO: What Junior College and MCAST students think about voting at 16

In 2007, Austria became the first member state to adopt a voting age of 16 for most purposes. The voting age had been reduced in Austria from 19 to 18 at all levels in 1992. Other European countries, such as Estonia, have introduced the policy at local level.

Reactions to Vote 16:

Following the vote, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat noted on Twitter that Malta yet again made history by becoming the second European Union State member to introduce the change.

Parliamentary secretary Julia Farrugia Portelli posted the votes on Facebook. 

"From tonight, we have a more inclusive society," she wrote. "This government believes in Malta's youths."

The Party of European Socialists commended the government of Malta, and PES member party Partit laburista for their decision to lower the national voting age.

"I am delighted that the government of Malta, led by Joseph Muscat, continues to enact a strong and progressive agenda. Lowering the voting age to 16 completes the important democratic reform initiated by Partit Laburista when they removed the bar on 16-17-year-olds voting in local elections, fulfilling a pledge made during the election campaign,” PES president Sergei Stanishev said.

"It is important to fight voter abstention and strengthen the engagement of young people in politics, and removing the bar on 16-17-year-olds was identified by a PES working group in 2017 as one important way to do this. This is progressive politics in action: making the democratic process more inclusive, strengthening the rights of young people, and putting our trust in voters."

KNZ also said that the move was a step in the right direction.

“This move is surely a step in the right direction and KNZ believes that Malta should now increase it focus on a number of other issues in relation to youths’ rights.”

 KNZ emphasised the need for both formal and informal methods of education to increase knowledge-based civic education. 

And also drew attention to a number of anomalies in Maltese law: “namely the current sexual age of consent at the age of 18 and the current state of Maltese law, whereby youths are encouraged to become active citizens and involve themselves in voluntary organisation, whilst prohibiting voluntary organisations from registration if they allow the involvement of youths under the age of 18.”

The European Youth Forum also congratulated Malta on the change.

"The timing of this new law is important as it means that young people in Malta will be able to have their say in the upcoming European Parliament elections in 2019. This is an incredible opportunity for these elections to #YouthUp and meaningfully engage more young Europeans in the future of Europe," The European Youth Forum said in a statement. 

"Today’s victory for youth rights could not have been possible without the strong voices of Maltese youth, particularly the amazing and dedicated work of the National Youth Council of Malta (KNZ) that has been at the forefront of the campaign for voting rights."