Argentina: Move to cut voting age to 16 could aid Kirchner
Argentina’s senate has approved a bill to lower the voting age to 16 from 18 in time for a crucial mid-term election that may determine whether president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner can seek a third term.
Ms Fernandez, who backs the bill to extend voting rights, has given prominent state jobs to members of a youth group founded by her son, Maximo, and often praises young activists for their political enthusiasm.
Many young Argentines identify with her defiant style and credit her unorthodox policies for a long economic boom that coincided with their entry into the jobs market following the 2001-2002 financial crisis.
The vote passed by 52-3 on Wednesday night with two abstentions and is expected to receive lower-house approval and become law next month.
Ms Fernandez’s supporters say the amendment will strengthen democracy and bring Argentina in line with nations such as Austria, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Brazil that have already extended voting rights to people as young as 16. The Scottish independence referendum will also allow 16-year-olds a vote.
“We’re going through an extraordinary time in Argentina where we can discuss everything and we’re advancing in the extension of civil rights,” said Elena Corregido, a ruling party senator who co-authored the bill.
Critics claim the move is a thinly veiled vote-winning tactic aimed at bolstering waning support for Ms Fernandez before the legislative election scheduled for October next year.
“We have a precedent of electoral reforms that have served to increase the ruling party’s chances rather than improve the electoral system, so this bill leaves me with many doubts,” said left-wing opposition senator Norma Morandini, who abstained.
Controversy over the reform proposal has been heightened by speculation over whether Ms Fernandez could follow in the footsteps of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez by trying to reform the constitution in order to run for re-election in 2015.
She currently has a working majority in both houses of Congress, but would need two-thirds’ congressional support to convoke an elected constitutional assembly.
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