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Malta grants 16-year-olds right to vote

March 6, 2018

Lawmakers in Malta have unanimously decided to lower the voting age to 16, making the small island country only the second EU member to do so. Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the state "made history."

Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat voting in 2017 in Malta
Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat (pictured at the forefront) voting in the 2017 parliamentary electionImage: picture-alliance/K.Gilbert

The Maltese parliament adopted the constitutional changes expanding the voting rights to 16 and 17-year-olds on Monday, with all 64 lawmakers voting in favor of the proposal. A large number of youths observed the decision from parliament's visitors' gallery, according to Maltese media.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said his country "made history" on Monday.

The changes add 8,500 new voters in the Mediterranean country with a population of some 437,000. They would be able to exercise their right for the first time during the elections for the EU parliament in 2019.

No vote, no taxes

Both of the main political parties have a backed the reform, despite some controversy in the public debate ahead of the lawmakers' decision.

Notably, the University Students Council of the small EU state said the current system of education did not provide enough preparation for the youth to vote. Others have pointed out that people would still need to be 18 or older to run in the elections.

Read more: Is the German election free and fair for young voters?

However, The National Youth Council argued that lowering the voting age was in the spirit of democracy.

"There is an old democratic principle which states that there should not be any taxation without representation," the council was quoted by the Times of Malta as saying. "If we were to extend this principle to 16-year-olds, they should also be able to vote, since they are allowed to work and liable to pay taxes."

In Malta, 16-year-olds have been able to vote in city council elections since 2015.

The changes make Malta the second EU state to lower its national voting age to 16, after Austria adopted similar reforms in 2008.

dj/se (AP, dpa)