Opinion: Youth′s lack of political power jeopardizes Germany | Opinion | DW | 26.09.2021

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Opinion: Youth's lack of political power jeopardizes Germany

Demographic developments are changing the rules of politics in Germany. Older voters decide policies for the future, and that's an imminent danger for Germany, writes DW's Astrid Prange.

A woman's hand puts a ballot in a ballot box

The political influence of people under 30 does not match that of people over 50

Do young voters in Germany get a chance to put on political pressure for their own interests? As much as I would like to answer this question with 'yes,' the honest answer, unfortunately, is 'no.'

In Germany, older voters decide the country's political future, which also applies to the 2021 federal vote as well. Their demographic supremacy is overwhelming: Official statistics show 57% of all voters are over the age of 50, while 14.4% are under 30.

Climate protection is important, pensions are more important

It's not just the voters who are older, the politicians are, too. In the current Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament, only three of 709 representatives are under 30. Of the 6,211 candidates on the ballot in Sunday's vote, 1,032 are under 30.

Astrid Prange

DW editor Astrid Prange

No matter how you try to look at it, young people's interests don't have a chance in Germany without the support of older generations. Look no further than the debate surrounding the issue of climate protection, which is of particular importance to young people.

Older Germans' support for the issue varies from survey to survey, but the most recent DeutschlandTrend shows a clear majority of Germans, 81% to be specific, see a lot of work to be done when it comes to protecting the climate.

A representative survey conducted in July and August by the Nature And Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU), a German environmental association, found that only about 30% of those over 50 would take "climate and environmental protection interests of young people" into their considerations when choosing how they would vote.

Infographic showing voting preferences of those aged 16-24 and all ages groups

The national voting age is 18 in Germany

New policies from old men?

The September 26 election could offer the oldest-ever candidate for chancellor the opportunity to lay the groundwork for change. It's 63-year-old Olaf Scholz, the finance minister, deputy chancellor and Social Democratic Party's choice to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel, who hopes to form a government with the Greens that will press ahead with climate protection.

Even when every political party talks about the importance of young people, their main concern when putting together the party platform is not to scare off older voters. At a campaign event, Scholz even pressed his fingers together in Merkel's classic pose to show he represented consistency.

Demographic developments force democracy's hand, and when it comes to political opinion-making, older people have more influence than younger generations.

In theory, older voters could use their political influence to support the interests of their children and grandchildren and at the same time rein in their own power. In practice, however, it's a political illusion to believe that will happen. But what's not an illusion is the danger that striving for stability will end in stagnation.

This article was translated from German

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Germany votes: Over 50s to decide younger generations' future