Calls to Reduce Voting Age to 16… .youth Must Benefit Practically From Democracy, Says Spyl

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has called for the voting age to be reduced from 18 to 16, to ensure that young Namibians feel engaged with the democratic process.

Speaking during yesterday’s commemoration of the International Day for Democracy, IPPR’s Executive Director, Graham Hopwood said lowering the voting age will ensure that the youth are better equipped to take up leadership positions.

“If the median age in Namibia is 21, this will place a huge leadership burden on young people in the future. The sooner we get young people playing active and positive roles in our democracy, the better equipped they will be able to take up leadership positions,” he said, during the event held under the theme “Engaging Youth in Democracy” which was mostly attended by learners from various schools across Windhoek.

Brazil, Argentina and Austria are some of the countries that allow youth to vote at 16.

“It is also important for institutions of democracy to reach out to young people by using young people’s preferred networks such as the social media,” he said.

Hopwood said: “The evidence is that Namibia’s young people will participate in the upcoming national elections in massive numbers.”

“The challenge, however, remains to convert this enthusiasm to vote into a deeper commitment to being involved in shaping Namibia’s future so that we have a new generation of active, responsible and engaged citizens who will propel Namibia’s development as a democratic, prosperous and successful state beyond 2030.”

According to statistics released by the Electoral Commission of Namibia earlier this year, more than half of the total 1 158 925 voters registered during the general voters registration period fell in the age range of 18 to 32.

Speaking to New Era after the gathering, Deputy Speaker of the 4th Session of the Children’s Parliament, Shaandre Finnies, concurred with Hopwood’s sentiments but questioned the timing thereof.

Finnies says lowering the voting age will ensure that a bigger portion of the country votes.

“I agree that the voting age must be lowered but I do not think the time is right. We need to mature politically and make sure that if it (lowering voting age) happens, the youth must vote out of their own choice and not what parents say. We also need to look at whether our parents are matured enough to allow their children to choose their own political association,” he said.

In the future, said Finnies, the country should consider lowering the voting age because the youth represents the biggest portion of the country’s population.

“I do not think we are politically matured right now or even in the next two elections to lower the voting age, but as we develop we are empowering our people, you can see that the mindsets of people are changing from traditional to liberal mindsets,” he said.

DTA of Namibia Youth League Secretary, Bensen Katjirijova who also attended the commemoration was also in agreement with the proposal and said 16-year-olds are matured enough to make their own decisions.

“Even in our youth league we recruit 16-year-olds and they are very matured, therefore they must be given a chance to vote. As for intimidation by parents, intimidation will always be there and there is nothing we can do about it,” he said.

Meanwhile Swapo Party Youth League Spokesperson, Job Amupanda when contacted for comment said that for as long as democracy remains a process instead of a value system, the youth will continue to remain spectator in the country.

“We are tired of leaders saying the youth must vote while the youth is not practically benefitting. The youth cannot just remain spectators and clap hands while they do not benefit from the resources of this country. We as the youth want to benefit from the resources of this country because we are the most vulnerable in the country,” Amupanda said.

Chapter 11 of the Namibian Constitution, which deals with the promotion of the welfare of the people, should be made mandatory for government.

Others who attended the commemoration include Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Theo-Ben Gurirab, Vice Chairperson of the National Council Margaret Mensah-Williams, Deputy Minister of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture Juliet Kavetuna, Coordinator of the Ecumenical Social Community Action, Council of Churches in Namibia, Dr Andre September and Electoral Commission of Namibia’s Chairperson, Notemba Tjipueja.

Source : New Era