Lowering the Voting Age: Croatia Should Provide an Opportunity for the Youth

26. September 2023.
Lowering the Voting Age: Croatia Should Provide an Opportunity for the Youth 1
Zagreb, 26.09.2023. - Gong je organizirao u Hrvatskom novinarskom društvu (HND) okrugli stol pod nazivom "Prema inkluzivnoj demokraciji: spuštanje dobne granice za političko sudjelovanje na 16 godina". foto HINA/ Edvard ŠUŠAK/ es

Croatia should lower the voting age to 16 for all elections, and concurrently implement civic education as a mandatory subject in school curricula, concluded the roundtable discussion organized by Gong titled 'Towards Inclusive Democracy: Lowering the Voting Age for Political Participation to 16 Years'.

During today's roundtable, Berto Šalaj, a professor at the Faculty of Political Science and the president of Gong's Council, presented a study advocating for the lowering of the voting age to 16. Gong aims to champion this electoral innovation.

"Gong will advocate for lowering the age limit to 16 for all elections. Democracy means that everyone affected by a decision must participate in making that decision. Empirical research shows that there are no negative experiences for society and democracy in countries where the voting age has been lowered," Šalaj stated in his introduction. Gong's Director, Oriana Ivković Novokmet, emphasized that this topic is a logical continuation of Gong's work with young people to enhance civic competencies and advocate for the systematic and quality introduction of civic education.

Lowering the Voting Age: Croatia Should Provide an Opportunity for the Youth 2
Zagreb, 26.09.2023. - Gong je organizirao u Hrvatskom novinarskom društvu (HND) okrugli stol pod nazivom "Prema inkluzivnoj demokraciji: spuštanje dobne granice za političko sudjelovanje na 16 godina". Na fotografiji Berto Šalaj. foto HINA/ Edvard ŠUŠAK/ es

Robert Podolnjak, a professor at the Faculty of Law in Zagreb, believes that it is necessary to strengthen the voting power of younger citizens in Croatia.

"I personally support Gong's proposal. The arguments favor lowering the voting age, and this should go hand in hand with the introduction of civic education. It is essential to initiate a parliamentary initiative in the Croatian Parliament to lower the voting age in elections," concluded Podolnjak.

Nikola Baketa highlighted the results of the analysis from the Institute for Social Research - only 11% of young people believe that the interests of the youth are well or very well represented in society.

"The majority of young people support democracy as a form of governance but are dissatisfied with its deficiencies, the lack of their own representation, and the opportunity to participate. Convincing the majority is the biggest obstacle this idea will face. Success comes when there is consensus among political parties because public persuasion becomes easier. It is easier to convince them that young people are capable of making decisions," explained Baketa, a political scientist and education policy expert from ISRZ.

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Sara Sušanj from the Croatian Youth Network warned that young people are often overlooked as a social group in political programs and promises.

"Young people have low trust in politicians. This issue will not be solved just by lowering the voting age, but it would send a message to them that we are aware of their problems and want to include them. We must not forget that democracy is a process, not a goal, and that no one is born as an active citizen. It is learned," she emphasized and reiterated the necessity of education about democracy.

Vesna Nađ, a MP of the Social Democrats, stated that it is "logical and clear to support this initiative by Gong."

"Prerequisites are needed for lowering the voting age, such as Civic Education as a mandatory part of high school curricula. This would educate and motivate young people to engage in political life. We, the 'baby boomers', must not withhold political power from the youth, as political power brings benefits. If we lower the age limit, if we encourage young people to politically engage, if we educate them, they will participate in elections," said Nađ.

Lovro Lukavečki, the president of the Youth Forum of the Social Democratic Party, believes that society and politics lack trust in young people and rarely provide them with opportunities for participation. He added that the SDP clearly supports the idea of lowering the voting age because they want to give young people a chance and ensure conditions for them to be informed and active in social and political life.

"The reduction of the voting age must go hand in hand with education to obtain a competent and active citizenship. The We Can party advocates for lowering the voting age, ultimately because democracy has a better chance with a larger base," said Urša Raukar Gamulin, a parliamentary representative from the We Can party.

MP Dalija Orešković from the Party with a Name and Surname agrees with her. "There is no greater motivation than hope, opportunity, and the belief that changes are possible. Our youth have been convinced that changes are not possible, that they should leave this country. The Party with a Name and Surname welcomes lowering the voting age.

"We truly confirm the thesis that political competencies can be acquired exclusively through participation in politics. We cannot passively stand on the sidelines and wait until we reach the voting age to actively participate in politics. This is proven by the very battle in the political arena, where we often encounter ideas that are regressive, frightening for those who believe that democracy is a good thing," said MP Katarina Peović from the Workers' Front.

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