(The original Finnish version was published in the newspaper Turun Sanomat on 3 November 2004.)
Before the latest municipal election there was some talk in the Finnish media about lowering the voting age from 18 to 16 years in municipal elections. Marja-Liisa Ojala, who was a candidate of the Centre Party in Helsinki, mentioned this as one of her most important campaign themes. The supportive arguments I have heard are that this way politics would get closer to youngsters and that they would be more familiar with politics already in their early life. Otherwise, according to the supporters of the idea, the youth would never get interested in affecting societal matters.
In my opinion this claim is quite inaccurate and it shows how the youth is being underestimated. Young people are interested in affecting their own business just like everyone is. Although only two youngsters out of one hundred are members of any political party, the youth can still be active in the society. After all, Finland is the promised land for voluntary associations; we have over 115,000 of those. Therefore the talk about lowering the Finnish voting age can be found a populist attempt to impress the voters. No wonder the conversation ended right after the local election.
Political parties have now noticed that in many of them the members’ average age becomes almost one year higher every year. Naturally, the parties are worried about it. But activating the youth with a factitious reform is not a constructive solution at all. Even many young people admit that only a small percentage of 16-year-olds is politically aware enough to elect the municipal councilmen. I wonder if even 18-year-olds know politics well enough?