The Riigikogu passed with 62 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia for Reducing the Voting Age for Local Government Council Elections (703 SE), initiated by 41 members of the Riigikogu, which lowers voting age from 18 years of age to 16 years of age to for local elections.
The amendment that required at least 61 votes in favour might, in the opinion of initiators, increase the interest of young people in politics, the state and the development of the local government. There are about 24,000 young people of 16–17 years of age in Estonia. In order to be passed, the Act had to be approved by two consecutive compositions of the Riigikogu. The previous Riigikogu approved the Bill on 11 February. The next local government councils elections will be held in 2017, and young people aged 16 and 17 will also be able to cast their votes then.
Lauri Luik, Henn Põlluaas, Krista Aru, Andres Anvelt and Tarmo Tamm took the floor during the debate.
Lauri Luik who took the floor on behalf of the Reform Party Faction said that trust is the keyword that this constitutional amendment is carrying. “Trust in our young people, the future of Estonia, to show that we are with young people not only in thoughts but also in real actions,” Luik said. “With the lowering of voting age, we give a clear signal that we are waiting for young people to think along and have their say in the issues of the development the society. On behalf of the Reform Party Faction, I thank everybody who has stood for and made efforts and worked towards lowering of voting age.”
Henn Põlluaas who spoke on behalf of the Conservative People’s Party faction noted that the Constitution must not be amended light-handedly. “If this is done, then the amendment must have a significant positive impact on the development of the society or on security. This motion to amend will have no significant positive impact on the development of the society,” he added. “The Conservative People’s Party holds the position that the lowering of voting age is neither justified or necessary.”
Krista Aru who took the floor on behalf of the Free Party Faction said that many arguments could be found both for and against the constitutional amendment that was voted on, and she noted that the members of the Free Party vote according to their own conscience. “We can say that young people are not mature, they may slip. They may have difficulties with themselves – how will they then all of a sudden begin to vote and elect local councils? But when we say that, then let us think that even elderly people may slip,” she said. “We know that we are all in an advanced age, and young people are the ones we can trust. If we do not trust them, then we do not trust the teaching that we have given to them either.”
Andres Anvelt who spoke on behalf of the Social Democratic Party Faction said that the lowering of voting age was an important amendment. “Both I and the whole Social Democratic Party Faction deem it extremely important to support it. We have an opportunity and obligation to contribute to the consistency of the Estonian democracy and its development,” he said. “Today we are taking a step that will enable young people to also decide on the progress of their local communities. However, this today’s step must definitely be followed by a number of additional steps for improving civic education in our curricula in order to help our students and teachers to accept this today’s innovation.”
Tarmo Tamm who took the floor on behalf of the Centre Party Faction said that the Centre Party saw no need to amend the Constitution because active young people already have the possibility to participate in the work of the advisory bodies of the state and local governments, youth organisations, and pupil and student representations. “In the opinion of the Centre Party, instead of lowering the voting age, the work of the youth councils operating at city and rural municipality councils should be facilitated more, and they should be involved more in the work of council committees,” he added.
The Riigikogu concluded the first reading of the Insurance Activities Bill (8 SE). The main aim of the Bill is to regulate insurance activities and insurance mediation by amending, updating and correcting the current insurance and mediation regulation. The new Act will ensure a more even level of the insurance intermediary service and acting based on clients’ interests. It will also solve the deficiencies that have appeared in the implementation of the Act that has been in force since 2004.
Andres Ammas took the floor during the debate.
The verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian): http://stenogrammid.riigikogu.ee/et/201505061400
Photos of the sitting: https://fotoalbum.riigikogu.ee/v/Riigikogu/XIII+Riigikogu/06052015/
Video recordings of the Riigikogu sittings can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu (NB! The recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
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