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Voting age in Berlin to be lowered to 16 years

Plenarsitzung Berliner Abgeordnetenhaus

The plenary hall of the Berlin House of Representatives

In Berlin, people as young as 16 are to have a say in state elections.

So far, voting at 16 years of age is only possible in district council elections for the district council. The Berlin government coalition of the SPD, Green party and Left Party is supported by the liberal FDP in the opposition in their decision to lower the voting age accordingly this year. This was announced by the SPD faction leader Raed Saleh and the FDP faction leader Sebastian Czaja on Thursday (April 21, 2022).

Opposition party FDP supports plan of SPD, Greens and Left Party

The constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds majority in the state parliament, which the governing parties SPD, Greens and Left do not have alone and therefore need support from the opposition. The FDP parliamentary group supports the plan to get the reform underway quickly, Czaja said. "We believe that this is also an expression of social progress and a question of generational justice," the FDP politician explained.

Law to be passed this year

SPD state and parliamentary group leader Saleh said he was a strong supporter of lowering the voting age to 16 for state elections because young people deserve a voice. He explained that this regulation already applies in five other German states, including Hamburg, Baden-Württemberg and the neighboring Brandenburg. "It's high time for Berlin," Saleh said. "We can pass a law this year that can then apply for the 2026 parliamentary elections. I personally believe that many young Berliners will take advantage of this new right." He added that experience in the German states, where young people are allowed to vote at 16, also points to this.

Consequences of political decisions particularly affect young people

FDP politian Czaja also believes that an implementation the project by the end of the year is realistic.He pointed out that the consequences of political decisions also affect young people, who have not been allowed to vote up to now. Considering current major challenges such as the pandemic and the Ukraine war, the question of who will be responsible for all of this burden in the future arises, Czaja said. "That is precisely this young generation."

Green parliamentary group advocates voting rights from 16

Green Party parliamentary group leader Silke Gebel welcomed the plans: "The Greens have always advocated that young people have a strong voice in politics," she told the German Press Agency. "It's clear that the active right to vote must be lowered, because of course 16-year-olds are also responsible citizens and have a right to help shape things."

Left Party is pleased about cooperation with FDP

Hendrikje Klein, the member of the Left Party parliamentary group responsible for civic participation, said that she was pleased that Berlin's FDP was now also on board. "Together with the coalition, we can now amend Berlin's constitution to lower the voting age for Berlin's parliamentary elections from 18 to 16." The plan should be implemented quickly, Klein said.

Youth organizations welcome the decision

The youth organizations of the SPD and the Greens in Berlin also spoke out in favor of the reform. Lowering the voting age to 16 would encourage young people to get involved with political issues at an earlier age, said Mary Daher, spokeswoman for the Green Youth Berlin. The state chairwoman of the Young Socialists (Jusos), Sinem Tasan-Funke, emphasized: "This is an important step for more co-determination of young people in public life, which we of course also want to see enforced at the federal level."

SPD parliamentary group leader avocates lowering voting age on federal level

The SPD parliamentary group leader Raed Saleh also sees it that way: "I would like to see the governing coalition at the federal level take a similar step for the federal elections, but that is for others to decide," he said. At the state level, he sees the development coming across the board: "Allowing people to vote at 16 is only right and in line with the zeitgeist. I'm convinced that, eventually, all other states will follow suit."

Saleh appeals to the CDU

Saleh once again asked for the support of the Christian Democrats, who have so far rejected the idea of lowering the voting age. "I specifically invite the CDU. The broader the alliance, the better," Saleh said. A spokesman for the CDU parliamentary group said on Thursday that there were plan to discuss the issue at their next party meeting. It is quite conceivable that the Christian Democrats could move on the issue: A good dozen CDU deputies have newly entered the state parliament.

Law reform possible without the consent of the CDU

In the last election period, a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives was not foreseeable for the issue of lowering the voting age. After the elections in September, however, the reform is possible: 98 of the 147 deputies would have to agree to it. The SPD, the Greens and the Left have 92 seats in the parliament, and the FDP has 12 deputies. This means that there are already 104 deputies in favor of the reform - even without the cooperation of the CDU.

Author: dpa/
Publication date: 22 April 2022
Last updated: 22 April 2022

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