German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier says he is open to lowering the voting age for federal elections to 16.
In the wake of the demographic shift, he believes it is “not only necessary but imperative to think about balancing the weight of younger people by lowering the voting age to 16 in federal elections as well,” he said in an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Wednesday.
“In a number of federal states, this is already the law for local and state elections anyway,” added Germany’s head of state, according to a report from Deutschlandfunk. In 1996, Lower Saxony was the first state to allow 16-year-olds to vote in local elections, but six other states have now adopted the same rule at the state level, as well as nine states at the local level.
The move to reduce voting ages has long been pushed by the left-wing Social Democrats and Green party. Young people are increasingly likely to vote for these parties, and many of them are either foreign-born or the children of immigrants, which fuels their support for pro-migration parties.
“I am convinced that young people at 16 are very capable of making a responsible electoral decision,” said, for example, the former governing mayor of Berlin, Franziska Giffey (SPD).
The Green party has also run petitions calling for a lower voting age, writing: “Political decisions often affect young people particularly badly, such as the closing and reopening of schools during the pandemic. They show solidarity in the crisis and take responsibility for the climate — but have no say.”
Green Family Minister Lisa Paus has also called for a lower voting age, saying last year, “The voting age of 16 in the European elections is an important signal, but we shouldn’t stop there.”
At the same time, the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and the Alternative for Germany (AfD) advocate that voting rights only apply to those 18 and up.
Steinmeier also said he was open to allowing longer legislative terms in the Bundestag, which would mean less opportunities to vote for the population. Under such a scenario, politicians would spend five years in office instead of the current four.
“I can appreciate the idea of giving the Bundestag more time for legislative substantive work. Especially in a time of overlapping crises,” he said.