The right to vote from the age of 16. After Austria in 2007, Greece in 2016 (from the age of 17) and Malta in 2022, it is Belgium’s turn to give minors the right to vote during the European elections in 2024. The measure, adopted last week by the Federal Parliament, concerns nearly 300,000 young Belgians.
Unlike adult voters who are obliged to vote, minors will have to register themselves on the electoral lists. “We look forward to young people’s ideas on Europe! », rejoiced the Minister of the Interior on Twitter. And if you believe the people of Brussels for sure that the under 16s are present. Determined to know their opinion, 20 minutes took his train ticket, heading for the narrow streets of central Brussels far from the Grand-Place filled with tourists. “At our age, we are not yet mature enough”, thus slices the first young woman questioned this Wednesday. She is 15, sitting on a bench near a basketball court with three other friends. And all agree that they “don’t care” about politics.
Civic education is lacking in Belgium
Further on, on the square in front of the Congress column, near the Palais-Royal, Laura and Nina, aged 27 and 25, are trying to understand the youngest: The participation of young Belgians in the Europeans “will strongly depend on young people’s interest in politics, says Laura. For the moment, here, there is not enough awareness of the importance of this vote, of the issues of political parties, whether at school or in the media”. “Finally, the important thing is not really age, it is necessary above all that young people realize the importance they can have during the elections”, adds Nina. And most of the dozens of young people questioned this Wednesday in Brussels agree with the analysis of their two eldest: civic education is lacking in the country. Courses in geopolitics, history or political and social sciences… Belgian teenagers need to understand the issues facing European women (among others) in order to make the right choices. And everyone believes that having the right to vote is not really useful… if you don’t know why you put a ballot in a ballot box.
“We must also support the process”
“If they want to set up the vote, the school program must already be changed,” says another young Belgian, crossed with his four other 20-year-old friends sitting on the terrace. Everyone starts a debate: “We should start learning at school, to be better educated”, decides one of them, before another says: “We must not just authorize this measure, it must also accompany the process. “And a last to decide, finally: “in addition, at 16, you have no importance in society, you are not listened to”.
In France, in August 2020, when a bill on the vote of minors was tabled, the National Assembly rejected it. Voting from the age of 16 was again discussed during the 2022 presidential election. Only three candidates declared themselves in favor of it: Jean-Luc Mélenchon (LFI), Yannick Jadot (EELV) or Anne Hidalgo (PS). Milla, she would not have been favorable: 16 years old is “too young”, according to her. The 20-year-old Frenchwoman, whom we met during our wanderings in the Belgian capital, already believes “not to understand anything about politics” at her age, “so at 16, it would have been really worse than anything”. And Milla to wonder: “I can conceive that some want to participate in political life but that does not affect many adolescents. So, from there to generalizing the vote to all? »