Argentina’s Lower House of Congress approved the government-sponsored teen suffrage bill that allows 16-18 year olds the chance to vote in national elections. The Upper House of Congress had preliminary approved the bill with 52 votes in favour and only three against.
Although many lawmakers left the floor during the speech of Victory Front's Andrés Larroque, the ruling Kirchnerite block managed to muster quorum and along with the support of other parties, the controversial law was approved by 131 votes in favour and 2 against.
The pro-government initiative establishes that the vote will be optional for those between 16 and 18 years old.
The move to lower the voting age from 18 to 16 comes a year before a key mid-term election in Argentina, and some critics have said it's an attempt by President Cristina Fernandez and her party to garner more votes.
But supporters of the measure say it will give young people more opportunities to participate in politics.
I think it's important that the law reflects reality, said Rep. Hector Recalde of the Victory Front party. Reality indicates that the participation of young people is increasing in our country. It's good that it's this way.
Rep. Eduardo Amadeo of the Peronist Front party offered a more cynical take on the nation's youth.
If you ask me what the worst social problem in Argentina is, it is the youth. Education is worse. The consumption of drugs is worse. Employment is worse. Things like teen pregnancy, they are much worse than they were at the beginning of this government, and now the government has discovered them and they say, we are going to vote, he said.
Nearly 1.5 million Argentines between 16 and 18 years old will now be added to voting rolls. That means it would apply in next year's mid-term elections, when half of the seats in the Lower House and a third of the seats in the Senate will be at stake.