It is hoped that lowering Japan’s minimum voting age for elections from 20 to 18 — as the Diet now seems certain to approve so that it takes effect for the Upper House election next year — will encourage political participation by more youths just as Japan faces a host of long-term policy challenges that will directly affect their future. But it is ultimately up to the young voters themselves to decide whether to exercise their newly granted right to vote and have their voices heard in politics. The revision to the Public Offices Election Law, submitted to the Diet jointly by the ruling coalition and much of the opposition camp on Thursday, is set to be enacted during the current Diet session, paving the way for the first change in the voting age in 70 years since it was lowered from 25 to 20 in 1945. Japan has been the only Group of Seven industrialized economy to keep the minimum voting age at 20. All of other G-7 countries lowered the age to 18 during the period from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s.
The push to lower the voting age under the election law originated with the move to align the age requirement with that of the procedural law enacted last year concerning a national referendum to ratify constitutional amendments. The referendum law set the voting age at 20 for the first four years before lowering it to 18. With the revision to the Public Offices Election Law, the referendum law is also set to be amended to move up the effective date of the lower voting age.
Incongruities with other laws remain — including the Civil Code and the Penal Code, which set adulthood at age 20. Whether to also lower the age for legal adulthood — which entails both rights and obligations — to 18 remains an open question that appears to still lack a national consensus.
Full Article: A voice for 18-year-olds | The Japan Times.