Children at the ballot box: should kids have the right to vote?

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Should children be given the right to vote in the Czech Republic? The Christian Democrats - a member of the ruling coalition - argue that they should. A family voting rights proposal is now the subject of heated discussion in the Czech Republic. But just why are the Christian Democrats campaigning so fervently for this change in the Czech electoral system?

The Christian Democrats' proposal would give families with more children more votes in elections. The party's deputy chairman, Tomas Kvapil, says such a law would give the concept of family a firmer hold in Czech society, and would demonstrate children's significant contribution to that society. Mr Kvapil argues that there are more than 20,000 families with three children or more in the Czech Republic.

"The Czech population is getting older. We are living longer lives, the average age has been extended and there are fewer children in families. This means that in the voting spectrum older voters predominate, and politicians naturally make more room for the part of the voting spectrum where there are more votes to be won. I'll give you a simple example: families with three children too young to vote get two votes, and when there are five independent adult voters, there is a total of five votes. In my opinion, this illustrates that it is necessary to make the voting spectrum younger, and the simple way to do so is to implement family voting rights."

One issue that the Christian Democrats are weighing up is whether children should have the right to vote from birth. Mr Kvapil believes that such a step could produce positive results:

"It's my opinion that it's something to consider. I think it would fulfill the purpose of providing more support for families from politicians not only in words but also in terms of specific actions. I'll give you an example: right now the government is preparing a reform of public finance, but in the framework of the reform, every year old age pensions will grow, which is probably alright, but child benefit or maternity benefits for women taking care of their babies won't be raised even by one crown. This proves that politicians think more about older voters than about our future, our new generation."

The proposal, which has been debated in the Czech Republic for four years, is also being considered in other countries, including Germany. But the system throws up a number of questions: for example, which parent decides for whom the child should vote if the mother and father support different political parties? This is just one of the proposal's many unresolved questions.

Author: Tracy Burns
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