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Cantonal vote Youth suffrage suffers setback in public ballot

Sit-in protest of young people behind banner

Neuchâtel voters were not following the example of Glarus more than ten years ago to introduce the minimum voting age of 16.

(Keystone/Cyril Zingaro)

The minimum voting age will not be lowered to 16 in canton Neuchâtel, dampening hopes of introducing youth suffrage at a national level in Switzerland.

An initiative by the left-wing Social Democratic Party was thrown out by 58.5% of the vote on Sunday, according to the cantonal chancellery.

Neuchâtel was only the second canton (out of 26 cantons) to decide on voting age 16 following Glarus where the open-air assembly approved a similar project in 2007.

Moves are also underway in other regions and at a national level, both in parliament and from civil society.

The current minimum voting age of 18 – the age of legal consent in Switzerland - was introduced nationwide following a public vote in 1991.

Supporters of youth suffrage say it could boost the chances of political participation among the younger generation, while opponents argue teenagers aren’t ready to deal with sometimes complex issues.

Research has shown that only about 30% of the 18-29-year-olds in Switzerland take part in votes and elections. The national average is about 45%.

Detailed turnout figures about the October parliamentary elections are expected to be published next month.

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