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Parliament says 16 too young to vote

Social Democrat Ursula Wyss campaigning outside parliament prior to debate on giving vote to 16 year olds.

(Keystone)

Parliament has rejected a motion to lower the voting age by two years to 16. The decision came on the first day of parliament's summer session.

The House of Representatives voted 89 to 79, with four abstentions, against the motion championed by the Social Democrat, Ursula Wyss. In a first reaction, the parliamentarian, who is 27, said she would continue her campaign to extend voting rights to young people.

Ironically, one of the most outspoken critics of the motion was Toni Brunner, who at 25 is the youngest member of parliament. Brunner, of the right-wing Swiss People's Party, argued that youngsters not obliged to pay taxes should have no say in matters relating to the country's economy.

In other business, parliament also scotched a proposal to introduce a first-past-the-post system, instead of proportional representation, for elections to the Senate.

Over the next three weeks, the Senate and the House of Representatives will discuss a range of other issues. Taking centre stage, however, will be the debate over Europe and the proposed liberalisation of the electricity market.

The normally tranquil summer session is being watched more closely than usual this year, coming as it does just weeks after Swiss voters overwhelming endorsed a series of bilateral accords with the European Union.

Parliament will consider whether to approve a referendum calling for Switzerland to begin immediate negotiations on EU membership.

The government has argued for eventual membership of the EU since as long ago as 1992. However, it is firmly opposed to this so-called "Yes to Europe" initiative, because it wants a free hand in deciding when and how to put the membership question before the Swiss people.

The session is also likely to debate the proposed liberalisation of the electricity market. This is in line with the government's policy of aligning Swiss legislation with that of the EU. The prospect of forthcoming energy referenda in September may pre-empt further debate.

swissinfo with agencies


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