Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has tightened her grip on power by lowering the voting age for 18 to 16.
Most of the opposition party walked out before the policy was put to the vote. The bill was passed by 131 votes to two.
Fernandez’s popularity had fallen to below 25% due mainly to the slowing economy. Argentina are struggling due to sluggish world growth, high domestic inflation, slowing demand from their main trade partner Brazil, and government-imposed currency and trade controls that hurt business confidence.
However Fernandez is popular among the youth. Voting is compulsory for Argentinians aged 18 and older (about 29-million people) but will be optional for those aged 16 and 17, nearly 1 million people. This will potentially boast Kirchner in the polls. An increase in support would benefit President Fernandez’s party in the 2013 legislative elections. The President will need the support of two-thirds of legislators in order to change the constitution to allow her to seek a third term in office. Fernandez has never stated publicly on the possibility of this but many experts believe this ambition is the driving force behind lowing the voting age.
“It is evident that an electoral strategy lies behind the promotion of the youth vote,” an Argentinian political analyst explained. “But despite being teenagers, young people live in the same country as other voters. So if the climate towards the government continues to deteriorate, the government’s approval rating among younger people should also decline,” he added.