Democracy is an egalitarian form of government in which all the citizens of a nation together determine public policy, the laws and the actions of their state, requiring that all citizens (meeting certain qualifications) have an equal opportunity to express their opinion. And that opinion is expressed by the simple act of voting which is one of the most important human rights . In lebanon , we get introduced to that concept at a young age in school when kids get to vote for their class president for instance, then we develop a better understand of its political aspect at university.
During the 19th century , the most common age at which the citizens acquired the right to vote was 21 or higher . However , by the end of the 20th century the voting age has become 18 in almost all countries with the exception of Lebanon and a few others. Some people believe that Lebanon should lower its voting age from 21 to 18 and many proposals were made regarding that , but are 18 years old here mature enough to make such decisions? Does the Lebanese history allow them to vote independently despite their parents cival war grudges? And finally are we ready to disturb our sectarian balance with the deluge of new voters?
In most western countries , when you reach adulthood you become on your own . You move out of your parents house , get a job to pay for your own education and move on from there . Whereas that’s not the case in Lebanon . Rare are the people that leave home at 18 here due to many traditional beliefs youth usually stay with their parents till their married. Thus we don’t learn responsibility at this young age like adults in other countries. It might be true that giving younger people voting rights will force politicians to take them seriously but its also very dangerous 18 year olds although in adult bodies, still have the mind of children that have to be protected . At 21 , their political views are likely to be more thoughtful than at 18 who are just going to copy their parents opinions or adopt silly ideas for the sake of rebellion such as voting for legalizing drugs .. In addition , Lebanon has suffered from a 16 –year civil war. Even though it ended 22 years ago we are still enduring its consequences til this day. So arguments and rules that apply to other countries cant be applied here.
The Youth campaign and the Civil one that proposed the lowering of the voting age should reconsider the fact that youth here are very much influenced by their parents who faught in the civil war and still hold family grudges against each other. They are not independent with their political thoughts , they seek vengeance for their parents instead of making conscious decisions based on knowledge and education after the university experience . Furthermore, university elections have clearly shown over the years that Lebanese youth are not ready or mature enough for this kind of responsibility with all the clashes that has been happening between youth that follow different political parties like the fight between supporters of the Future Movement and Haraket Amal at the Lebanese American University in November 2011 that led to many injuries or even different clashes at Notre Dame University, Lebanese university and others…
Last but not least , the main reason why the Lebanese Parliament has rejected the bill to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 is the fact that it led to a sharp division between Muslim and Christian politicians. Lebanon has 18 different sects, that function according to a sectarian law . it seems amending the voting age would add far more Muslims than Christians to voter rolls . Rabih Haber, president of the research company Statistics Lebanon, have done an approximate study and got his numbers from the Interior Ministry .
It says that with the new voters, it would add nearly 175,000 Muslims and around 58,000 Christians to the roles with Shia Muslims being the sect with the most potential new voters. To change the voting age , lawmakers must amend the constitution which requires the support of two-thirds of both the cabinet and Parliament which will not happen because different Political Parties have different benefits and this law is only beneficial for Huzballah and Amal and disturbing the sectarian balance in a country like Lebanon can’t be healthy .
In Conclusion , I think the perfect age for voting in Lebanon is 21 since at that age the youth have enough maturity and independence to make their own decisions without basing it on history feuds and parental brainwashing. Plus I don’t think Lebanon can afford an instability in its sectarian system just yet . Maybe if we were more politically stable , that change would have been possible but with these conditions I think giving 18 year olds the right to vote can be very dangerous and they might use it in foolish ways .