Voting age sparks row in Lebanon

A parliament session in progress in Beirut. The thorny issue of voting age may be put to the test at a parliament session today. (AFP)

In a country where 18-year-olds can drive, marry and serve in the army, allowing them to vote would generally be applauded as a boon for democracy. But not so in Lebanon. A move to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 has sparked fears of a shake-up of Lebanon's political structure, a complex power-sharing system between Christians and Muslims that has helped preserve a fragile peace since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war. The fear resonates most strongly within Lebanon's once-dominant Maronite Christian community, today estimated at around 30 per cent of the four-million population.

"Christians fear the numbers," said Paul Salem, who heads the Beirut-based Carnegie Middle East Centre.

The thorny issue may be put to the test at a parliament session today, almost one year after MPs approved draft legislation to cut the age from 21 to 18.

 

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