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    Give our Youth Responsibility

    Parliament will convene on Monday in a special session to discuss a constitutional amendment which would lower the voting age from 21 to 18, and we believe this a change that the political overlords must make regardless of any actuarial concerns for their own fiefdoms. We do not advocate this reform because the Taif Accord, which ended the 1975-90 Civil War, calls for the change – although that would be reason enough.

    We do not back this alteration of the Constitution only to please Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who has been spearheading the drive to change the voting age and deserves praise for doing so. We thank Berri for initiating this campaign, but we would also be remiss if we did not point out this represents his first act of real creativity in his decades of ruling the legislature.

    Yes, almost all developed nations have a voting age of 18, and we also accept the moral argument that if one is allowed to marry, own property, conduct business and serve in the military at 18, one should also have an untrammeled voice in the political sphere.

    But we support bringing down the voting age primarily because more than 50 percent of Lebanon’s population is under 25 years of age, and we need to give them political responsibility.

    This issue of responsibility frequently serves as the line dividing the camps on this measure. Those who oppose lowering the age fear that our youth are in the main a band of fanatics who cannot be trusted or a cohort mostly immune to the corruption on which so much of this country’s political architecture stands.

    Those who recognize the need to give the franchise to 18-year-olds know that these youths are our demographic future; the young, as ever, are the most dynamic part of society, and we sorely need their dynamism in our stagnant political waters. The young will inherit the political dung heap snowballing to even greater dimensions today in Parliament and at the national-dialogue table. With the reality of their overwhelming numbers, they will carry this country sooner rather than later, and they must not be denied the chance to bear their responsibilities in public life from the age of civil majority.

    We need this flood of youth to rejuvenate, consolidate and stabilize the country. For Lebanon to accrue the greatest possible benefit from their massive potential, they must experience the responsibility of choosing their political representation. What role do we want to give this inexorable demographic tide? Shall we encourage them on the path to fanaticism? Shall we shoo them out of the country, the path long favored by so many millions of Lebanese?

    Or shall we – for a change – keep them here, do what is necessary to give them a role and take advantage of their dynamism to invigorate a politically moribund state?

    The Daily Star

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