National / Politics

Japan takes a step toward lowering voting age to 18


The political parties represented in the Diet took a step Friday toward lowering the nation’s minimum voting age from 20 to the international norm of 18, in line with an accord reached earlier this year.

The parties agreed to revise the Public Offices Election Law to have 18- and 19-year-olds subject to punishment for grave election violations and to resolve a dilemma regarding the Juvenile Law.

As the Juvenile Law stipulates protective custody for offenders under the age of 20 instead of criminal punishment in principle, the voting age cut alone may cause a situation where election offenders below the age of 20 would be treated differently from older ones.

The parties, including the Liberal Democratic Party and its junior ally in the ruling coalition, Komeito, want to submit a bill to revise the election law to the House of Representatives as early as Wednesday.

But in the event that they can’t submit the legislation before the lower chamber is dissolved due to any objection within the parties, they intend to issue an accord that states they will aim to enact the bill next year, in time for a triennial House of Councilors election scheduled in 2016.

When the Diet passed a national referendum law revision in June to reduce the minimum voting age to 18 from 20 only for referendums, the parties agreed at that time to try to enact the voting age reduction for public elections within two years.