• Kyodo

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The voting age for national elections will be lowered to 18 from the current 20, starting with the next Upper House election in summer 2016, as both ruling and opposition parties are set to submit the necessary legislation to the Diet as early as next week, lawmakers said Tuesday.

The bill to revise the Public Offices Election Law is expected to be passed during the current Diet session that runs through June 24, paving the way for the first change in the voting age since it was lowered to 20 from 25 in 1945.

About 2.4 million people aged 18 and 19 would become voters next year.

The move came after a revised national referendum law took effect in June 2014 to lower the voting age to 18 from 20 in plebiscites on constitutional changes.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aims to amend the pacifist Constitution to enable the Self-Defense Forces to play a greater security role.

Abe called Tuesday for raising awareness among teenagers of their impending right to vote.

“The government will take every opportunity to promote awareness among (future) voters in cooperation with school educators, election boards and local communities,” Abe told a plenary session of the Upper House.

Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, its ruling coalition partner Komeito, the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan and some other parties are in the final stage of talks on submitting the bill.

A similar bill presented to an extraordinary Diet session last year was scrapped when Abe dissolved the Lower House for a snap election.

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