Will teenage lawmakers be born in Japan soon?

Calls for lower eligibility age gaining momentum




The day may be drawing nearer when teenage Diet (parliament) members become a reality in Japan. This is because the age of eligibility for election may possibly be reduced to 20 years or younger. At present, the age is 25 years in House of Representatives elections and 30 years in House of Councillors elections. The Liberal Democratic Party, the New Komeito, the Democratic Party and the Initiatives from Osaka have bared their policies to seek lower eligibility ages in their manifestoes for this summer’s upper house election in a show of the country’s first-ever suprapartisan approach toward the simmering issue. What will be the effect of the proposed reduction of the eligibility age, the bedrock of the electoral system?



One of key factors behind the move is the growing social necessity to promote political participation by the youth. The biggest effect of a lower age can be an enhancement of young people’s engagement with and commitment in politics. When younger candidates win in national elections, the same generations may begin to see politics closer to them. Moreover, younger lawmakers may consider putting greater priority on policy measures tuned to the interests of younger generations.



Yet there is some skepticism about reduction of the age. Critics argue that Japanese people younger than 20 years are still immature and lack social experiences, so they can do little if elected to the Diet. However, the ratio of Diet members younger than 30 years is quite low at 0.6% in Japan, which is just one-tenth of that in Germany. Given that too many Diet members are middle-aged or elder, isn’t it better to accept more of younger lawmakers by conniving at their inexperience and political immaturity?



For example, younger legislators may better deal with matters related to new technological innovations like AI (artificial intelligence) and bitcoin. In fact, some 40 junior LDP lawmakers have joined hands to launch what they call a parliamentary league for promotion of AI, big data and IoT (Internet of Things). It may well be one of ideas that only younger people can think of.

例えば、AI(人工知能)や仮想通貨など、新技術には若い議員のほうがより柔軟に対応できることも考えられる。実際、自民党の若手議員約40名によって、AI・ビッグデータ・IoT(Internet of Things)利活用促進若手議員連盟がつくられている。若者ならではの発想といえるだろう。



And above all, the eligibility age should be lowered without delay to give broader options to the 2.4 million young voters who came into existence following the reduction in June of the voting right to 18 years. The United States and the Netherlands already have teenage lawmakers. In Japan, there has long been widespread concern over the young generation’s disengagement with politics and electoral indifference. Such tendency can be stemmed by giving younger people more chances to enter politics. そして何より、選挙権の18歳への引き下げで新たに生まれた約240万人の若い有権者の選択肢を広げる意味でも、被選挙権引き下げは早急に導入する必要があるように思われる。すでに、アメリカやオランダでは、10代の議員が誕生している。政治、選挙離れが指摘される若者を実際に政治の舞台に参加させることで、こうした傾向も弱まっていくのではないだろうか。 (Written by: Takaaki Araki) (荒木敬明)