By Khaled Al-Abdulhadi
KUWAIT: Only people over the age of 21 are able to vote in Kuwait, while most countries around the world have their voting age set at 18 years. The question is — are young people in Kuwait interested in politics, and will they have an impact on the election results? Should the law be changed to allow suffrage for Kuwaitis under 21?
Kuwait Times spoke to political analyst and expert in election affairs Jaber Baqer on lowering the voting age. Baqer has been analyzing Kuwaiti politics for more than two decades and also participated in analyzing the recent elections in Qatar. “Naturally, lowering the voting age will have a great impact on election results. In the most recent elections, we witnessed great participation and voting by younger people. We measured this by the success rate of younger candidates,” he said.
“Elections are determined by the silent majority. They are the people who do not have personal interests or much knowledge about politics. They are usually busy with their own social responsibilities and pressures. In any election, they are the biggest influencer of results,” Baqer said, pointing out the silent majority usually makes up around 65 percent of societies around the world.
“I would definitely be interested in participating in this year’s campaign, but sadly I’m only 20 years old. I would love to vote and be a part of this privilege that our country offers, since we are the only democracy in the Gulf. If it were allowed, I would definitely vote, and many would agree with me,” Abdulwahab Al-Jasmi, a 20-year-old finance student at Kuwait University, told Kuwait Times.
“I do not agree that people under the age of 21 are not mature enough to vote. It’s not about the age; it’s about your right, regardless of ‘not being mature enough’. Eighteen is the age of being an adult, as people go to war at this age and drive cars, but they cannot vote. I know many people who have knowledge about the political scene in Kuwait but they can’t vote. Meanwhile, many people older than 21 are not taking advantage of voting because they do not want to get involved or are simply too lazy to vote. I know when they lower the age limit to 18, there will be a difference,” Jasmi said.
“My general perception about the political scene in Kuwait is that I feel like everyone who is involved is thinking about themselves and their own best interests. I would love to see a change in what they talk about. They are mostly focused on fundamental religious things more than real issues that are happening in the country. Also, I would love to see Kuwait become a full democracy rather than a semi-democratic country,” he added.
Over 85 countries in the world have the voting age set at 18 years old, while some countries such as Argentina and Austria have the age set at 16 years old. Young people have a younger and fresher outlook on life. They have a futuristic perspective regarding Kuwait’s future. Because their inclusion in politics will have a big impact, and since they are interested in participating in politics as well as shaping their lives, many believe people under the age of 21 should have a right to be included in the political process in Kuwait.