A total of six ruling and opposition parties resubmitted to the House of Representatives a bill to revise the Public Offices Election Law and to lower the voting age to 18 or older from the current 20 or older. The bill is highly likely to pass at the current Diet session.
If the revised law is applied to the House of Councillors election scheduled in the summer of 2016, about 2.4 million minors aged 18 and 19 will be added to eligible voters.
The bill was submitted jointly by the Liberal Democratic Party, Komeito, the Democratic Party of Japan, the Japan Innovation Party, the Party for Future Generations and the People's Life Party. All the parties and parliamentary groups except the Japanese Communist Party will support the bill, observers said.
If realised, the voting age will be lowered for the first time in 70 years since it was lowered in 1945 to the current 20 from 25.
The new voting age will be applied to elections of the upper and lower houses, gubernatorial and mayoral elections and local assembly elections. Ages to be qualified to serve as lay judges and members for the committees for the inquest of prosecution will be left unchanged at 20 or older for the time being.
Involvement in serious election fraud, such bribery, by minors aged 18 or older will be punishable as in the case of adults. Cases in which a guilt-by-association system is applied will be sent to a prosecutor's office.
The revised law will be put into effect one year after it is promulgated and applied to immediate lower or upper house elections.
If the bill is enacted by around late June, the new voting age will be applied to the upper house election scheduled for summer next year.
The parties want to start deliberations over the bill at the House of Representatives' special committee on political ethics and election systems by the end of March. However, if battles between the ruling and opposition parties get more fierce over issues such as money in politics, there is a possibility that enactment of the bill will be delayed.
A supplementary provision of the revised National Referendum Law enacted in June last year that provides procedures for constitutional revisions specified that legislative measures would be taken for lowering the minimum voting age. Though the bill to revise the Public Office Election Law was submitted to an extraordinary Diet session in November last year, it was repealed due to the dissolution of the House of Representatives.
A voting age of 18 is common in other nations. According to data released by the Lower House in April last year, of 198 countries surveyed across the world, 176 nations granted people who are 18 eligibility to vote. In all G-8 members except Japan, the minimum voting age is 18 years old.