The municipal elections are far behind us now. All the cities and towns in the country have put their coalitions in place and are now running them, hoping to improve schools, transportation, the economy, etc. Most pundits have finally stopped analyzing the election results of some municipalities you can barely find on the map. Even Antwerp has cobbled together a local government despite recriminations between the governing parties and within them. At times the whole process brings to mind the making of salami, it’s best not to ask how it’s made, just eat it.
This ritual in democracy is repeated every six years, punctuated by the same kind of horse trading and backdoor deals. In order to break this cycle I have a modest proposal that might re-energise the political paradigm, galvanise the electorate and probably be a first of its kind anywhere in the world.
I suggest everybody in Belgium get the right to vote. By everybody, I mean everybody – not just those who are 18 and older. Any citizen, would have the right to vote, whatever their age. For babies, their parents could vote for them. An arbitrary age, 18 or younger, could be defined for when a teenager could start voting for themselves.
It will certainly change the way elections are conducted. Politicians will have to address the issues that affect the future of the country, rather than concentrate on putting out daily fires and planning short-term solutions to long-term issues. They know that the average family will now have four votes instead of two. It will also force the country’s leaders to pick the right fights without pandering to certain groups of voters with parochial interests.
There are a number of advantages to this:
– It reflects the true will of the people. Parents who bring children into the world have a greater stake in the future than those without and should have a larger say in the way things are run and the direction the country is headed.
– It would probably lead to a healthy increase in the population. The more children you have the greater your voice in the body politic.
– Youngsters could start to learn their civic responsibilities at an early age.
There are still issues to work out: if parents are divorced, who gets the vote (it could be part of the divorce settlement); if the parents are married, which parent will vote for the child if they disagree on which party to vote for; an obstructionist parliament will refuse to pass the law implementing the parent’s vote; child protection agencies that will claim children should exercise their free choice and independence at an early age, thereby challenging the right of the parent to vote in their children’s name.
While serious, these challenges can be overcome through compromise, common sense and an understanding that the future of the Kingdom is at stake. The time for the parent’s vote has come. It should be the subject of debate during the next parliamentary session, whenever that happens.
By Arthur Rubinstein