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Japan

Should Japan Give Kids The Right To Vote?

That is one bold idea floated to prevent older voters from paralyzing the democracy and blocking necessary reforms for the future.

Of voting age...someday?
Of voting age...someday?
Yann Rousseau

TOKYO - Let’s give kids the right to vote. This is the bold proposal launched by Nikkei, the influential Japanese business newspaper concerned about the oppressive influence that older voters of the archipelago put on the political agenda of this aging nation.

Demographically controlling the elections, the elder Japanese would doom the country to neglect key structural reforms for its future in favor of focusing solely on current issues, the paper fears. Political experts, who have been pointing at the anemic number of young voters, argue that there is no more electoral appetite for projects evoking the protection of the welfare system, dealing with the soaring debt or the considering the future of education.

Less numerous as well as less mobilized than their elders — as in other developed countries — Japanese from 20 to 29 years old comprised just 7.6% of the electorate during the 2010 legislative elections. No more than two million people between ages 20 and 24 went to the ballot box then.

At the same time, eight million people between ages 60 and 64 voted, as did more than eight million people over 75. To better consider issues important to young voters, the two primary political parties, the LDP in power and the minority DPJ, have been promising for years to lower the voting age from the current 20 to 18. But the domination of older voters is so strong that the impact of this measure would be insignificant, sociologists fear.

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Japanese school boys - Photo: elimmo

Relying on the work of American demographer Paul Demeny, which inspired politicians in Germany and Hungary, Nikkei proposes to extend the franchise to "zero-year-olds." That would allow parents to vote for their children until they turn 15. The idea is that this supplementary vote would naturally encourage parents to give more thoughtful attention to candidates’ positions on issues that would impact their children’s lives.

Though the Japanese tweetosphere has been focused on this debate, the two Japanese political parties haven't seemed very alarmed. Yet the situation is worsening: The 16.5 million Japanese people under 15 represent just 13% of the population, while the over-65 set is more than 30 million strong, or 24% of the population.

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Society

Colombia Celebrates Its Beloved Drug For The Ages, Coffee

This essential morning drink for millions worldwide was once considered an addictive menace, earning itself a ban on pain of death in the Islamic world.

Colombia's star product: coffee beans.

Julián López de Mesa Samudio

-Essay-

BOGOTÁ — October 1st is International Coffee Day. Recently it seems as if every day of the calendar year commemorates something — but for Colombia, coffee is indeed special.

For almost a century now we have largely tied our national destiny, culture and image abroad to this drink. Indeed it isn't just Colombia's star product, it became through the course of the 20th century the world's favorite beverage — and the most commonly used drug to boost work output.

Precisely for its stimulating qualities — and for being a mild drug — coffee was not always celebrated, and its history is peppered with the kinds of bans, restrictions and penalties imposed on the 'evil' drugs of today.

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