So, as is well-known, many Christians in Lebanon are worried about lowering the voting age to 18, because they think that this will swell the ranks of Muslim voters in a disproportionate way. Or so say Abu Michel and Abu Samir…
However, an informed reader of Qifa Nabki has made an astute intervention that busts the myth. ElectionGuerilla writes:
It’s time to look closer at the numbers quoted in the Matt Nash/NOW Lebanon article that you refer to. I presume the numbers it uses are based on the the Ministry of the Interior’s 2009 voter register data, although it isn’t clear where the MOI’s data on the 18+ year olds come from.
But assuming that it’s good data, the article only details the increase in each confessional group. As this perspective shows a 8-9% increase in the number of Sunni/Shia voters, perhaps this article is being used as a ’semi-scare story’ to encourage Christians to block lowering the voting age, using the hoary old argument that they want it balanced by expat voting. (Haven’t they seen that the 2008 law guarantees that registered expat citizens will vote in the next parliamentary elections?)
A far more relevant consideration would be whether lowering the voting age has a significant impact on the electorate as a whole. And here, using the data from this article, there’s a very different picture.
* Sunnis go from 27.1% of all voters to 27.5% – an increase of 0.4%
* Shia go from 26.5% to 27.1% – a increase of 0.6%
* Maronites drop from 21.7% to 21.3% – a fall of 0.4%
and so on.
The overall ‘change’ is that the proportion of Muslim voters rises from 60% to 61% while the proportion of Christian voters falls from 40% to 39%. Hardly “a deluge of new voters [that] would upset Lebanon’s sectarian balance”.
The article also does not consider the ‘electoral impact’ of these changes, perhaps because it would be negligible. The new Shia or Sunni voters will mostly vote in electoral districts or municipalities where their families are already registered. Can anyone think of where any of last year’s election results would have been different had 18 year olds been able to vote?
In other words, despite what Abu Michel and Abu Samir think, lowering the voting age would make a negligible difference on the overall voting populations of each sect. The graph above expresses the change visually.
And before I forget, make sure to read Josh Hersh’s excellent article about Salah Ezzedine, the Lebanese Bernie Madoff whose Ponzi scheme impoverished many people, and even embarrassed Hezbollah.