To explore the full set of age-related legislation in the area of Political participation,
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political participation

In this domain, the minimum ages for participation within political systems and organisations are explored. All countries in the region have set a minimum age at which a person is legally allowed to vote and be a candidate in federal or national elections. While globally there is a near universal adoption of 18 as the voting age, there is significant disparity in the CEE/CIS region when it comes to standing as a candidate.

Child and adolescent participation is also considered in the ability to join and form their own organisations with minimum ages set for participation in over half of the countries across the region. Lastly we have a look at the definitions of youth and – where it exists – adolescence across the region.

Voting and candidacy age

All countries have set a minimum age of 18 years to vote in national elections. This is one of the few ages where there are no exceptions across the region, though these may exist for sub-national level elections, which were not explored in this research. Despite the ability of children in some countries to acquire legal capacity before the age of 18 through marriage, employment or parental consent, the age at which an individual can vote is fixed rather than dependent of majority or capacity. Hence, there can be cases in which children acquire other civil and legal rights, but not the right to take part in elections.

Additionally, candidacy age is one of the highest age restrictions for individuals, with the age affecting those with full legal capacity rather than children. Higher minimum ages for candidacy are found in the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Turkey has the highest candidacy age of 30 years for the elected upper house.

This is an interesting sub-regional pattern, with the lower ages coming mostly from the more geographically western countries, and the higher ages from the geographically more eastern countries within the region, with Turkey as outlier.

30
25
23
21
18

Minimum candidacy age (lower house)

Participation in children’s and youth organisations

Another key field of participation rights is the right of children to assemble in and organise their own organisations. This could be either the participation in organisations that have been founded by adults or the formation of dedicated organisations by and for young people. For youth organisations, information was found for 15 countries; for children’s associations, only 8 countries. Among them, many countries make a distinction between membership and being a founding or steering member of an organisation. For example, in Ukraine, the age for joining a children’s association is 6, whereas for founding an organisation, the minimum age is 15.

For youth organisations, the most frequent minimum age for participation is 14 years. Fourteen also is the age which

is frequently the minimum for criminal responsibility and the ability to engage in petty dealings and personal legal matters. In several countries, special rules apply for membership in political parties. Political parties can only be formed at the age of 18 in Kyrgyzstan, and joined at the age of 16 in Kazakhstan and 18 in Ukraine.

The restrictions on children to politically participate is contrary to the younger ages at which children have the right to be heard in judicial proceedings, the ages at which their consent is required for the decisions affecting their lives, and the ages at which they may participate in economic and social practices.

Definition of youth

Besides legal minimum ages, childhood, youth and adolescence may also be defined in policies for the respective groups. At the outset of this research, we showed that no universally agreed definitions exist for neither youth nor adolescents. This is also confirmed in the CEE/CIS region, where we frequently find definitions of youth, usually in dedicated youth policies or laws. However, national definitions vary and often differ from the global ones. Additionally, for adolescents who are at the core of this research, national definitions or policies could hardly be found. The only exception is Belarus, with a distinct definition of teenagers as those aged 14-18 (Belarus Family Code, 1999, Article 179).

Elsewhere, adolescents are typically only treated as a distinct group in the justice system, in which the term of “juvenile” is typically used, as outlined above. Also interestingly, Romania is the only country with a definition of youth starting only at the age of 18. For all other countries, the definitions of youth also include children below the age of 18.

While the right to choose one’s confession is also among the fundamental civil rights and the freedom of conscience and religion is part the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 14), very little information could be found for the CEE/CIS region with regards to specific ages at which children could independently decide about their religion.