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Greece to Lower Voting Age, Adopt Proportional System

  • Associated Press

FILE - A protester waves a Greek flag during an anti-austerity rally in front of the parliament building in Athens, Greece, June 21, 2015.

FILE - A protester waves a Greek flag during an anti-austerity rally in front of the parliament building in Athens, Greece, June 21, 2015.

Greece's parliament has approved plans to lower the voting age by a year to 17 and adopt a proportional representation system, after years of economic austerity have hammered popular support for traditionally dominant political parties.

In a vote ending early Friday, lawmakers scrapped election law provisions that handed the winning party a generous 50-seat bonus in the 300-member parliament.

But Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' left-wing government failed to win a supermajority of votes required for the changes to have immediate effect - meaning the changes will be introduced after the next general election.

Previously rare, Greece has been governed by successive coalitions over the past five years following the country's financial crisis and massive international bailouts that have prompted huge rise in poverty and unemployment.

Blamed by many voters for the country's enormous debts, the once powerful Socialist party has seen its support plummet since the financial crisis, with rival conservatives also suffering.

Tsipras argued similar charges were occurring across a continent that is still recovering from recession.

“You have to understand that we are in a new situation - Europe is too - and there are no longer political parties that win 40 percent of the vote,” he told parliament at the end of a three-day debate.

Tsipras, who rose to power on a pledge to end financial austerity, has also suffered a loss in popularity since seeking new rescue loans from countries using the euro currency and agreeing to harsh spending cuts in return.

Greece's national debt is set to peak this year at around 180 percent of gross domestic product, according to European Commission forecasts, while the next general election is not due until late 2019.

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