Friday, September 24

Malaysia reduces voting age to 18

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KUALA LUMPUR: The year  2019 saw Malaysia becoming the latest country to amend its constitution to lower the voting age to 18 from 21, previously.

The historic event in the country’s politics and democratic system has made Malaysia to join other Asean countries, except Indonesia, to set 18 as the minimum voting age.

The voting age in Indonesia is 17.

Apart from Singapore, other countries that still maintain the voting age limit of 21 are Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Cameroon, Samoa and Tongga.

The amendment was proof of Pakatan Harapan’s commitment to realise the promise it made in its  election manifesto.

In addition to lowering the voting age from 21 to 18, the amendments also sought to lower the eligible age of electoral candidates to 18, and to enable automatic registration of voters by the Election Commission (EC).]

The chronology on the constitutional amendment began with it being tabled for the first reading in Parliament on July 4 by Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, but the bill was withdrawn on July 10 to also include the automatic registration by the EC and lower the age limit of election candidates.

The following day, an amended version of the bill was tabled for the first reading and on July 16, it was passed with more than a two-thirds majority garnered through bipartisanship.

The bill secured the support of the 211 MPs after it went for bloc voting twice.

The Dewan Rakyat has 222 members.

It would have only required 148 votes for the bill to be passed.

On July 25, ten days after the bill was passed by the Parliament, the Dewan Negara passed it with a two-third majority.

With the automatic voter registration, 7.8 million new voters are expected to be added to the electoral roll by 2023, with the total number of voters expected to reach  22.7 million in 2023, compared to 14.9 million in the 14th general election last year.

Following which, the EC and National Registration Department (NRD) have set up a special task force on the implementation of the 18-year-old voting age and automatic voter registration to co-ordinate information on Malaysian citizens and other related matters.

According to EC, it would take about 18 to 24 months to fully implement it.

Meanwhile, the reforms on the electoral system this year also saw the EC making several improvements and changes to ensure smooth election in the country, including introducing the online voter registration through https://mysprograms.spr.gov.my/.

The EC has also implemented new initiatives to encourage and facilitate voters when going to the polls at several by-elections by introducing the voter’s card, which contained information such as voting centre, serial number, stream and time to vote.

It is also conducting a study to determine whether the use of existing schools and hall as polling districts centres (PDM)  could still  accommodate the increasing number of voters in the 15th General Election.

In helping the EC to disseminate information on democracy and elections, the Election Academy (APR) through its Associate Trainer Programme  (AAT) had trained 187 students from public and private universities, polytechnics, community colleges, Health ministry training institutes, Teachers Training Institutes, and Mara Education Institutes to become speakers and associate trainers so they can manage election awareness programmes and civic education on campus.

In April, the EC signed an agreement with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for election reforms in the country.

The cooperation involved sharing cost of RM6.4 million, where UNDP will provide EC with technical consultation assistance and services, especially in improving the electoral rolls, as well as capacity building through Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections (BRIDGE). — Bernama