KL tables motion to amend law to lower voting age to 18

Ruling coalition, allies nine votes short of two-thirds majority needed to pass; opposition has made its support conditional

The Malaysian government has tabled a motion in Parliament to amend the Federal Constitution and lower the voting age from 21 to 18.

The move yesterday would require the support of two-thirds of Parliament to pass.

Ruling coalition Pakatan Harapan and its allies currently control 139 seats, which means they are nine votes short of the number needed to amend the Constitution.

The motion was tabled for a first reading by Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman.

"The Federal Constitution is amended in Article 119, in Clause (1), in paragraph (a) by substituting for the words 'twenty-one years' the words 'eighteen years'," the amendment read.

"With this amendment, more Malaysian citizens would be entitled to vote and elect a government through an election which is in line with a progressive democratic system," it added.

Mr Syed Saddiq, who spearheaded the amendment, held consultations with both sides of the aisle prior to its tabling in Parliament.

The opposition, comprising Umno, Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) and Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), has made support of the change conditional, chief among which is that there be a provision for automatic voter registration to allow for citizens' names to be automatically added to the electoral roll when they reach voting age.

  • VOTING AGES

  • Singapore: 21

    Taiwan: 20

    South Korea: 19

    India: 18

    Japan: 18

    Thailand: 18

    Philippines: 18

    Indonesia: 17

    Britain: 18

    United States: 18

    The most common voting age around the world is 18

    • Highest voting age in the world is 25, in the United Arab Emirates

    • Lowest voting age is 16, in countries such as Austria, Brazil and Malta

    Sources: BBC.COM, THESTAR.COM.MY, INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION

The opposition is also looking to table its own proposal, as a Private Member's Bill, to similarly lower the age of candidates standing for election from 21 to 18.

The amendment tabled yesterday stipulated only the lowering of the voting age and did not include automatic voter registration or other changes.

The second reading and debate is scheduled to take place on July 16, with a vote likely on July 17, before the current parliamentary sitting ends.

If passed, it would mark the first amendment with cross-party support in Parliament since Pakatan Harapan took power last year. It would also mean that over half of Malaysia's 30 million citizens will form the electorate by the next general election due in 2023.

There is no mandatory voter registration or compulsory voting in Malaysia.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2019, with the headline 'KL tables motion to amend law to lower voting age to 18'. Print Edition | Subscribe