Pakatan Harapan hopes for opposition support as it tables motion to lower voting age to 18

A Pakatan Harapan supporter waving the party flag, celebrating its victory in the general election on May 9, 2018. PHOTO: ST FILE

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia tabled a motion in Parliament on Thursday (July 4) to lower the voting age from 21 to 18. The amendment to the Federal Constitution would require the support of a two-thirds majority in Parliament to pass.

Ruling coalition Pakatan Harapan and allies currently control 139 seats, which leave them nine votes short of 148, 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 tabled amendment reads.

"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 adds.

The opposition, comprising Umno, Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) and Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), has set out some conditions for its support for the amendment. The chief condition is that there be a provision for automatic voter registration that would allow for citizens' names to be automatically added to the electoral roll when they reach voting age.

The opposition is also looking to table its own proposal, as a Private Member's Bill, to lower electoral candidates' age from 21 to 18.

The amendment tabled on Wednesday only stipulates lowering the voting age and does not include automatic voter registration or other changes.

Mr Syed Saddiq, spearheading the amendment proposal, had conducted consultations with both sides prior to its tabling.

The second reading and debate would 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 to a Bill in Parliament that receives multi-partisan support. It would also mean that over half of Malaysia's 30 million citizens will form the electorate by next election in 2023.

There are currently 15 million registered voters, 3.8 million unregistered voters and 1.5 million Malaysians who would qualify as voters by 2023 if voting age is reduced to 18.

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