PETALING JAYA: The proposed amendment to lower the voting age to 18, expected to be tabled in Parliament tomorrow, will be the second test for the year-old Pakatan Harapan administration.
All eyes will be on the government to see if it can get the Opposition to support its plan for reforms which will be a game changer in the 15th General Election.
Getting the Opposition on their side is important as Pakatan Harapan does not enjoy two-third majority in Parliament.
Pakatan will have to seek the support of 148 lawmakers to pass the amendment to Article 119 (1) of the Federal Constitution, which is expected to be tabled on Thursday.
In April, the Dewan Rakyat failed to meet the necessary two-thirds required to restore Sabah and Sarawak to their original status in the Malaysia Agreement 1962 (MA63), which saw only 138 lawmakers supporting the move.
The tabling of the amendment is a different scenario compared to when the government wanted to compel all lawmakers – the Opposition included – to declare their assets to the MACC as this only required a special motion to be tabled and can be passed with simple majority.
But amending the Federal Constitution requires two thirds, which the Pakatan bloc does not have.
With 129 MPs and another 10 from Parti Warisan Sabah and Upko combined, the government needs just nine more votes from either Barisan Nasional, PAS, Gabungan Parti Sarawak, Gabungan Bersatu Sabah, Parti Sarawak Bersatu, or the three Independents.
Whether the other parties will vote to support, reject or abstain remains unclear but in what is seen as an attempt to get the Opposition lawmakers on board, the Youth and Sports Ministry together with the Election Commission will hold a special briefing for them in Parliament today to explain what the changes entail.
At the same time, the Opposition bloc will meet to discuss how they want to vote on this.
Opposition leader and Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said his party has no issues with the government’s proposal to lower the voting age because Umno had lowered the eligible age of membership to 16.
“If the government wants to lower the voting age, we see no problem with that.
“But that is Umno’s view.
“The MPs will determine how to vote and will take in the views of PAS and others before we decide,” he said.
PAS deputy president Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said that PAS supports the proposal in principle but does not agree to lowering the voting age to 18 for the time being, wanting the government to focus on efforts to register the estimated four million unregistered voters.
Politicians from GBS and GPS are taking a cautious approach to the proposal, they wanted to get a clear idea of the proposal before making a stand.
The country records about 500,000 births each year and lowering the voting age to 18 from the present 21 means that everyone who is 18,19 and 20 years old would be able to vote.
This means that up to 1.5 million more voters will be eligible to vote in GE15 if the proposed amendment is passed.
Malaysia’s population is currently 32.75 million and if the amendment is passed, it would also mean that more than 50% of the country’s citizens will be eligible to vote in the next general election.