EC should start process to register 18-year-olds as voters, say leaders

Youth of the nation: Undi18 aims to allow 18-year-old Malaysians, including (from left) K. Aniemalar, Nathaniel Eliezer Chin, Afiq Amanie Mohd Amran and S. Padmaullashini, to have their voices heard in elections. — IZZRAFIQ ALIAS/The Star

PETALING JAYA: Leaders from across the political divide are not for any delay in the lowering of the minimum voting age to 18 as well as automatic voter registration (AVR).

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the movement control order was not a good reason for the two initiatives to be deferred.

Khairy pointed out that last November, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan had said the two initiatives were expected to be implemented in July this year.

“Not more than five months after this answer was given, the EC (Election Commission) has announced the delay of the implementation to more than a year later, which is September 2022, ” he said.

Khairy, who was previously the Youth and Sports Minister, said the EC’s statement about its need to engage political parties and NGOs also raised questions.

“The EC should give further explanation about this engagement session as this process is no longer an issue because Undi18 has been agreed upon by the highest level of the lawmaking process in the country, which is the Parliament, ” he added.

On July 16,2019, the historic Bill was passed to lower the voting age from 21 to 18, as well as to implement AVR.

But on Thursday, the EC had announced that the lowering of the minimum voting age and AVR could only be done by Sept 1,2022.

Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican said the EC should have continued the engagement process and taken whatever steps they could to show its seriousness in implementing the move to register 18-year-olds as voters, even during the MCO period, as it had been two years in the making.

He said the process of lowering the age of voters to 18 should start somewhere as it had already been passed by the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara in 2019.

“Granted that as the opposition then, we gave our full support to amend the Constitution to lower voters’ age to 18 years old provided that AVR, too, is put in place so as to be fair to all.

“We also asked that 18-year-olds be made eligible to stand as candidates in elections, ” he said, adding that he had raised this matter in Cabinet a few times.

Reezal said AVR was not a condition but a provision “by us as the opposition then because we wanted a wholesome approach to democracy”.

“If we only implemented 18-year-olds being allowed to register, it would not be fair as there may be those in rural areas who could not register as voters and would be left out of the electoral rolls.

“When we passed it in Parliament, the onus then fell on the EC to take the necessary steps to start the process, ” he added.

Although Reezal does not know exactly when the implementation should take place, he said he felt the excuses given by the EC that it still had many things to do before it opened up registration to 18-year-olds were unacceptable.

“At least start registering the 18-year-olds while you continue with your engagements and other matters. I will raise this issue again in the Cabinet meeting next week as we hold on to our promise to lower voters’ age to 18, ” he said.

Reezal added that the EC should see what components in the amendments that had been passed that they could be implemented first.

Takiyuddin said he would be meeting the EC.

“I have called the EC for a meeting and we will meet next Tuesday to see how prepared the EC is and how we can assist to solve whatever problems it may be facing.

“The government of the day is not backtracking in any way from allowing 18-year-olds to vote and automatic registration of voters, ” he added.

Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman said Undi18 was a joint effort “from the government, opposition, NGOs and young people seeking their rights”.

“Undi18 opened up a new chapter in history in which for the first time, the Constitution was amended to give voting rights to millions of youth – under the agreement of all political parties.

“When I proposed and campaigned hard for it, it was for the youths, not for politics, ” he said.

The former Youth and Sports Minister, who had tabled the Undi18 Bill in 2019, also said that delays in lowering the minimum voting age would rob the youths of their right to vote.

“A 17-year-old student can be given a RM10,000 compound but is not ‘mature’ enough to be voting.

“Malaysians are intelligent. If you silence the voices of the young, many more will rise up to fight, ” he said in a Facebook post yesterday.

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