PUTRAJAYA: The Cabinet will decide on the lowering of the voting age to 18 (Undi18) next week, says Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican.
Reezal said the Undi18 issue as well as automatic voter registration (AVR) were discussed during the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday (March 31).
“(Science, Technology and Innovation Minister) Khairy (Jamaluddin) and I had brought up the matter at the meeting. Law Minister Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan also gave his explanation, and we responded with our feedback.
“The matter will be discussed again in the next Cabinet meeting and a decision will be made then, ” Reezal told a press conference after the launch of the Malaysian Vaccine Support Volunteers programme here.
Khairy was also present as he is the coordinating minister for the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme.
Reezal also stressed that every single member of the Cabinet had voted in favour of lowering the voting age when it was tabled in Parliament.
“There is no such thing as backtracking here by the government. So the onus is actually on the Election Commission (EC), ” he said.
Khairy said the EC could implement Undi18 first and AVR later, if the issue was caused by “system software”.
“What we were told is that the system software to implement AVR is not ready and this is causing the delay.
“If we can’t implement AVR first, then we should separate it from Undi18.
“Why must the lowering of the voting age be delayed? Undi18 can continue even though automatic registration has to be postponed. Those aged 18 to 21 years old can still register to vote manually.
“That was our counter-argument in today’s meeting, and we will decide in Cabinet next week, ” said Khairy.
On March 25, EC chairman Datuk Abdul Ghani Salleh said AVR and Undi18 could only be realised by Sept 1 next year at the earliest as the commission was facing constraints such as the movement control order.
He explained that the nationwide MCO to curb Covid-19 had affected the EC's plans and preparations to achieve it.
This caused much dissatisfaction among many quarters, including federal ministers.
On July 16,2019, Parliament unanimously passed the constitutional amendment for AVR to lower the voting age to 18 and to make that the minimum age for a Malaysian citizen to run for public office.
As of March 10 this year, Perlis, Perak, Kelantan, Terengganu, Sabah and Sarawak have amended their state constitutions to allow those at least 18 years old to stand in elections, while six other states have yet to do so.
Earlier, EC deputy chairman Dr Azmi Sharom had told The Star that all systems were on track to lower the voting age to 18 and introduce AVR.
In 2019, EC projected an increase of 7.8 million new voters by 2023 if AVR is in place. This is because AVR alone will bring in the 4.5 million voters aged 21 and above who have yet to register.
Azmi, however, had said the EC also faced tremendous challenges in gazetting the new rolls after the completion of the objection period, once everything is done.