THE Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) refers to the statement issued by the Election Commission (EC) on Sept 3 that sought to clarify issues relating to #Undi18. These include lowering of the voting age to 18 from 21 (Undi18), lowering of eligibility age to be a election candidate to 18, and implementation of automatic voter registration.
Bersih 2.0 welcomes the clarification by the EC, which was comprehensive and honest in detailing the various considerations that are needed before #Undi18 can be implemented, by EC’s estimation, between 18 and 24 months from now. Nonetheless, Bersih 2.0 is of the view that the registration of those who have turned 18 can be and should be carried out as soon as possible using the existing registration process of filling out Form A at EC offices, post offices, appointed assistant registration officers and online at mysprdaftar.spr.gov.my
The historic multipartisan consensus that was achieved in both the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament on July 16 and 25 respectively to amend Article 119(1), 119(4), Article 47 and Section 5 of the 8th Schedule of the Federal Constitution, together with the assent by the Yang Di Pertuan Agong, meant that it should be lawful for those 18 and above to register as voters as soon as possible.
While Article 66(5) of the Federal Constitution does state that “no law shall come into force until it has been published (gazetted)”, even if the Agong has assented to it, we believe that the public’s expectation, especially those who have turned or are turning 18 soon, is that they should be able to cast their first vote should there be a by-election in their constituency, and, for those in Sarawak, to participate in the state election due on Aug 5,2021.
After all the heightened expectations surrounding the success of lowering the voting age, it would be a major disappointment to young voters if they are denied their right to vote in by-elections and the Sarawak state election. There should not be any further delay in gazetting the amended laws for enforcement and to pave the way for young voters to register using the current registration process until the automatic voter registration (AVR) mechanism is sorted out.
Bersih 2.0 is cognisant of the fact that the implementation of AVR is a multidisciplinary process involving legal amendments, ICT upgrades, interagency connectivity, resource allocations, budgeting and many more considerations. As it involves the integrity of the electoral roll and the smooth conduct of elections, the implementation must not be rushed and there must be enough time for initial teething issues to be resolved before the next General Election, due by Sept 13,2023.
As such, Bersih 2.0 proposes that the registration of voters between 18 and 21 should commence as soon as possible while time is given to implement AVR as they are two separate issues.
Bersih 2.0 calls upon all political parties to support the immediate implementation of #Undi18 while the mechanism for AVR is being worked on by the EC. If there is no objection, the Attorney General’s Chambers should have the amendment gazetted with an enforcement date as soon as possible.
Once again, Bersih 2.0 would like to congratulate the lawmakers of the 14th Parliament for their bipartisan cooperation in achieving a key electoral reform that recognises and empowers youth. There are still many more electoral and political reforms that requires Constitutional amendments and we hope that such bipartisanship will continue so that we can have a robust and mature Parliamentary democracy. We deserve nothing less.
THE STEERING COMMITTEE OF BERSIH 2.0