KUALA LUMPUR, April 25 — A group of youths have started a campaign to lower the eligible voting age from 21 to 18 years old, saying young adults were the largest age group in the country.
Calling themselves Undi18, the six youths kicked off a signature campaign last Saturday to generate support for their call to give young Malaysians a bigger say in the country’s direction.
“As of now, we have several hundred signatories for the petition, but ideally, we are looking at between 5,000 and 10,000 petitioners in the next five months before we submit it to the Prime Minister’s Office,” director of Undi18, Tharmelinggem Pillai told Malay Mail Online.
Although conceding it was unlikely that an amendment to Article 119(1) of the Federal Constitution to lower the voting age can be done in time for the next general election, he said the group was hoping for this to occur by the 15th general election.
Tharmelinggem said almost 60 per cent of the country was below the age of 25, and added that it was only right to give this group a voice on where the country goes.
He further argued that youths aged 18 already faced adult consequences for their actions.
“At 18, when you commit a crime, it is no longer considered a juvenile crime and at that age, many are already working to support themselves.
“So why not give them the voice to vote?” said Tharmelinggam, who is also Malaysian Students’ Global Alliance vice president.
When contacted, constitutional lawyers supported both the idea and Undi18’s initiatives.
Lawyer Surendra Ananth noted that citizens aged between 18 and 21 were treated similarly in terms of laws and taxes as those older than that.
“They (age between 18 and 21) should therefore be entitled to be part of the democratic process.
“Voting does not only cover the mechanical act of casting a ballot, it also includes the right to play a meaningful part in the democratic process of governance,” he said.
Another lawyer, Syahredzan Johan, pointed out that the voting age in developed nations such the US and UK was 18.
“If a person is able to drive and get married by the time they are 18 years old, why would he or she not be able to choose his or her elected representative at 18?” he said.
Those who wish to sign the petition may do so here.