KUALA LUMPUR, April 29 ― The Election Commission (EC) needs to resolve some legal and technical issues including updating its software systems before it can lower the voting age from 21 to 18, Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan said today.
In a statement today, the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department handling the law and Parliament portfolio said the EC would undertake this immediately and stress that the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government was committed to implementing the initiative dubbed Undi18.
“The government is very committed to lowering the voting age to 18 as per the amended provisions to Article 119 of the Federal Constitution, which was unanimously agreed in Parliament in a bipartisan manner in 2019. This has been discussed and confirmed in the Cabinet meeting on April 28, 2021 and will be worked on to be implemented soonest.
“Following the decision, the EC will take immediate steps to resolve a few more things relating to certain legal provisions as well as technical matters including updating the required software system.
“It is clear through these rulings made, showing how the government is committed to providing the opportunity to young people aged not less than 18 years-old, to become voters in the 15th general election, or in any by-elections and state elections. The government is also confident that the EC is always ready with various preparations to manage the electoral process in terms of logistics, human resources as well as adjustments in relation to Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in accordance with the new norms of election conduct, following the outbreak of Covid-19 in this country,” Takiyuddin added.
Last week, former finance minister Lim Guan Eng accused the PN government of intentionally delaying the Undi18 initiative to avoid facing 18- to 20-year-old voters disproportionately affected by unemployment in the country.
In 2019 and under the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration then, MPs voted to amend Section 3(a) of the Federal Constitution’s Article 119(1)(a) to lower the voting age from 21 to 18, and Section 3(b) of the the Federal Constitution’s Article 119(4)(b) to allow for automatic voter registration to replace the current system where Malaysians have to apply to be registered as voters.
However, both these two constitutional amendments — Section 3(a) and 3(b) — have not come into force in Malaysia yet, as they will only come into operation on a date to be appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong via a notification to the public through a government gazette.
While the EC and the Malaysian government has repeatedly said before that the implementation of the lowering of the voting age to 18 and the automatic voter registration was expected to be done by July 2021, the EC had on March 25 said that both matters could only be implemented after September 1, 2022.
This then led to the filing of the court challenge by 18 youths.
On April 2, the 18 youths — who are of various ethnic backgrounds and come from several states including Johor, Sarawak and Kelantan — filed their lawsuit via a judicial review application at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur.
In the lawsuit filed by the 18 youths, they are seeking for 14 court declarations and orders, including a certiorari order to quash the prime minister and Malaysian government’s entire decision of not enforcing Section 3(a) — the constitutional amendment to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 — immediately or on or before July 2021.
They are also seeking a mandamus order from the courts to order the prime minister and the Malaysian government to enforce Section 3(a) — the constitutional amendment of lowering the voting age to 18 — within a reasonable period of time and on or before July 2021.
The court declarations that the 18 youths are seeking include declarations that the decision by the prime minister and the Malaysian government to bind the enforcement of the lowering of voting age to 18 and automatic voter registration together is unreasonable, wrong in law, and disproportionate.
In the same lawsuit, the 18 youths also want the courts to declare that they have a legitimate expectation that Section 3(a) — the constitutional amendment which lowers the voting age to 18 — will come into force on or before July 2021, and a declaration that the delay in implementation of Section 3(a) is a form of voter suppression on those aged 18 to 20 years old.