Penang amends state constitution to let 18-year-olds contest in elections

Penang joins six other states that have approved similar amendments. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Penang joins six other states that have approved similar amendments. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 1 — The Penang legislative assembly has approved an amendment to the state constitution to allow those aged 18 to contest in elections, with the move receiving bipartisan support.

The move to lower the age limit from 21 to 18 was brought forth by Penang Youth and Sports Committee chairman Soon Lip Chee, allowing the state to join six others that have approved similar amendments.

“Many countries have approved those who are 18 and above to stand for elections, including Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.

“In Malaysia, the youngest members of the House of Representatives are P. Prabakaran, who became the MP for Batu at 22 and Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, who became the MP for Muar at age 25,” he said.

The amendment was to Article 12 of the Penang State Constitution, and was passed in the first meeting of the Fourth Term of the 14th Penang State Legislative Assembly.

Soon said that an online survey his office conducted found that 65 per cent or 2,261 respondents supported the move, with the remainder not in support.

The survey was done between December 2020 and June this year, with a total of 3,475 respondents between the ages of 15 to 35.

Federal lawmakers crossed the political aisle and voted unanimously to amend the Federal Constitution in July 2019 and lower the minimum voting age from 21 to 18.

On March 25, however, the Election Commission (EC) announced that the implementation of Undi18 has been postponed to September 2022, citing Covid-19 and its accompanying movement control orders (MCO) and the declaration of Emergency as its justification.

Eighteen youths subsequently filed for judicial review of the EC’s decision to delay the implementation of Undi18, and obtained leave on June 17, 2021.

The youths argued that the Covid-19 pandemic was not an acceptable reason for the Malaysian government and the EC to delay a constitutional amendment to allow Malaysians the right to vote once they turn 18.

They further sought five court orders, including an order for the Malaysian government to bring into force the 2019 constitutional amendment no later than two months from the High Court’s decision or any other time that the High Court considers “fair, just and reasonable”, to enable Malaysians aged 18 to 20 to vote in elections instead of having to wait until they turn 21.

High Court judge Datuk Ahmad Kamal Md Shahid is expected to deliver his decision in this case on October 21.

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