The second session of the fourteenth parliament started again yesterday (July 1). The motion to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 is expected to be tabled during this parliamentary session.
According to Election Commission (EC) chairman Azhar Azizan Harun, the first reading for the new policy will be conducted on July 4.
The lowering of the voting age to 18 years was written in the Pakatan Harapan manifesto under Promise 17, which is aimed to ensure transparency and robustness of Malaysia election system.
Globally, most countries set their voting age at 18 years. Besides Malaysia, other countries that required voters to be at least 21 years of age are Singapore, Kuwait, Lebanon and Oman, to name a few. On the other hand, countries like Cuba and Austria allow their voters to be as young as 16 years old.
Malaysia’s current voting age was set at 21 years because the nation’s political system was heavily influenced by the United Kingdom, particularly the usage of the Westminster system. Hence, the minimum voting age in Singapore is also the same.
However, the United Kingdom lowered their voting age from 21 to 18 in 1970. The law was amended through The Representation of the People Act 1969. The policy was set at that specific age because in the olden days, one can only be knighted once he reached 21 years.
For the past one week, the topic ‘voting age’ was led by the EC chairman Art Harun, followed by lawyers Muhammad Shafee and Tommy Thomas. Whereas, the most active politician to discuss on the matter is Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Legal Affairs) Liew Vui Keong.
According to Liew, more than half of the Malaysian population will be eligible to vote in 2023 if the voting age were to be lowered from 21 to 18.
Whereas, Ibrahim Ali and his newly formed party, Parti Bumiputera Perkasa Malaysia (PUTRA), voiced their support the lowering of voting age. He said that Malaysian will receive their SPM certificate at 17 years, and they will be preparing for their tertiary education by 18. Thus, they will be mature enough to decide on who to vote for.
It is also legal for Malaysians to make life-changing decision such as marriage and smoking at the age of 18. Are Malaysians mature enough to vote at 18, or should we stick to 21 years?