The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) welcomes the announcement by EC Chairman Azhar Azizan Harun that the motion to lower the eligible voting age from 21 to 18 will be tabled on 4th July of the upcoming sitting of the Dewan Rakyat. To Bersih 2.0 this news could not have come sooner for it has been one of our proposals since 2008.
As this move to lower the voting age to 18 will require amendment to Article 119(1) of the Federal Constitution that requires a two-thirds majority, Bersih 2.0 calls on all parties in the Dewan, to support the motion to be put forth as doing so would be an acknowledgement by our elected representatives that the youths of this country matter in the political process of election and that their views and interests are important to nation-building.
A very small number of countries still maintain 21 as the eligible voting age and by lowering it to 18, Malaysia would join the vast majority of countries that recognises 18 as the age of majority where a person is considered mature enough for marriage, drive a vehicle and to be criminally charged as an adult, and as such it would be incongruent to deny those 18 and over their right to vote.
Concerns about maturity and political awareness should not be limited to those who are under 21 as age is not necessary a determinant of a person’s maturity level. Such concerns can be mitigated with voters education programmes targeted at these younger voters, conducted by the Election Commission, schools, civil society and even corporate entities.
The media should also play a huge part in such voters education programmes. Eventually civic education on the role, responsibility and rights of citizens should be part of our national education curriculum even from the primary level to raise the level of civic awareness and participation of our citizens.
Until automatic voters registration is implemented, another challenge with the lowering of voting age to 18 is the estimated 3.5 million young eligible voters being added by GE15, and this is on top of the existing 4 million eligible voters who are not yet registered.
Bersih 2.0 would suggest that students who are 18 and above be given voters registration form as part of their enrolment to college. EC should also increase the number of Assistant Registration Officers (ARO) and explore ways to improve the process to cope with the larger pool of unregistered eligible voters.
Once again, Bersih 2.0 welcomes the lowering of voting age to 18 and call on the Opposition MPs to put aside partisan politics in order to send a clear message to our future generation that they do matter and that we welcome the idealism, passion and participation of our youth in building Malaysia.
Satukan Tenaga, Malaysia Baru!
Statement issued by:
Steering Committee of Bersih 2.0