Govt re-tables ‘Undi 18’ bill to gain consensus

pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

THE government yesterday tabled a revised bill to lower the voting age from 21 to 18, which includes automatic registration, as Putrajaya hopes to garner the support in the lower house often divided by partisan politics.

Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman (picture) tabled the revised bill for the first reading in the lower house after the initial bill was withdrawn.

The move came after Opposition lawmakers said they would support the bill if automatic registration is included to the amendments of the Constitution.

The revised bill includes two additional terms — the automatic registration for those who have reach the age of 18 and reducing the age of candidacy to 18. Lawmakers are expected to vote on the bill next week. The government needs at least 148 votes in the lower house of 222 lawmakers to push the bill through. Amendments to the Constitution would require a two-thirds majority.

Syed Saddiq, who has been rallying lawmakers from both sides of the divide to support the bill, had described the inclusion of the automatic registration as a “win for all”.

The tabling of the bill will also be a test to the government. If passed, about 3.8 million Malaysians will be able to cast their vote in the 15th General Election. Currently, there are 15 million registered voters in the electoral roll.

The 26-year-old minister said reducing the voting age to 18 would allow the voice of the younger generation to be heard and form the foundation to the nation’s formation.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad chaired a meeting with Opposition leaders, the Attorney General’s Chambers, the Election Commission (EC) and Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) to lower the voting age.

Dr Mahathir who turned 94 on Wednesday, is confident of garnering the support to push the bill over the line.

Deputy Minister in the PM’s Department (law) Mohamed Hanipa Maidin told the Dewan Rakyat there will be a revamp to the current electoral registration system to meet the

mandatory registration requirement. “If this bill is passed, it will definitely require a massive exercise on the existing system. Whether or not we will be able to fully clean up the electoral roll, I think it is a bit premature to comment.

“I have spoken to the EC and the ERC about this, and yes, they have stated that there will be a lot of work to be carried out if the amendment is made. At the moment, I cannot give a guarantee as it requires an in-depth look into the system,” he said.

Hanipa was responding to a question by Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh (Pakatan Harapan-Ledang) on whether there is a rejig on the electoral roll.

There were claims in the past of phantom voters and individuals who were already dead.

In November last year, EC chairman Azhar Azizan Harun said there were 73,000 voters above 90 with the oldest being 150 years’ old. Out of the figure, he said only 11,000 had voted.