EC wants to be realistic and ensure the system is well-prepared before enforcing Undi 18, says chairman
by AFIQ AZIZ / pic by RAZAK GHAZALI
UNDI 18, which allows Malaysians aged 18 to 20 to vote and new voters to be automatically registered, will only be implemented in September next year, hence youths in the age group will not be eligible to vote in the next general election.
The Election Commission (EC) cited last year’s Movement Control Order (MCO) as the reason for this delay.
Its chairman Datuk Abdul Ghani Salleh (picture) said the commission wants to be realistic and ensure the system is well-prepared before enforcing Undi 18.
He said the MCO, which came into force in March 2020, has halted EC’s planning for both agendas, which were scheduled to be implemented this July.
“The automatic voter registration and Undi 18 are expected to be implemented after Sept 1, 2022, after we re-evaluate various constraints and issues that affect the planning and initial preparations of the EC,” Abdul Ghani said in a statement yesterday.
The Undi 18 issue rose again this month, after Dewan Negara speaker Tan Sri Rais Yatim said it was impractical to lower the voting age to 18 now due to the time-consuming obstructions faced by the executing body.
The Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia veteran said such a move is resource-consuming for both the National Registration Department and the EC.
The Undi 18 agenda was initially moved by former Bersatu Youth chief Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman.
The Muar lawmaker managed to lobby two-thirds of the total 222 MPs in the Dewan Rakyat, including from the Opposition, to agree to lower voters’ age from 21 to 18.
After his expulsion from Bersatu due to disagreements over the change in government last year, Syed Saddiq formed a youth-based party Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (MUDA), to ensure the agenda could be realised, among others.
In a response yesterday, Syed Saddiq criticised the EC’s “excuse”.
He said the EC should have had ample time to work on the mechanism and execution after the bill was passed in July 2019.
“It cannot be accepted at all. In November 2020, Law Minister Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan said the enforcement of Undi 18 could be done by July 2020,” the MUDA president said in a statement.
He added that the EC should at least elaborate and explain to the public in detail what is stopping the initiative from being implemented in time.
He urged the government to commit and stick to the original timeline so that the system can be ready by July this year.
It was hinted that GE15 could be held earlier than the term-end in 2023, when the Covid-19 pandemic is under control.
MUDA VP and law practitioner Lim Wei Jiet said MUDA will bring the matter to the court, describing the 14 months’ delay by the EC as undemocratic and against the spirit of the Constitution.
PKR lawmaker Sim Tze Tzin called on the youth to press the government and demand the Undi 18 system to be sorted out as soon as possible so they can be part of the next general election.
He alleged that the Perikatan Nasional government has denied the youth of their fundamental right, which has been approved by the lower house.
Abdul Ghani, however, reaffirmed EC’s commitment to the implementation of both matters to be realised.
“Preparations are still ongoing, including works such as system development, data review and coordination, and follow-up engagement programmes with government agencies, political parties and NGOs,” he said.
Based on the latest EC records, Abdul Ghani said the number of citizens aged 18 and above is 5.6 million, of which 1.2 million are between 18 and 20 years old.
Abdul Ghani said 4.4 million individuals aged 21 and above are eligible to vote but are yet to register as voters.
“The EC urges Malaysians aged 21 and above to immediately register as voters through mysprdaftar.spr.gov.my or go to the state election office or the nearest post office.
“The EC will launch an automatic preregistration check system through the EC portal this August to enable 5.6 million prospective voters to check and verify their information.
“We are also preparing an interim report on automatic voter registration and Undi 18. It is expected to be released in September 2021,” he said.
Read our previous report here