Why did M'sia lower voting age to 18?

To win the youth vote?

Belmont Lay | July 17, 2019, 12:52 AM

Malaysia has successfully lowered the country's voting age to 18 years old on July 16, 2019.

This historic change has been one year in the making.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, 94, championed the amendment.

Why Mahathir is pushing for lowered voting age?

He argued in the lower house of parliament, before MPs voted on the law, that young people in Malaysia were more politically aware today than in the past.

Mahathir told lawmakers: "This move is so that they be given the chance, space and voice to... design the country's democracy through elections."

What lowering age means?

The reforms will also allow 18-year-olds to stand for election.

The amendments also introduced automatic voter registration.

Citizens will be eligible to cast their ballots as soon as they turn 18

Previously, they had to apply to get their names on the electoral roll.

Mahathir said as many as 7.8 million people would be added to the electoral roll by the year 2023 through the move.

This will bring Malaysia's total number of voters to 22.7 million.

Nearly 12.3 million people voted in the 2018 elections, from a total electorate of 14.9 million people.

Malaysia's population is around 32 million people.

This could translate to youth votes for the incumbent -- presuming that youths are more idealistic and would vote for a more progressive outfit.

Is Pakatan Harapan trying to win the youth vote?

Malaysia lowering its voting age makes it consistent with the rest of Southeast Asia, where voting age is 18, with the exception of Singapore.

Singapore's voting age has been maintained at 21 years old.

The voting age in Indonesia is 17.

This constitution amendment has been seen as a minor victory for Pakatan Harapan, Malaysia's four-party ruling coalition -- the Alliance of Hope.

Only slightly more than a year into its rule, it has faced a series of setbacks, including losing several local elections.

But no guarantees

Political analyst Sivamurugan Pandian from Universiti Sains Malaysia told AFP the lower voting age did not necessarily mean that more people might vote for Mahathir's coalition though.

"Young voters have become partyless. They don't show their loyalty to any party," he said.

"Voting patterns reflect that they are influenced by issues."

He said also a lower age would not guarantee a greater youth vote, and called for political education to start earlier.

Top photo via Bernama