Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin today questioned the Election Commission’s (EC) grounds for delaying the move to lower the voting age from 21 to 18, saying the law minister had stated in parliament not five months ago that the change could be implemented as scheduled in July this year.
EC chairman Abdul Ghani Salleh had said yesterday that while preparations are on track, current developments and the fact that the country remains under movement restrictions due to Covid-19 had affected its plans.
He said the move to lower the voting age to 18 would likely be implemented only after Sept 1, 2022.
But Khairy said law minister Takiyuddin Hassan had said in Parliament last November that the July 2021 target would remain for both the lowering of voting age and implementation of automatic voter registration.
Takiyuddin, in a written reply, had said that preparations were expected to be completed within 18 to 24 months from the date of approval by the Senate on July 25, 2019.
“Not even five months after his reply in the Dewan Rakyat, the EC has announced a delay of over a year, from July 2021 to September 2022,” Khairy said.
He said the EC’s statement was also at odds with another statement on June 7 last year in which the chairman had said that preparations including for amendments to existing laws and regulations and the provision of systems and infrastructure would be complete by July this year.
“The excuse that the movement control order (MCO) has jeopardised the EC’s plans and preparations is also unreasonable given that the MCO was implemented more than a year ago.”
In a statement, he said the necessary amendments to the Federal Constitution had received the full support of all MPs and senators in July 2019.
“Lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 and the automatic registration of voters is not the ambition of the previous government only,” he said.
“The EC’s statement yesterday about the implementation of Undi 18 and automatic voter registration is very disappointing and cannot be accepted.”
He also asked the EC to clarify its work of engaging with political parties and NGOs, saying this is no longer a matter of consequence as Undi 18 has already been passed at the highest level of the country’s law-making process.
“The engagement process should be able to take place at all times without the slightest need to affect the time line previously announced.”