KUALA LUMPUR, March 29 — DAP’s Lim Kit Siang questioned today PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s support for delaying the enfranchisement of 18-year-olds, suggesting the latter’s 2019 vote for constitutional amendments to lower the voting age was insincere.
Lim quoted Hadi’s arguments that Malaysia should not be influenced by the Western concept of democracy where voting is based on age instead of maturity, as well as the idea that maturity can come at any age.
Lim also quoted Hadi’s arguments on the need for mature voters when the Islamist party’s president agreed with the Election Commission’s (EC) delayed implementation of allowing Malaysians aged 18 to sign up as voters.
However, Lim pointed out that almost all of the countries in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) — in which Malaysia is a member — allow citizens as young as 18 to vote.
“Can Hadi explain why PAS opposes conferring the right to vote to Malaysians above 18 years?
“How can Hadi be so ignorant as not to know that some 90 per cent of the 57 countries in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have voting age at 18 years old — including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Algeria, Libya and Palestine?” the Iskandar Puteri MP from DAP asked in a statement.
“In fact, the voting age in Iran for parliamentary elections in 1980 was lowered from 18 to 16, and later lowered to 15, though it was changed back to 18 after 2007,” he added.
Previously in 2019, Malaysia amended its Federal Constitution and lowered the minimum voting age from 21 to 18 years’ old, but the federal government has yet to put this into effect and the EC has said it will only be implemented after September 1, 2022.
Today, Lim pointed out that some countries began as early as 2000 to consider further reducing the voting age to 16, and that Austria had in 2007 become the first to allow youths aged 16 and 17 to vote in national elections.
Other nations where citizens can vote at the age of 16 are Brazil, Ecuador, Cuba, Nicaragua, Scotland and Argentina, he said.
“A study of young voters’ behaviour on that occasion showed them to be as capable as older voters to articulate their beliefs and to make voting decisions appropriate for their preferences.
“Their knowledge of the political process was only insignificantly lower than in older cohorts, while trust in democracy and willingness to participate in the process were markedly higher,” he said.
Lim also highlighted that he had as far back as 50 years ago called for Malaysia to give youths aged 18 the right to vote, noting that he had stated this in Parliament on Human Rights Day on December 10, 1971.
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