House unites on voting reform

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on July 11, 2019.
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KUALA LUMPUR: The government has withdrawn a Bill to reduce the voting age from 21 to 18 so as to table an amended version today that provides for automatic voter registration and lowering to 18 the eligible age of electoral candidates.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, explaining the development to reporters at the Parliament lobby yesterday, said the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019 was withdrawn to add the two provisions, Bernama reported.

“At the first reading (of the Bill), we only considered lowering the voting age to 18 but not the automatic voter registration. There was a request to provide for automatic voter registration and lower the eligible age of electoral candidates,” he said.

In the Dewan Rakyat earlier, Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman tabled a motion before Speaker Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof to withdraw the Bill, which was scheduled for the second reading.

Dr Mahathir said he is confident the amended Bill will get the support of two-thirds of the members of the Dewan Rakyat, which is required to amend the constitution.

Earlier yesterday, Dr Mahathir chaired a meeting with party leaders, including the opposition on the issue.

“All have given the commitment to support the amended Bill, with the inclusion of the provisions for automatic voter registration and setting 18 as the eligible age of electoral candidates.

“We are confident (of the two-thirds support); don’t tell me they want to cheat me,” he said.

The opposition bloc thanked the government for agreeing to the two provisions.

Opposition Chief Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the government’s decision to withdraw the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019 showed it listened to the opposition’s views.

“Since the government has agreed to the suggestion, the opposition will certainly support the motion which will be tabled tomorrow (today),” he said when met at the Parliament lobby.