From Student Movement To Constitutional Amendment

Lowering the voting age for Malaysians has been a long struggle that has yet to bear fruit. Now, Perikatan Nasional’s postponement of implementing Undi 18 a few days ago has pushed the fight back once again.

As it had already been passed unanimously in Parliament two years ago and was due to be implemented in July of this year, this postponement was deeply disappointed by many, and a peaceful protest was organized by more than 100 people. March 27.

The initiative has continued to gain momentum, so we took a look back at how it was started, the responses it got, and the general timeline for its progress to date.

From a student movement

Syed Saddiq has been a strong supporter of the Undi 18 and, although easily assumed to be the face of the movement, the founders of Undi18 are in fact Qyira Yusri and Tharma Pillai, who started this movement in 2016 under the aegis of the Malaysian Students’ Global Alliance.

They advocated amending section 119 (1) of the Federal Constitution to lower the minimum voting age in Malaysia from 21 to 18.

In April 2017, they finally launched with a memorandum for Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Dictionary time: A memorandum is a document that provides analysis and / or recommendations to a particular audience regarding a particular situation or problem.


The Undi 18 bill included:

  • Lower the minimum age for voters in federal and state elections to 18.
  • Lower the minimum age for representatives elected in federal and state elections to 18.
  • Automatic voter registration for Malaysians.

“Lowering the voting age encourages voters to start paying attention to national issues at a younger age to build awareness and engagement. This amendment means that youth policy will be encouraged to become more diverse, representative and relevant to youth groups, ”they said on their Instagram.

On top of that, Malaysia was also one of only 10 countries in the world to still have a minimum voting age of 21, in 2019. Often the argument that 18-year-olds are not mature enough to vote is raised oppose this initiative, but many find it invalid because an 18-year-old is recognized as an adult in this country and is able to marry and start a family, own property and even d ‘be legally responsible for crimes.

Getting Syed Saddiq on board

Between 2016 and 2019 (when it was adopted), the founders organized numerous town halls, forums and public engagements online and offline to raise awareness about democratic representation of young people and lowering the voting age. .

“We also engaged politicians from multiple sides of the political divide, where we made our case for lowering the voting age in Malaysia. We believe that empowering young people transcends political lines, ”they shared.

However, they made it clear that they had no personal political ties nor were they political interns with access to policy makers. This made it difficult for them to lobby for the bill, as they were constantly rejected, until they met Syed Saddiq who contacted them through his officer to discuss the bill when he became minister.

Apparently, he had already followed the movement on social networks long before showing up at GE14. Qyira and Tharma then lobbied many politicians in Pakatan Harapan (PH), the key people being Syed Saddiq and Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, who was an MP for Setiawangsa. Finally, Undi 18 scored a place in PH’s electoral manifesto.

Syed Saddiq and Tun M tabled the bills

With the support of PH and the bill forming part of the electoral manifesto, Syed Saddiq tabled the first reading and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed tabled the second and third reading to all MPs in July 2019.

According to Malay Mail, the bill was important enough to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Syed Saddiq that they wrote separate letters calling on all MPs to vote in favor of the proposed law change.

Syed Saddiq himself even wrote letters to every MP asking for their support for the movement, according to NST.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad also said at the time that he believed that young people were capable enough to make wise and rational choices in selecting the country’s leaders, and that being younger did not prevent them from having the maturity necessary to contribute to the development of the country. development.

Get 100% votes from Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara

On July 16, 2019, the bill was passed with a 211 unanimous vote from Dewan Rakyat and shortly after, on July 25, 2019, it was passed with 47 more unanimous votes from Dewan Negara.

The bill then received Royal Assent from the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia on September 4, 2019 and 6 days later was enacted on September 10, 2019.

EC was responsible for implementing this change to the electoral system

Now the Malaysian Election Commission (CE or SPR) was tasked with implementing this new change by July. It is estimated that there would be 7.8 million young people between the ages of 18 and 21 who would be eligible to vote for the next GE15 in 2023.

In addition, an estimated 3.4 million people who were qualified but did not register as voters in GE14 in 2018 are now eligible, meaning the number of voters is expected to increase by more than 50%. , from 14.9 million in 2018 to 22.7. million by 2023.

However, Dewan Negara Chairman Tan Sri Rais Yatim said the higher number of voters makes lowering the voting age to 18 impossible at the moment due to time-consuming obstacles facing agencies. competent in the implementation of the rule.

“On the question of 18-year-old voting, if we can implement it now, the answer is no. Although it was adopted at the level of the legislature, in terms of preparation, there are many shortcomings. After looking at the real situation from Dewan Negara’s point of view, it is not practical to implement this season, ”he shared.

Previously, he had also questioned the willingness of 18-year-olds to vote, saying teens are not mature or educated enough to do so. As a result, the implementation of Undi 18 was postponed until September 2022 and strong reactions from Malaysians were seen. #PNipu # 1 Twitter trend in Malaysia a few days ago and #ManaUndiKami is now also trending.

According to the Malaysian Reserve, EC cited last year’s Movement Control Order (MCO) as the reason for the delay. Datuk Abdul Ghani Salleh, the President of the EC said that the commission wants to be realistic and ensure that the system is well prepared before applying Undi 18.

“Automatic voter registration and Undi 18 are expected to be implemented after September 1, 2022, after reassessing various constraints and issues that affect the EC’s initial planning and preparations,” he shared.

Syed Saddiq took it to his Facebook and criticized EC for using this as an excuse and that they should have had enough time since July 2019 to prepare for the implementation of Undi 18.

“Undi 18 created the story where, for the first time, a constitutional amendment restoring the right to vote of millions of young people was approved by all political parties,” he also said.

“When I proposed and campaigned for this, it was for young people, not for politics. This government does not want young people to have a say in the nation building process.

– // –

Even though there has been a ton of backlash on social media due to the delay of Undi 18, it is unclear whether or not the EC will reconsider speeding up the processes needed to meet the promised July deadline. .

The silver lining is that we are able to see how educated and passionate young Malaysians are to be smart voters, which is an encouraging phenomenon.

  • You can read more about Undi 18 here.

Featured Image Credit: Qyira Yusri, Undi 18 Co-Founder

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Jothi Venkat

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