Teens aged 18 may be eligible to vote soon

Azhar (seated centre) at the press conference. Also seen are Dr Azmi and Jamaliah.

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By Karen Bong

KUCHING, June 25: A proposal to amend the Federal Constitution to lower the voting age from the current 21 to 18 is expected to be tabled in Parliament on July 4.

Election Commission chairman Azhar Azizan Harun said the proposed bill would be put through the crucial stages, including parliamentary debate, discussions and vote to pass it.

However, the effort will need bi-partisan cooperation as constitutional amendments must have two-thirds majority support from MPs. Currently, PH only has a simple majority in the Dewan Rakyat.

Azhar pointed out that there are 3.8 million young Malaysians who are already eligible to vote but had not registered as voters as at April this year.

“We don’t have the exact figure for Sarawak on hand but overall, there are 3.8 million Malaysians who are eligible to vote but they have yet to register,” he told a press conference after officiating at the Voter Education (VE) programme at Polytechnic Kuching Sarawak today.

Azhar (in white shirt) in light banter with Polytechnic Kuching Sarawak students.

On whether today’s VE programme was part of preparations for the Sarawak election, which is due in 2021, he said: “The EC is always ready for the election, but no. This is a routine activity by the EC and APR (Election Academy) to reach out to as many Malaysians, especially students, so as to bring greater awareness about the election process in the country.

“In the event the state government has decided to hold an election, the EC is always ready,” he assured.

He added that there would be follow-up programmes, including campaigns to encourage target groups and eligible young Malaysians to register as voters.

The EC, through the APR, introduced the VE Programme in 2017.

The VE programme is intended to instil public understanding of the country’s election process, fend off negative perceptions of the EC’s transparency and raise public awareness on the importance of registering as voters as well as voting.

In addition, it also provides exposure, instils knowledge and educates the public about democracy and the election process practised in Malaysia.

The programme caters to a wide target group, including young voters, comprising public and private universities, community colleges and polytechnic students.

New intake students of Polytechnic Kuching Sarawak attending the VE programme as part of the orientation week.

The EC has also launched the APR Associate Trainer (AAT) initiative to create more trained speakers across the country to disseminate information about the democratic voting system.

“Early exposure about the rights and responsibility as a voter to the target group, especially young people, will help prepare them to better understand the responsibility as a citizen of Malaysia,” Azhar explained.

“They will become more matured voters and understand their rights and responsibilities as voters and in turn be wise enough to choose a capable leader for the future.”

EC deputy chairman Dr Azmi Sharom and Politeknik Kuching Sarawak director Jamaliah Ahmad were present at the press conference. — DayakDaily