Malaysia just lowered its voting age, and made it easier to vote

For most of the world, the age you can vote is set at 18. However, until yesterday, Malaysia set its voting age to 21, similar to the drinking age in the United States.

Malaysia's federal constitution, adopted in 1957, set the voting age at 21, and any amendments to the constitution requires two-thirds of the lower house's lawmakers to back change.

After several hours of debate in parliament yesterday, 211 of the 222 members voted in favour of a constitutional change that sets Malaysia's voting age to 18.

Speaking to Parliament, Malaysia's Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, said "This move is so that they [Malaysia's young people] be given the chance, space and voice to … design the country's democracy through elections."

The changes also allow 18 year olds to stand for election to Malaysia's Parliament.

In addition, the changes also introduced automatic voter registration, with Malaysians now eligible to cast their votes the moment they turn 18. It will also automatically enroll anyone currently between the ages of 18 and 21.

It is estimated that 7.8 million people will be added to the electoral roll by 2023, bring Malaysia's voting population to 22.7 million.

Malaysia's move brings the nation in line with most countries across southeast Asia, and the world, who have a voting age of 18. Indonesia's voting age is even lower, with 17 year-old's eligible to vote. Singapore is the only nation in the region where the voting age remains at 21.

The change was first flagged in 2018 by Malaysia's Sport and Youth Minister, Syed Saddiq. At the time, he said that "The voting age of 18 has been long-awaited by young Malaysians. Although we have different political views, I am sure we can be united in youth empowerment."

The change is still to make its way through Malaysia's Upper House, where it is expected to pass.

Photo: Unsplash / Fahrul Azmi

Political empowerment and greater access to political processes is essential to achieving the Global Goals, and ensuring everyone has an equal say in how they are governed. Malaysia's moves to lower the voting age and introduce automatic voter registration expands the franchise of Malaysian's, and strengthens the nation's institutions and democratic processes.


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