The Malaysian parliament has approved a new legal amendment to lower the voting age to 18 on July 16, adding approximately 1.5 million young voters to the electoral roll.
Malaysia was previously one of the few countries that required citizens to be 21 years old to vote. The amendment also includes provisions for automatic voter registrations and measures that would make candidates eligible to stand for elections once they reach the age of 18.
This makes the bill the first to enjoy multi-partisan support in Malaysia as 211 MPs from the 222-seat parliament, across both the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition and opposition parties Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), voted in favour of it. Datuk Seri Ismail bin Bakar, Chief Secretary in the Malaysian government, explained,"the right to vote is the right of all Malaysians."
Malaysia currently has more young people (aged below 30) than old, which shows how crucial youth participation in Malaysian politics is.
How might their involvement influence democratic proceedings in the country?
The youngest member of the cabinet, Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman said “this is an inter-generational empowerment agenda… young people are not blindly loyal to any political party”. The hope is that higher youth participation will ensure that a greater number of non-biased voters are participating in the political process and eventually improve the quality of democracy in Malaysia.