Why UNDI 18 is Important

As Malaysia is facing political turmoil and instability — that is highly exacerbated by the ongoing Covid-19 ravaging through its citizens on a daily basis — young Malaysians are now beginning to take control of their future and the future of the country by trying to make their presence felt in the politics game.

That being said, one barrier that has often confused young political enthusiasts in the country is the delay in the implementation of Undi18. This Constitutional amendment would give way to automatic voter registrations (AVR), but most importantly, it also lowers the voting age from 21 to 18 — making 18 years old the minimum age for Malaysian citizens to contest in any elections in Malaysia, whether it be at the federal or state level.

Currently, the bill has already been passed but its implementation halted, thanks in part to efforts to curb the pandemic, as well as the political tussle between the government and the opposition group(s). 

Why The Delay

On the 16th of July, 2019, the motion to amend the Federal Constitution to pass Undi18 was met with unanimous support — with 211 votes for the amendment in the 222-member Dewan Rakyat, in addition to bipartisan support.Undi18 was then approved in the same year by the Dewan Negara on July 25 and was gazetted a mere two months removed on the 10th of September 2019. With the passing of Undi18, the total number of voters (including new and young voters, as well as previously unregistered voters) is expected to exponentially increase from 14.9 million in 2018 to 22.7 million by the next general elections (GE15), which should be around 2023.

However, from thenceforth, there has been little to no progress in the Undi18 movement.

The initial plan was for Undi18 to be implemented in July this year but as you can already tell, it has been postponed once again. This was in part no thanks to the Election Commission (EC) that announced that the lowering of the minimum voting age and the AVR may only be completed after September 1, 2022. The reason given by the EC was that the implementation would only hamper the efforts of the movement control order, which was introduced (and has so far failed) to curb Covid-19 infections.

Further to this, it was also explained by Dewan Negara president, Tan Sri Dr Rais Yatim, that the Elections Act 1958 would need to be amended before Undi18 could be fully implemented. And former premier, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has also stated that the blockade to implementation was not due to the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government but rather, the constraints faced by the EC.

At present, the AVR process seems to be one of the factors that are delaying the implementation of Undi18. Although legally, the government could still allow 18-year-olds to register as voters via traditional means even without the automatic registration system.

Hence, the founders of the NGO Undi18 have taken the issue to court in order to hopefully expedite the process. They argue that there are roughly 1.2 million youths between the ages of 18 and 20 that would be affected if an election were to take place anytime before the stated September 2022 deadline. And if they win, the court would have compelled the government to implement Undi18 as soon as possible.

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