KUCHING: As the country debates lowering the voting age from 21 to 18, Malaysians are wondering if the move is a step in the right direction.
If Parliament succeeds in getting the Constitution amended to change the legal voting age in the current sitting, which requires two-thirds parliamentary majority, it would mean more than 50 per cent of Malaysians would be eligible to vote in the next general election.
“But do we want to place the future of the nation mostly in the hands of people who are not politically mature?” asked political analyst Associate Professor Dr Jeniri Amir.
“This (voting) is a serious business and to some we should not leave it in the hands of people who make decisions based on emotions and sentiments.
“This group of voters is considered as having low political literacy and don’t even know the doctrine of separation of powers, and the name of various ministries, let alone ministers,” he said in his analysis.
Dr Jeniri argued that Malaysians would want somebody who understood political developments and current issues in the country and not a teenager who took the task lightly.
“Remember, this social media generation is most likely to digest any information they read online without proper discrimination.
“There is very high probability that they would make conclusions at the ballot box based on narratives on social media and the Internet as a whole rather than on their own original considerations,” he wrote.
Nevertheless, Dr Jeniri said if Parliament succeeded in passing the amendment, serious attention should be given to educating young Malaysians on politics and democracy.
“The government should introduce a school subject that educates teenagers about elections and voting systems to improve political awareness and literacy among them,” he added.
So far, some 200 countries allow 18-year-olds to vote.
If Malaysia lowers the voting age, there will be 3.8 million new voters, bringing the total number of eligible voters to 18.8 million if the GE is called in 2023.
The change will have serious repercussions and far-reaching implications socially and politically as the youth are sure to be the determining factor in the next general election, and even in the Sarawak state election which is due in mid-2021.