Call for comprehensive review of election laws, including lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 years-old

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): The Election Commission deputy chairman, Datuk Omar Hashim, said at the Melekek by-election nomination centre yesterday that the Election Commission is to consider reviewing the eligibility conditions for those wishing to contest in elections to bar the same candidates, especially independents, from contesting by-elections in different districts for their own benefit.

What is needed in Malaysia is not an ad hoc amendment to the election laws but a comprehensive review of election laws to ensure that Malaysia is universally recognised and respected as having election laws which ensure "clean, free and fair" elections.

Various defects and weaknesses in election laws, which give rise to abuses of power and the denial of a "clean, free and fair elections" had been highlighted recently, such as the politics of money and the abuses of power by certain Returning Officers, whether in the Kemena state constituency in the Sarawak state general elections last September or in the recent Teluk Intan parliamentary by-election on May 17, but there are no signs that the Election Commission is doing anything to correct them or ensure that there would be no repetition in future.

The Election Commission should invite all political parties to an All-Party Conference on Electoral Reforms to conduct a comprehensive review of election laws to ensure that elections in Malaysia are "clean, free and fair".

The comprehensive review of election laws should also consider proposals to make the electoral system more democratic, as in lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 years-old.

In Iran, which recently held presidential elections electing Muhammad Khatami as the new Iranian President, the vote is given to the 15-years-old.

I am not suggesting that Malaysians should be given the right to vote when they reach 15 years, but I certainly support lowering the voting age to 18 years so that the election results could reflect the needs and aspirations of the youthful population in the country.


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong