Yesterday, I gave four examples where recklessness as to what is the truth have become a curse in post-14th General Election politics in Malaysia – PAS President, Datuk Seri Hadi Awang’s saying declaring assets is a communist, socialist concept that may have been dreamt up by the DAP; Tok Guru Nik Aziz’s son saying that the global kleptocrat Najib Razak is more popular than the former PAS spiritual leader; Anwar Ibrahim’s lesson to Hadi when pointing out that Umar Abdul Aziz, upon becoming the eighth Umayyad caliph, recorded the assets of his entire family in a show of transparency; and the fact that it was DAP who defended PAS in 1978 when the Kelantan government fell to Barisan Nasional, causing chaos within the state.
It is such recklessness to the truth which informed and guided UMNO and PAS Members of Parliament in Dewan Rakyat.
Today, the Minister for Youth and Sports, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman re-tabled in Parliament the Constitution Amendment Bill to lower the voting age to 18, incorporating the Opposition’s two demands – automatic voter registration and the reduction of the minimum age to be a member of the Dewan Rakyat from 21 to 18.
I am particularly pleased, as I have been calling for the lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18 and automatic voters’ registration as far back as 48 years ago in Parliament in 1971.
However, it is a fallacy to think that once the 2019 Constitution Amendment Bill is passed by both Houses of Parliament, given the Royal Assent and gazetted, any Malaysian above 18 years would be able to cast his vote in any general election or by-election in the country.
This is because the Constitution Amendment Bill to provide for automatic voter registration is only an enabling provision which needs to be backed up by further legislation and administrative action to draw up an electoral roll before a Malaysian above 18 years could exercise the right to vote.
But this is not the only electoral reform that should be put in place.
I fully agree with the Merdeka Centre director, Ibrahim Suffian, who in a briefing to Opposition MPs, warned that expanding the electoral base without implementing electoral reforms, specifically with regard to how electoral boundaries are drawn, would only worsen the problem of malapportionment.
“You have constituencies that are really small in the rural areas, and you have constituencies that are very large in urban areas, so when you expand the voting age to 18, you will also sharpen the differences between the smaller and bigger constituencies.
“Expanding the electoral base will further worsen the malapportionment problem, so it should come together with making the sizes of constituencies fairer.
“Ideally… expanding the electoral base should also come along with electoral reforms.”
Will the Opposition MPs agree that the Constitution Amendment Bill to lower voting age should include an enabling clause to empower the Election Commission to redelineate electoral constituencies to end the undemocratic and unfair gerrymandering and malapportionment of constituencies, and not have to wait for the passage of eight years from the previous constituency redelineation to conduct a new redelineation?