KUALA LUMPUR, June 17 — Eighteen Malaysian youths today obtained leave from the High Court to challenge the government’s action in delaying the implementation of Undi 18, a move to lower the voting age to 18 and to enable automatic voter registration.
Judge Datuk Ahmad Kamal Md Shahid, in allowing the leave for a judicial review application by the youths on behalf of the Undi 18 movement against Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, the Malaysian Government and the Election Commission (EC) as the respondents, said the applicants have passed the leave threshold and the case was neither frivolous nor vexatious.
Justice Ahmad Kamal said the court should allow the matter to proceed to the substantive stage and the respondents to provide an explanation by affidavit.
“I am in agreement with the applicants’ argument that the amendment to the relevant acts and regulations is a secondary issue which should not stand in the way for the constitutional amendment to come into effect.
“The constitutional amendment for lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 years old has been passed in Parliament and has received royal assent. The only outstanding issue is the timing in which the same comes into effect,” he said in his 22-page written judgment made available to media today.
Justice Ahmad Kamal said based on the Hansard of the Dewan Rakyat, the then Prime Minister on July 16, 2019, in debating the constitutional amendment had made it clear that all the necessary laws and regulations need to be amended in order to enforce Section 3(a) and Section 3(b) of the Constitution (Amendment) Act 2019.
Section 3(a) deals with lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 while Section 3(b) is to allow for automatic voter registration to replace the current system where Malaysians have to apply to be registered as voters.
The judge further said that all the three respondents are, in no doubt, categorised as public authorities.
“Therefore, it is my opinion that the decision of the first respondent (Muhyiddin) on behalf of the second respondent (the Government) on March 27, 2021, in accepting and affirming the third respondent’s (EC) decision on March 25, 2021, to postpone the implementation of the lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18 years old from July 2021 to after September 1, 2022, is a legal decision that will bind related parties,” he said.
The judge also pointed out that Order 53 Rule 2(4) of the Rules of Court 2012 states that any person who is adversely affected by the decision of any public authority shall be entitled to make the application.
“In this instant application, the applicants are citizens of Malaysia aged between 18 to 20 years old.
“In the event section 3(a) of the Act is brought into force, the applicants would have the rights and qualifications to be registered in the electoral roll as electors in the constituency which they reside on the qualifying date and they are entitled to vote in that constituency in any election to the House of Representative or the Legislative Assembly.
“The applicants are also part of the Undi 18 movement, which is a Malaysian youth movement that had successfully advocated for the amendment of Article 119 (1) of the Federal Constitution to reduce the minimum voting age in Malaysia from 21 to 18 years old.
“On that account, I am in the agreement with the applicants’ submission that the respondents’ decision in not bringing into operation Section 3(a) of the Act immediately and/ or before July 2021 have adversely affected the applicants,” the judge said before fixing July 1 for case management via e-review.
The youths were represented by lawyers Datuk S. Ambiga and Datuk Dr Gurdial Singh Nijar while senior federal counsels Shamsul Bolhassan and Azizan Md Arshad acted for the respondents in the online proceeding.
On April 2, the youths, aged between 18 and 20, filed their legal action seeking several court orders arising from the respondents’ delay in the implementation of Undi 18.
In the application, the youths seek a declaration that the government’s action to delay the enforcement of lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 was irrational, illegal, disproportionate and a form of voter suppression.
The applicants want a declaration that those aged 18 to 20 have a legitimate expectation that they will have the right to vote on or before July 2021.