The Prime Minister cannot call for an election until and unless the “Undi 18” is implemented. Article 19(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution has already been gazzeted which allows for Malaysian citizens from the age of 18 years old to vote. I believe the government would rely on Section 1(2) of the Constitution (Amendment) Act 2019 in which says that “Section 3 of the Act comes into operation on a date to be appointed by the Yang-di-Pertuan Agong by notification in the Gazzete”. Now Section 3 of the Constitution (Amendment) Act says about amending the age of voters from 21 years old to 18 years old.
The Election Commission yesterday announced that the Undi 18 will only be implemented next year. They may legally do so considering the provision of section 1(2) of the Constitution Amendment Act. But it is my view that such prerogative must be exercised before the current parliamentary term expired in 2023 or before a General election is called. Such prerogative cannot be intended to be in perpetuity and it cannot overcome Article 55(3) of the FC which also has been cited EC.
The EC also said that there is only 1.2 million people whom are between the age of 18 and 20 indicating that these are not a huge figure. It is not about the numbers but it is about their constitutional rights being prevented in the event an early election is called before the implementation of Undi 18. For the EC it could be a small figure but even with a small number of voters, it could have a big impact on the result of the General Election. As we all can see with the current Federal Government, even with 1 support from a Member of Parliament is important to bring legitimacy of this government. So, it would be a mistake to undermine the importance of implementing Undi 18 and its effect.
If there is an intention by the Federal Government to call for an early General Election this year for reason to bring stability or to form a more stable Federal Government but before implementing ‘undi 18’, be prepared for the possibility that instead of getting stability, what will ensure instead are more instabilities with numerous constitutional challenges on the legality of the General Election result. Ask ourselves whether this is what we want the country to face after what we have seen and experienced in the past year?
Also, if the EC is serious wanting to ensure that the implementation of Undi 18 is done properly then they should address the ‘special issue’ concerning Sabah. That is the problem and challenges of illegal immigrants getting identification cards by dubious means. UPKO has raised this concern before in several dialogues with the EC concerning the implementation of the automatic voters’ registration. Eventhough UPKO fully support for Undi 18, but at the same time it has always been our stand that the relevant authorities such as the National Registration Department must work together with the EC to address and find a mechanism that those who are automatically registered as new voters are really Malaysian citizens and not those who obtained their Identification Card illegally. These are legitimate concerns because in the Sabah Royal Commission of Inquiry in 2012 (RCI) evidences were presented to the commission that those illegal immigrants who were given identification cards had also voted in several elections. We cannot stress it enough how serious the effect of them being part of the voters list.
Nelson W Angang Secretary-General United Progressive Kinabalu Organisation (UPKO)