Can Vote Or Not?

Just because one is out of the country should not mean that one automatically loses the right to vote. Article 119 of the Federal Constitution grants the right to vote to all Malaysian citizens of the age of 21 and over who are resident and registered in a constituency or who are registered as absent voters in accordance with election laws.

The Oriental Daily reported in October last year that the Malaysian Election Commission is not neglecting the voting rights of a million Malaysians residing overseas, but is actively studying ways to amend the Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002 to make such persons entitled to postal votes.

According to that report, Vice-Chairman of the Election Commission, Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, said that the Election Commission is exploring various options and intends to appoint agents to represent the Election Commission in Malaysian embassies around the world, so that Malaysians can register themselves as postal voters at embassies. At the same time, the Election Commission intends to update the data of Malaysian voters overseas.

Under the Election (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002, only:


  • members of the Armed Forces
  • public servants
  • students on government scholarships and their spouses living overseas are eligible to register and vote as absent voters.

All other Malaysian citizens are excluded from this privilege. That includes the vast majority of the estimated one million Malaysians living overseas who work overseas in the private sector or for international organisations, or who are retired or unemployed who cannot register as absent voters.

Realistically, much as many patriotic Malaysians overseas may want to exercise their right to vote, it is logistically and economically challenging for them to do so. Presently, there is no provision for Malaysians overseas to vote at Malaysian embassies and consulates abroad – something which is routinely done by many other countries.

A group of Malaysians demanding voting rights for all citizens living abroad called MyOverseasVote campaign is committed to challenging the unequal treatment of the majority of Malaysians overseas on the grounds that it is contrary to the grant of equality under Article 8 of the Federal Constitution. It seeks to raise RM200,000 from Malaysians (20 sen for every Malaysian overseas) to create a legal fund for its action. This will cover the legal fees and expenses needed to take the claim all the way to the Federal Court, and cover the contingency that the applicants, if unsuccessful, are forced to cover the Election Commission’s legal costs. You can visit their website AT THIS LINK to read up more about their efforts which include raising funds to legally challenge ‘discriminatory’ regulations preventing many Malaysians overseas from registering as ‘absent voters’.

MyOverseasVote (MOV) international coordinator Andrew Yong said, “We want the court to say that the current regulations are against Article 8 of the federal constitution, which guarantees equal treatment for all citizens under the law. We want the court to declare that the Malaysian government and the Election Commision cannot discriminate against citizens abroad from voting on arbitrary grounds.”