Umno deputy minister wants referendum law, lower voting age

By Melissa Chi, The Malaysian Insider

Higher Education Deputy Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said today Malaysia should have laws allowing for referendums, adding that the Election Commission (EC) should also lower the voting age to 18.

There is now no law to hold referendums, which is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal.

“It is about time we had legislation for referendums. I think the government of the day, whichever party, should get approval not just from the Parliament, but from the people as well, on big or fundamental issues,” he said at the Electoral Reform and Purification of Democracy Forum organised by the Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement (Abim) and the Abim Lawyers Group (GPA).

Other panellists were Professor Dr Redzuan Othman, Universiti Malaya’s dean of the Literature and Social Science Faculty, and Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) director Wan Firdaus Wan Fuaad.

Saifuddin, an Umno supreme council member, also said there should be an increase in civil society participation in the democratic process.

He said the problem now was that the state was still “condescending and does not trust civil society”.

“I agree with automatic registration for 18-year-olds to vote, if not for the 13th general election, there should be a roadmap leading towards this goal. If needed, we should change the law or the Constitution to make it easier for the people to vote,” he said.

The current minimum age for voting is 21.

He had previously urged PR and BN lawmakers to start “the ball rolling” by forming a caucus in Parliament for such a cause.

The Temerloh MP also said: “Just because BN had never lost doesn’t mean that the election is clean, and vice versa just because there is a constant change in government doesn’t necessarily mean the election is fair. We cannot be so simplistic in that thinking.”