No plans to lower voting age to 18, says Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing — in spite of developments across the Causeway

The Government is not looking to lower the voting age to 18, as the current age of majority remains the appropriate age for Singaporeans to make decisions and engage in “activities that involve significant personal responsibility”, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing.

Responding to a question submitted by Member of Parliament (MP) Lim Wee Kiak on whether the PM will review the voting age in Singapore — and if not, his justifications for maintaining the minimum voting age of 21 — Mr Chan said that the Government has taken “a graduated approach” in setting the legal ages “at which a person can undertake different responsibilities in Singapore”.

“A person’s rights and responsibilities gradually increase as one matures until the common law age of majority of 21,” Mr Chan added in his written reply on behalf of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Such rights and responsibilities, said Mr Chan, include voting in elections, which entails “making serious choices” that necessitate “experience and maturity” such as electing their MPs and even the President of the Republic.

However, Mr Chan said that under-21 Singaporean youths do have other avenues to be politically engaged such as the SG Youth Action Plan, through which they may contribute their ideas for the nation’s betterment.

Malaysia tables bill to lower voting age to 18 

Across the Causeway, the Malaysian government tabled the Constitution (Amendment) 2019 Bill in the Dewan Rakyat, the Lower House of the nation’s Parliament, in a bid to lower the voting age for Malaysians.

The Bill, which was introduced for its first reading early last month by Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, will amend Clause 1 of Article 119 of the Federal Constitution if it is passed.

As a result, the voting age will be lowered from 21 to 18.

“With this amendment, more Malaysian citizens would be entitled to vote and elect a government through an election, which is in line with a progressive democratic system,” according to the Bill.

A two-thirds majority of 148 votes will be required in order for the amendment to be passed, The Star Online noted.

Other countries in the Asean region that have lowered their voting age to 18 include the Philippines, Thailand, and Cambodia. Indonesia’s minimum voting age is 17.

Singaporean youths today are politically aware, voting rights will “empower” them to further shape the future of the nation: Progress Singapore Party CEC member Michelle Lee Juen

Newly-formed opposition party Progress Singapore Party (PSP) on Sat (3 Aug) meanwhile proposed to lower the minimum voting age in Singapore to 18, in a bid to recognise the role of under-21 Singaporean youth in the democratic process.

Speaking at PSP’s official launch at the Swissotel Merchant Court Hotel, PSP Central Executive Committee (CEC) member Michelle Lee Juen highlighted that Singaporean youths “are the future of this country and should have a say in what they want that future to be by 18”.

“Young people today have very clear opinions and ideas on what they want to see in Singapore, how they want to get there, and who they feel will be able to lead them in that direction,” said Ms Lee, who was a Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) candidate for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC in the 2011 general election.

Ms Lee added that granting under-21 Singaporean youths the right to make a choice through the ballot box will “give them hope” and “the feeling that they matter”, as well as “the conviction that they can make a difference”.
“When we believe that each of them is valuable, and we invest in them, listen to them, and give them opportunities, then we empower them,” she said.

She added that while many countries around the world have their voting age to 18 as far back as the 1970s, Singapore politics remain “in the 20th century”.

Citing neighbouring Malaysia as the latest example to have motioned towards lowering the voting age, Ms Lee, who had previously worked for the Monetary Authority of Singapore, said: “We are already behind the times.”

“This is the 21st century, but Singapore politics is still stuck in the 20th century, and we must change that,” she said.