1.5 years to implement automatic voter registration, says EC

PUTRAJAYA: Election Commission (EC) chairman Azhar Harun says the commission will need at least one and a half years to implement automatic voter registration, following the passing of an amendment bill on the matter in the Dewan Rakyat.

He said the EC would face many challenges in achieving this but expressed confidence that it would succeed.

“I feel we are up to the challenges (as we have) 100% support of Parliament, the opposition, the government, NGOs and Malaysians.

“By God’s grace, I don’t think we can fail. We will meet the challenges successfully,” he said at a forum titled “Make a Change, Let’s Do It Together”, hosted by the EC at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre here.

Forum panellists included Paya Besar MP Mohd Shahar Abdullah from Umno and Ketari state assemblyman Young Syefura Othman from DAP.

On Tuesday, the Dewan Rakyat passed a historic bill to amend the Federal Constitution and allow 18-year-olds to vote and stand as candidates in elections.

Also included in the amendment bill was the opposition’s proposal for the automatic registration of voters.

The bill must now go through Dewan Negara and receive royal assent before it can be gazetted into law.

Azhar, popularly known as Art Harun, said an enforcement date for automatic voter registration would be determined following consultation with relevant stakeholders.

“From time to time, we will continue to inform the opposition as well as the government of our progress and readiness in enforcing or implementing automatic voter registration,” he added.

However, both he and Young disagreed that penalties should be imposed on those who do not vote.

Young said citizens have an equal right to abstain while Azhar gave the example of Australia where he said voting is compulsory but voter turnout is often lacklustre.

Addressing a question from the floor, Azhar also said the EC is “stuck” for the next eight years and cannot prepare new redelineation reports unless Parliament amends the Federal Constitution to change the composition of seats in the lower house.

This follows the call from electoral reforms group Bersih 2.0 for a review of the Sabah redelineation report.