Minister for Trade and Industry, Chan Chun Sing, has revealed that the Government has no plans to lower the current voting age of 21 and above to 18 and above. Mr Chan was responding to a question filed by fellow People’s Action Party (PAP) parliamentarian, Lim Wee Kiak.
Mr Lim wished to ask his party leader, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, about the possibility of lowering the voting age to 18 years old. The Sembawang GRC MP has filed the following questions to ask PM Lee:
“(a) if he will review the eligible voting age for Singaporeans under the Parliamentary Elections Act; (b) what is the consideration for retaining the current voting age; and (c) how many more voters will be eligible if the current voting age is changed to 18 years old.”
Currently, Singaporeans who are aged 21 and above are eligible to vote in elections. The 21-year-old age limit falls in line with the past practice of the United Kingdom at the time independence was granted to Singapore, in 1965.
In 1969, the United Kingdom decided to lower the British voting age to 18. The US, Canada, West Germany and France followed suit and changed the voting age to 18 within the following five years.
Countries like India, Iran, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia and Australia have also lowered the voting age to 18 and Malaysia is due to vote on an amendment that would allow 18-year-old Malaysians to vote in elections.
Singapore, however, is not prepared to join the ranks of these nations. Responding on behalf of PM Lee, Mr Chan said that the Government will not lower the voting age since the current age remains the appropriate age for Singaporeans to make decisions and engage in “activities that involve significant personal responsibility.”
Asserting that the Government takes a “a graduated approach” in setting the legal ages “at which a person can undertake different responsibilities in Singapore,” Mr Chan said in a written reply: “A person’s rights and responsibilities gradually increase as one matures until the common law age of majority of 21.”
These rights and responsibilities include voting in elections to select MPs and the President, which Mr Chan called “serious choices” that necessitate “experience and maturity.”
The Minister added that Singaporeans under the age of 21 can be politically engaged through programmes like the SG Youth Action Plan, where they can share their ideas on how to make Singapore better.
Last Saturday, Progress Singapore Party Central Executive Committee (CEC) member Michelle Lee Juen proposed that the minimum voting age in Singapore should be lowered to 18 so that Singaporeans under the age of 21 are recognised in the democratic process.
Speaking at her party’s official launch, Ms Lee said that Singaporean youths “are the future of this country and should have a say in what they want that future to be by 18.” She added:
“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.”
Asserting that lowering the voting age to 18 would give Singaporean youths “hope,” “the feeling that they matter” and “the conviction that they can make a difference,” Ms Lee said: “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.”
In what appears to be a jab against the Government’s refusal to follow the lead of other nations in lowering the voting age, Ms Lee said that Singapore politics remain “in the 20th century” even as other nations have amended the voting age as far back as the 1970s. -/TISG