The fight to lower Malaysia’s voting age


Posted March 27, 2024 | Updated on Mar 27, 2024


Tharma Pillai co-founded Undi18 in 2016 to advocate that Malaysia lower its voting age from 21 to 18. At the time, Malaysia was one of nine countries that prohibited anyone under the age of 21 from voting in an election.

In 2019, the bill passed. But a year later, an ultra-conservative government took power and used a COVID-19 pandemic lockdown as an opportunity to shut down Malaysia’s parliament and pause the work of Pillai and his colleagues.

Still, they persisted and rallied in the streets for the cause — and their efforts were not in vain. In 2021, the Undi18 Bill passed, and 5.8 million new voters joined Malaysia’s electoral roll.

“All of this from a simple idea by two college kids,” Pillai said.