Singapore has no plans to lower the voting age to 18 years old

Here’s a piece of disappointing news for those who had their hopes up that Singapore would follow suit after Malaysia recently lowered its voting age from 21 to 18: it ain’t gonna happen.

At least it’s not happening any time soon, according to a written reply delivered by Minister of Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on behalf of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in parliament yesterday.

Chan was responding to a question by Member of Parliament Lim Wee Kiak, who had asked if the government would review the voting age.

Lim also wanted to know the specific rationale for maintaining the current voting age at 21 as well as how many new eligible voters would enter the pool if that was lowered.

In his reply, Chan said that about 130,000 youths would be eligible if the voting age was lowered today, adding that the government recognizes “that many youths want a voice in national matters and wish to make a difference.”

However, Chan went on to imply that 18-year-olds may lack the maturity of their 21-year-old counterparts.

“A person’s rights and responsibilities gradually increase as one matures, until the common law age of majority of 21 [when Singaporeans cannot be considered minors], when a person comes of age to make decisions as an adult and engages in activities that involve significant personal responsibility,” he was quoted as saying by Channel NewsAsia (CNA).

“Voting in elections involves making serious choices, which requires experience and maturity,” he added, before saying that the government “currently does not plan to lower the voting age.”

Chan’s response comes amid recent online discussion over the issue sparked by the newly launched Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) call for the voting age to be lowered

At the party’s launch event on Saturday, PSP leader Tan Cheng Bock said that “18-year-olds should also have the right to elect their leaders.”

He was echoing the sentiment of fellow party member Michelle Lee, who said that 18-year-old Singaporeans already have “very clear opinions and ideas on what they want to see in Singapore, how they want to get there, and who they feel would be able to lead them in that direction.”

“In this, we are already behind the times,” Lee said, noting that many countries around the world have already lowered the voting age, including Malaysia last month.

On social media, netizens were clearly divided.

One of the opinions generating attention was written by political science undergraduate Sean Lim, who was against the lowering of the voting age.

Among the reasons given by the 24-year-old National University of Singapore student was that most teenagers would not be able to make an informed decision as many do not read enough on local developments. Issues surrounding, for example, the government’s healthcare insurance Medishield, don’t resonate with them, he said.

Lim added that having more young voters would benefit opposition parties “because they tend to be trendily anti-Establishment, at least more so than the older folk.”

Lim’s opinion was swiftly shut down by several netizens including Nabil Khairul Anwar, who noted on Facebook that Lim had only used personal anecdotes as evidence to back his opinions.

“It is worrying to me that anecdotal evidence has increasingly become the norm for basing one’s premise on,” Nabil wrote.

Meanwhile, Nanyang Technological University student Ryan Lee accused Lim of trying to “redefine the goalposts of political participation.”

“They do so because they’re unhappy with the possible results of allowing participation as such. They create the false impression of a democratic process, while simultaneously restricting participation to only those that back their ideals,” he said on Facebook.

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