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Malaysian MPs back lowering voting age to 18

Kuala Lumpur

MALAYSIA'S parliament on Tuesday backed lowering the voting age from 21 to 18, a change that would add millions of people to the electoral roll and was pushed by the country's reformist government.

The South-east Asian nation is one of a handful of countries around the world that limits voting to those aged over 21, and the change still has to be debated and passed in the country's senate before it can become law.

The overhaul was championed by the government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad - who at 94 is the world's oldest leader - about a year after it came to power by defeating a long-ruling, corruption-plagued coalition. Speaking in the lower house of parliament before MPs voted on the law, Dr Mahathir argued that young people in Malaysia were more politically aware than in the past.

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"This move is so that they be given the chance, space and voice to . . . design the country's democracy through elections," he told lawmakers.

The reforms will also allow 18-year-olds to stand for election. AFP