Mizan Mazlan

 

It has long been the practice since independence that political parties need to raise funds for elections. Political parties normally raise funds from fundraising dinners, membership fees, public donations, corporate donations and even foreign donations.

There is also no limit to how much a party is permitted to raise and there is no law or regulation that requires disclosure of the sources. Consequently, this poses a risk of lack of transparency by political parties in Malaysia.

The newly formed National Consultative Committee for Political Funding (JKNMPP) is seen as a step forward in the right direction to deal with this issue (if it’s not merely for publicity stunt). However, the committee may face difficulty to convince all political parties to fully cooperate. Should the allegations of certain political parties and bodies receiving funding from National Endowment for Democracy (NED – which has links to George Soros and regime change movement) is true, the beneficiary would never want to disclose this explicitly, even if JKNMPP recommends disclosure.

 

Although there is a limit to how much a candidate can spend on his/her elections, there is no limit to how much his/her party can spend on the campaign. It is quite obvious that both sides of the political divide exploited this loophole and managed to spend more than the limit, at least at federal level campaigning. Hence, it is the right thing to do to have political funding regulation that plug this loophole.

 

Unlike our Suruhanjaya Pilihan Raya (SPR), the Electoral Commissions (EC) in UK has the power to demand transparency from political parties contesting. The political party must record any form of donations or loans received. The party must also ensure that their donors are legitimate. Consequently the EC will then make this information public. This helps to ensure that that funding comes from legitimate sources.

 

Singapore has Political Donations Acts. This law stipulates that candidates are not permitted to receive donations from foreigners in the interest of national sovereignty.

 

Hence, here are the recommendations, which we should expect from JKNMPP:

  1. Disallow foreign donations to protect Malaysia’s sovereignty.
  2. Limit the total amount that can be received from donors. This will create a balanced and equal battleground for political parties, as well as to avoid overspending.
  3. SPR must be given more power to demand transparency.
  4. Reduce the number of election days to ensure that less resources are used for political campaigns and the election itself.

 

There is another idea, which may seemed radical to some; publicly funded election campaign. I know this can be sensitive in light of the current situation with GST, but please bear with me on this.

 

  1. Candidates and political parties will not be distracted by the need to raise funding. They can focus on advocating national issues rather than having to shower potential voters with goodies.

 

  1. A publicly funded election that gives equal allocation to both incumbent and opposition coalitions will allow both sides to compete on a level playing field. Hence, the public can assess them purely on their capabilities as potential representatives of the people.

 

  1. A publically funded election will make known to the people how much has been allocated to both sides. Hence the public has the right to scrutinize the expenditure and would be able to tell if political parties spent more than the amount allocated. If they did, this could well mean that they may have obtained funding from other sources, which can be made illegal by law.

 

  1. The elected leaders do not owe anyone favors other than the people whom are the benefactors of their election campaigns.

 

Of course, a huge sum will need to be forked out from public funds for this to happen. If one parliament can only spend RM200,000 and DUN to spend RM100,000, that could amount to about RM100 million per election. If an election is carried out every 5 years, it means that the national budget would be allocating RM20million per year. But on the positive side, the country can probably save a lot more by electing cleaner and more talented leaders through this system.

 

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