'We want reform in election financing too'

Nov 12, 07
Elections watchdog Bersih is demanding comprehensive reform of laws governing election financing to protect the elections from being marred by money politics.

Instead of limiting spending expenditure, the coalition wants more stringent regulations on transparency and reasonable limits to donations from businesses.
“Such laws will prevent government-linked companies (GLCs) from misusing funds for election campaigns,” said Bersih in a statement today.
Bersih proposed for state subsidies for electoral campaigns to reduce candidates’ dependence on business donations and to prevent the rich from purchasing influence.
Bersih said it was in favour of introducing reasonable state subsidies for all parties and candidates whose vote share in previous elections have met a 12.5 percent threshold.
The coalition is also requesting strict regulations to ensure transparent listing of all contributions made to electoral campaigns, whether in the form of cash or labour.
“This would allow the public and the media to check if the government or politicians return any ‘favours’ after the election,” said Bersih.
Current limits on electoral spending stands at RM200,000 for parliamentary contests and RM100,000 for state seats. As detailed in the Election Offences Act 1954, the unit of accounting is the individual candidate rather than the political party.
Whatever being spent by the political parties and other individuals and companies on behalf of the candidates is not counted as electoral expenses.

Development funds

If political parties are considered as the accounting unit, Barisan Nasional which contested for 219 parliamentary seats and 504 state seats, should only be able to legally spend RM94.2 million nationwide.
Bersih rejected the Act’s capacity to prevent over-spending because it overlooked the fact that the costs of major expenses like advertisements and campaign materials are borne by political party headquarters or their affiliates.
Bersih also condemned these spending restrictions as “irrelevant and ineffective” as it is subject to manipulation and evasion.
The opposition parties have long been complaining over the amount of money utilised by the ruling BN in their election campaigns.
More recently almost RM400 million was spent for development projects in the run-up to the Ijok by-election.
The BN candidate retained the seat, which the opposition claimed was made possible by the money funneled by the ruling party and state government into the state constituency.