21 January 2020
KU NAN’S TESTIMONY SHOWS WHY WE NEED POLITICAL SPENDING AND FINANCING REFORMS
The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0) refers to BN Secretary-General Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor’s testimony in the High Court that revealed how UMNO raised funds for election campaigns through political donations.
While we do not suggest that his testimony exonerates him from the corruption charge, it does show how vast sums of monies are raised and spent in elections.
At present, the Election Offences Act 1954 (EOA) only regulates campaign spending by candidates during election campaigns. Spending by political parties and others, including those for the benefits of the candidates are left largely unregulated. In addition, there is no regulation on political donations to political parties and candidates.
Unregulated political financing not only enables loopholes for bribery and undue influence by interest groups, but also undermines public confidence in the integrity of elections.
In order to provide a level playing field for political competition and to reduce the influence of money in politics, the EOA must be amended and a new law on political financing must be enacted to regulate these two key areas of political financing, i.e. the source and the spending of funds.
On the source of funds, contributions to political parties and candidates, both in cash and in kind that is above RM1,000 must be declared. The limit should apply at all times and on all types of donors including individual and corporate, both local and foreign. However, government-linked companies (GLC) as custodians of public wealth should be barred from donating to political parties or be involved in political activities.
Public funding for political parties should also be introduced to help reduce the reliance on private sources of funding, particularly the wealthy and corporate interest groups.
On the spending of funds, the current campaign spending limits of RM100,000 for a state assembly candidate and RM200,000 for a parliamentary candidate should be increased to a more realistic figure. We would propose limits of RM500,000 and RM1,000,000 respectively. The regulation should be extended to cover spending by political parties and third parties as well.
All candidates should be required to submit their income and expenses report for election campaign with supporting documents, and these should be audited and published for public scrutiny by the Election Commission (EC) to enhance transparency and accountability. Such reforms on political financing need also to be accompanied by reforms to the EC to ensure that they are empowered to enforce election laws and that will enforce them impartially.
We urge the government to table the political financing bill as soon as possible and make public the bill for all stakeholders to be able to give their views and suggestions during the Parliamentary Select Committee’s hearing.
BERSIH 2.0 Steering Committee
Image credit : The Star