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COMMENT:HOW is it that political parties seem to be so flush with funds? The public has a right to know where this funding is coming from and how it influences the way our government is run, including the Opposition faction. This creates transparency on what kind of lobby forces are at play within the country and how these both benefit the rakyat and also the converse. Over the weekend, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak launched the first salvo by calling for political parties in Malaysia to declare their source of funds and also revealed DAP had previously refused to have such a rule. “We (Barisan Nasional) are prepared to reveal our sources of funding but the others must be prepared to do so as well. I am prepared to list down who my donors are, but the DAP, PKR and the rest must also reveal theirs.” Najib’s declaration has clearly hit a nerve, with former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad uncharacteristically revealing in his chedet blog today that he had parked Umno funds in his personal bank account and was later fined for “wrongful income”. Dr Mahathir’s confession illustrates the weaknesses in current political funding laws within Malaysia — anyone can now have political funds deposited into personal accounts, a fact that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission today confirmed for such funds channelled into Najib’s bank accounts. What makes the picture murky is that only two Umno politicians have so far openly admitted to this practice — can the average Malaysian believe it happens only within Umno and not with any other political party here? Take the splinter party forged out of the split in pro-Islamic party PAS, which in itself was formed after hiving off from Umno some decades ago. What does that say about the way political funds are handled there? And what about the huge amounts involved in political funding? The Election Commission allows spending of RM200,000 by each candidate for parliamentary seats and RM100,000 limit for state seats. In the last general election of 2013, there were a total of 579 candidates contesting 222 parliamentary seats and 1,322 candidates for 505 state seats — excluding the Sarawak state seats. Based on the spending limit above, the amount likely spent on parliamentary seats totals RM115.8 million while state seats spending amounted to RM132.2 million — or RM248 million in total. What many aren’t aware is that more than half of the seats contested were by the Opposition and independent candidates — 358:221 for parliamentary seats and 817:505 for state seats. So who spent more in political funding? There is also the strong suspicion that politicians on both sides spent far more on the election campaigning than was actually reported — but how can that be calculated based on the split above? It is a clear fact that political funding is huge because there is so much expenses that come into play during the campaigning process. At the last US presidential election in 2008, US President Barack Obama is said to have spent US$730 million (RM2.81 billion) while his challenger, John McCain, spent US$333 million (RM1.28 billion). And that was just in voting for a single candidate! Since we won’t ever know just how much more Malaysian candidates spend for political purposes, maybe it’s time to revisit Najib’s proposal for political parties to reveal their sources of funding. And hopefully this time round, this proposal won’t be shot down by the DAP.GE13-funds

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