We need transparency in political funding

Election Commission chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Yusof has finally called for legislation requiring all political parties to declare their sources of political funding.

I am sure most voters will ask why the chairman took so long to publicly state his concern over the need to control excessive political funding, so late in the day.

The horses have run out of the stable already. If the Election Commission had campaigned for better legislation to manage political funding earlier, we might even have avoided the 1MDB crisis.

Money politics has been described as the mother of corruption. Indeed it’s the weapon used in many countries for “state capture”, where many governments keep themselves in power, by subjugating the institutions of state, to keep them in permanent possession of power.

Aziz has now stated that he “does not have investigative powers to probe whether election candidates spent more than the limit of RM200 for parliamentary seats. So can we conclude that the Election Commission is a toothless tiger?

What good is it if it cannot control money politics and exorbitant “donations” which could be related to blatant corruption?

Why must the rakyat wait for all political parties to agree to reveal donors and how much they donated to political funding before new laws can be introduced to control money politics? Is there not public and national interest to also consider, instead of pandering only to narrow political party interests?

Surely the Elections Commission, as an apparently independent commission, could have exercised its independence by properly serving the public interest and not only political party interests?

If the Election Commission could not move to have stronger laws to fight money politics, because just “one political party disagreed”, let us the voters know why and which political parties and individuals are against parliamentary democracy. The people need to identify them and vote against them at the next elections, to protect and defend the very integrity of our election system.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has said that “he would only reveal the source of Barisan National’s political funds if the opposition was willing to do the same”.

But why should we play tit-for-tat? This is not a political game. It’s a matter of national integrity and transparency and public accountability. Surely the government will win huge support if it openly declares its political financing, which could even increase with more transparency ?

In any case, the prime minister has now declared that “he will be pushing for a motion in Parliament to ensure transparency in political funding”. So let’s see, as the proof in the pudding is in the eating.

If we do not introduce new laws to fight money politics and excessive political donations, we would move from 5th position, from of the bottom in a Sydney University survey of 54 countries on the Integrity of Election Campaign Financing, to the very bottom in no time. That would be most unfortunate and a sad title for Malaysia to wear and a terrible shame for us all to bear.

So I appeal to my former colleague in the civil service Tan Sri Aziz to exert your claimed independent status and fight hard to introduce world class laws and best practices against money politics and political corruption in the election process, please.

The rakyat is waiting patiently for real electoral reforms and will vote more wisely accordingly.

Article published in The Malaysian Insider.

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