Funding Bill in October meet

PETALING JAYA: The long-awaited law to regulate political funding will be tabled in Parliament this October.

“The Bill on political funding is in the pipeline and we are working to get it tabled during the Parliament meeting in October,” Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said when contacted yesterday.

The proposed political funding law will be among the main focus of Dewan Rakyat when it meets on Oct 26, apart from Budget 2023 and the generational endgame anti-smoking Bill.

The move to get the Bill ready before October comes after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob recently reaffirmed the government’s commitment to its tabling.Ismail Sabri, however, said whether such laws could be ready before the 15th General Election (GE15) remains to be seen.

Calls by civil society for laws on political funding have grown louder in recent months, particularly in light of several high-profile court cases linked to “political donations”.

Although political funding laws were first mooted in 2016 by the then National Consultative Committee on Political Financing, they received resistance from several quarters, including from Pakatan Harapan.

The Committee had come up with 32 recommendations to address the lack of laws on transparent political funding, including the creation of the office of the controller of political donations and a ban on cash donations from foreign sources.

However, the proposed Political Donations and Expenditure Act did not make it to Parliament before the 14th General Election in 2018.

In 2019, the Pakatan administration intended to table laws on political funding but could not do so after the government collapsed in February the following year.

In July, government backbencher Fadhil Shaari submitted a motion to Dewan Rakyat for a Private Members’ Bill on political funding.

Among the proposal by Fadhil include setting up a RM130mil Political Funding Fund, which political parties would be eligible for if they gained at least 2% of votes during an election.

Also included are provisions to cap political donations to RM50,000 from individuals, RM100,000 from companies and RM500,000 from groups of companies per year.

Government-linked companies, including certain foundations, would be prohibited from making political contributions.

The Pasir Mas member of Parliament (MP) heads the All Parliamentary Group on Political Financing (APPG), representing nine political parties in Dewan Rakyat.

Currently, there are no laws to regulate and monitor political funds, although there are limits on campaign spending by candidates – RM200,000 for federal and RM100,000 for state elections.

Meanwhile, when asked whether the initiative to table political funding laws in Parliament in October formed part of the MOU between the government and opposition on political reforms, Wan Junaidi said “No”.

“It is not related to the MOU, but is an initiative by the government under the transparency, governance and accountability programme,” he said.

However, the minister did not divulge details of the proposed law, only saying that he would be issuing a press statement soon.

The government and the opposition signed an MOU on political transformation and stability last September, paving the way for historic bipartisanship.

Among the agreements under the MOU was that Parliament could not be dissolved before July 31 this year. Although no new MOU will be inked, Ismail Sabri was reported to have said the government would still work with the opposition for the sake of the rakyat.

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