HUGE sums of money are required to finance the political party machinery during general elections. As such, there must be frantic efforts now by all those involved to raise funds for their politicking and electioneering before the 14th general election which is just around the corner.
The sad part is we don’t know how much is asked for, who is asking and how much is given or coaxed out of donors and so-called political supporters.
These questions are now being raised frequently by most thinking Malaysians and those who are under pressure to donate.
Why does money politics exist? Donors give because they hope to back the right political horses in the electoral race and then reap the rewards later in the form of favours, contracts, licence preferences, privileges, deals and many other perquisites.
Only the rich and corporates both at home and abroad can provide political funding. And those who are elected as a result of political funding and money politics will owe those who financially backed their election campaign.
Corruption is defined as the abuse of public resources or public power for personal gain. Thus, when someone wins an election at federal, state or even local level and is indebted to some financial sponsors, he or she would be obliged to return the favours to the donors.
How can we fight political corruption? Many NGOs, intellectuals and community leaders have tried to fight money politics for years. But we have all more or less failed because political parties almost across the board have not opposed the ugly practice of money politics forcefully enough.
There is no lack of ideas as to what can be done to combat and drastically reduce money politics and political corruption in the election process. The Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reform and its many good recommendations just fell by the wayside. The proposal to create a Political Donation and Expenditure Act (PDEA) also came to nothing.
Why? Because there was no real political will from all the political parties.
Our leaders of all political flavours are to blame. But the rakyat also bear the guilt as we have tolerated this rejection to curb and control money politics and political corruption. And yet we ask why our Transparency International Corruption Perception Index(CPI) has declined.
I believe, like many Malaysians, that money politics does constitute corruption. The rakyat and the MACC must unite to combat money politics and political corruption!
If political leaders do not take a tough stand on these issues, then the rakyat must do so. We must unite to fight money politics together with the strong support of the MACC.
For GE14, we can all work closely together to monitor the amount of funds used by each candidate. We will accept the election campaign spending limits of RM200,000 and RM100,000 for parliamentary and state seats respectively. Anything more than these amounts can be seen by us, the voters.
If election spending is observed to be excessive or if money is known to be offered to buy votes, then we must resolve to vote against those candidates. We must also report them to the MACC which, we hope, will investigate and take the necessary action.
The MACC should also vet the candidates and their election expenditure independently and bring misconduct to the notice of the public.
It is the duty of MACC to act independently even if it is not given full independence. Money politics constitutes corruption and the MACC must join forces with the rakyat to fight it.
GE14 will be a watershed in our election process. It will provide challenges and opportunities for the rakyat and the MACC, and also the Election Commission to ensure a free, fair and clean election.
We have to fight money politics and political corruption to protect the electoral process and to ensure progress for our nation.
TAN SRI RAMON NAVARATNAM
Asli Center for Public Policy Studies