PRESS STATEMENT, Wednesday 3 May 2017 Kuala Lumpur – It appears that the next 14th General Election (GE14) is around the corner. Given this, Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) would like to urge all political parties to engage in clean and fair election campaigns. Integrity and fairness in electoral campaigns are crucial to ensure that corruption does not damage the credibility of the entire election and its outcome, thereby undermining the due democratic process enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
Possible corruption risks in the electoral process include voters’ registration manipulation, ballot-box stuffing and vote buying. An opaque, non-transparent voting process can also affect voter lists and vote counting. There should be zero tolerance to ‘money politics’ practiced by both sides of the political divide. Political patronage, abuse of power involving favouritism, nepotism and conflict of interest in the award of government concessions, disbursement of contracts, adhoc projects, licences, shares development funds and other benefits must stop.
Political party financing is another big area surrounding electoral campaigns. As the recommendations by The National Consultative Committee on Political Financing have already been given last September, Malaysians are eager to see these recommendations accepted by the Malaysian Cabinet, resulting in the full implementation of a new law to govern and regulate the financing of political parties in the upcoming general election. Having a set of laws to regulate political funding will have a positive impact on Malaysia as it will improve the country’s image in terms of transparency, integrity and accountability.
Campaign financing enforcement is also necessary. Election campaigns are increasingly expensive – politicians require large sums of money to run their campaigns and this raises serious integrity concerns. The sources of these funds, the amounts that may be accepted and the lack of equal resources may present potential threats that can affect the election. As stated in the Election Offences Act 1958, the limits on campaign spending for each candidate is RM200, 000 for federal elections and RM100,000 for state election, and only expenditure incurred between the date of publication of the notice of election and the day of election is subject to these financial limitation. As such there is no duty on the candidate to disclose any income or expenditure outside this campaign period. The question we ask is – where does this campaign money come from and how much is actually spent by each candidate?
Hence, access to information on political financing, including election campaign contributions and expenses, are essential for protecting integrity since they promote transparency and increase public confidence in the electoral process.
In general, candidates use a variety of means to communicate their message to voters, including through the media. As such access to the media, especially those financed by the rakyat’s money is essential to ensure that broadcasting air time is allocated fairly to parties and candidates.
There should not be any accusation of the public media not being independent and fair in allowing all candidates the opportunity to provide their views and campaign messages through the media. Politicians who are running should also conduct professional debates on their manifestos and focus on the needs of the rakyat together with the track record of parties and candidates. By doing so they will garner public confidence and increase their chances of winning the election.
The economy will undoubtedly play a key part in this election cycle. In this time of economic downturn combined with increasing concern about opportunities, voters are looking for policy ideas from all candidates to help the country address these economic challenges.
Apart from the economy, corruption should also be an agenda in the election campaign. Based on the 2016 CPI score Malaysia has declined from 54th position in 2015 to 55th standing in 2016. Being corruption free is one of the determinants in attracting foreign direct investment.
Politicians must show commitment towards “observing the principles of truth, integrity, accountability and ethical conduct” both during the election period and after being voted into office. They should avoid the role of money politics and any other issues which can affect the harmony of the multi-racial country.
Leaders who are nation builders think not about the next election, they embrace and think about the next generation. GE14 must not only be fair and clean but must also seen to be fair and clean.
Dato’ Akhbar Satar
Transparency International Malaysia
Transparency International-Malaysia is an independent, non-governmental and non-partisan organisation committed to the fight against corruption.
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