Minister says political funding Bill won’t be tabled before GE14

Senator Datuk Paul Low speaks at the Democracy in Southeast Asia Conference in Kuala Lumpur September 2, 2017. ― Picture by Choo Choy May
Senator Datuk Paul Low speaks at the Democracy in Southeast Asia Conference in Kuala Lumpur September 2, 2017. ― Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 2 ― Putrajaya is working to introduce legislation to regulate political funding but the proposed Bill will not be ready before the 14th general elections, Datuk Paul Low said today.

The minister in the Prime Minister's Department in charge of government integrity and human rights said the National Consultative Committee on Political Financing came up with 32 recommendations last year to address the current lack of laws on transparent funding of political parties, especially in their preparation for elections.

“In Malaysia, we are concerned because there's no regulation at all. This isn't ideal and we need to regulate political financing. This is why the government has allowed for the establishment of a consultative [technical] committee to come out with recommendation on political financing,” he told reporters during a special press briefing at the Democracy in Southeast Asia Conference here.

Though the proposed Political Donations and Expenditure Act won’t be tabled in time for the coming polls, Low is confident that the new law will be approved before the 15th general elections.

Speculations have been high that the 14th general elections will be called this year, though the ruling Barisan Nasional government’s mandate only expires next year.

Low said the committee has consulted members of the public, interest groups and political parties to date and is currently in the process of contacting the Attorney-General’s Chambers for its input.

He also said the Bill will allow for private political financing during elections as Malaysians seem averse to public financing by the state.

"The big issue when dealing with political financing is whether or not it should be private or public. In some countries, any financing must come from the state. If we go for the public financing formula, we must ensure there is adequate state financing.

"But after consultation, the Malaysians aren't in favour of state financing because they don't want their taxpayers money to pay for political funding. There might be candidates or parties they don't agree to," he said.

Low said if the Bill favours private funding, the new legislation will do its best to ensure the greatest levels of transparency, including an online site stating the name of the donor and the amount of money obtained by the recipient.

Former prime minister of Belgium Yves Leterme, who was also at the same conference, weighed in on the political funding issue, saying there might be a danger of “non-sufficient integer processes”.

Leterme, who is also a secretary-general of the International Institute of Democracy and Electoral Assistance, said that based on his experience political financing requires both a conditional public funding and a regulated private funding to make it successful.

He added that he and his organisation is ready to help and support Malaysia's effort to introduce this regulation and safeguard the integrity of Malaysia's political process and elections.

The two-day Democracy in Southeast Asia Conference is jointly organised by the National Human Rights Commission of Malaysia and the Kofi Annan Foundation.