KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 21 -- The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) wants the government to impose regulations on donations to political parties and candidates.
It said the Election Offences Act 1954 (EOA) only regulates campaign spending by candidates during election campaigns while spending by political parties and others, including those for the benefits of the candidates are left largely unregulated.
This comes in light of Umno secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor’s testimony in court four days ago where he is facing an ongoing trial for bribery.
Ku Nan is accused of taking RM2 million bribe from a businessman, who wanted to buy two plots of land belonging to Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) when the former was Federal Territories minister.
Ku Nan told the High Court that he did not personally benefit from the RM2 million given by a businessman to his company in 2016 as the money was meant as a political donation.
He said that the money, from Chai Kin Kong, was meant to help Umno in the Kuala Kangsar and Sungai Besar by-elections on June 18, 2016. The party’s candidates, Mastura Mohd Yazid and Budiman Zohdi, subsequently won both seats.
“Unregulated political financing not only enables loopholes for bribery and undue influence by interest groups but also undermines public confidence in the integrity of elections.
“In order to provide a level playing field for political competition and to reduce the influence of money in politics, the EOA must be amended and a new law on political financing must be enacted to regulate these two key areas of political financing, ie. the source and the spending of funds,” Bersih 2.0 said in a statement.
Bersih 2.0 suggested that contributions to political parties and candidates, both in cash and in kind above RM1,000 must be declared be it from individuals or from the corporate sector.
“However, government-linked companies (GLC) as custodians of public wealth should be barred from donating to political parties or be involved in political activities,” the group insisted.
It also said public funding for political parties is made public to reduce reliance on private funding.
Adding to that, Bersih 2.0 also suggested raising the maximum contributions for political campaigning to RM500,000 for a state assembly candidate and RM1,000,000 for parliamentary candidates.
“The limits of RM100,000 for a state assembly candidate and RM200,000 for a parliamentary candidate should be increased to a more realistic figure. The regulation should be extended to cover spending by political parties and third parties as well.
“All candidates should be required to submit their income and expenses report for election campaign with supporting documents, and these should be audited and published for public scrutiny by the Election Commission (EC) to enhance transparency and accountability,” adding that the EC should also be reformed to give them the authority to enforce election laws.
“We urge the government to table the political financing Bill as soon as possible and make public the bill for all stakeholders to be able to give their views and suggestions during the Parliamentary Select Committee's hearing,” the statement added.