Candidates’ election spending need not be capped but funding must be transparent, forum told

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Pejuang president Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir says political parties and candidates should be allowed to spend as much as they can afford for campaigning as long as the source and recipients of the funds were known. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Pejuang president Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir says political parties and candidates should be allowed to spend as much as they can afford for campaigning as long as the source and recipients of the funds were known. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 25 ― Political parties and candidates should be allowed to spend as much as they can afford for campaigning as long as the source and recipients of the funds were known, said Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir.

The Party Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang) president said money has been used for years to influence politics in the country and that parties have been skirting around the spending limits due to weak regulations.

He also said the pre-Merdeka law that limits state candidates to only spend up to RM100,000 and federal candidates up to RM200,000 was wholly inadequate, and should be updated to reflect modern realities or done away completely.

“I would think there should not be any restrictions on how much a candidate could spend but they have to declare openly about the sources, where it was received, how the funds were generated and for what purposes it was used.

“The amount declared should also include gifts, services in-kind and things like that; it’s not all just cash. One could say political donations are a form of freedom of expression where you support the people with similar themes and positions as you but there needs to be more transparency.

“We’ve now found that some of these big donations made are intended to invest in the politician and its party which creates a negative perception between donors and recipients particularly if the recipient ends up being government.

“I think if donations are done openly, some of these effects can be negated,” he said during a webinar on Transparency International Malaysia this morning.

Mukhriz was a guest panellist on the programme aimed at discussing the need for stricter regulations surrounding political donations.

The topic has been a heated one as two high profile Umno members as well as several more are currently in Court for misappropriation of funds.

Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, current Umno president Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi, former Federal Territories minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor are among the high profile names charged for corruption over funds they all claim to be political donations.

Today, Mukhriz also said the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition had attempted to table a Political Funding Bill in Parliament but when they lost power, the select committee established to look into the matter was dissolved by the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government.

Mukhriz pointed to the fact that in 2018 the biggest party in the country, Umno, still lost to PH even after Najib received RM2.6 billion in purported political donations from Saudi Arabia.

Bangi MP Ong Kian Mng said matters were muddied by government-linked firms that could be engaging in political patronage.

“On the issue of foundations, yes these personal foundations and government foundations are something of concern.

“But if I may also add, companies limited by guarantee by the various ministries are also a concern,” he said.

The panelists today agreed that the regulations for political financing must be a top priority to change the political landscape and remove money politics from the equation.

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