A THINK tank has proposed that the Selangor and Penang governments allow political parties in their respective states to be funded by the taxpayers to prevent corruption and foster democracy.
Wong Chin Huat, political and social analysis section head at the Penang Institute, recommended that the state governments led by the opposition allocate 0.25% of their budgets to fund the political parties, which would include Umno, as part of its push for wider electoral reforms.
“Putrajaya is the final destination, not the point of departure (in terms of electoral reform),” Wong told a forum on anti-corruption reforms at Darul Ehsan Institute in Shah Alam today.
“Reforms must begin at Shah Alam and Georgetown. Although our federal system is very much centralised, the state governments still have the power to push forward such reforms. “
Under the arrangement recommended by Wong, the political parties in Selangor would receive RM7.8 million – 0.25% of the state budget of RM3.12 billion – with RM1.67 million going to Umno because it controls 12 of the 56 state seats.
Pakatan Harapan chief secretary Saifuddin Abdullah and Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming of DAP were present at the forum.
At the federal level, Wong proposed that 0.05% of Malaysia’s RM260 billion federal budget, about RM130 million, be set aside for political parties.
Such a system is in place in Germany, Ireland, and the Netherlands.
Every year, German taxpayers pay €133 million (RM660 million) to support political parties that win sufficient votes and are able to raise their own money. The amount is equivalent to 0.04% of Germany’s €328.7 billion federal budget.
Wong said Pakatan Harapan need not have to capture Putrajaya to initiate electoral reforms.
“Yes, the power (of state governments) is limited to things such as land matters and Islamic affairs.
“But with its revenue source, the state government can carry out public funding for political parties as there are no provisions in the Federal Constitutions which dictate how the state government spends its money.”
Wong said the opposition coalition could establish a moral high ground of sorts by adopting the system
“Punitive measures alone may not work. We need to fatten the cat, so to speak, to help take away its desire to kill the goldfish.”
“The question you may ask is, why do this, when it’ll be good for them (Barisan Nasional)? You may say, what we do will not be reciprocated. Why do this?
“It is because if this is carried out, each party must fill out a form to apply for the money. BN has to apply for the money, and that act alone will legitimise the reforms.
“It means that if Umno takes the money, Umno Selangor can no longer say the system is a waste of taxpayer’s money. And the opposition can then request that such reforms be carried out at the federal level as the money has been taken.
“And if they don’t take the money, then the remaining funds can be disbursed among PH and PSM (Parti Socialis Malaysia). It’s win-win.”
Meanwhile, Ong said Selangor PH would consider the proposal, but added that holistic electoral reforms were only possible if the opposition won Putrajaya.
He said no reform would be successful unless the Election Commission was a truly independent and transparent organisation and political funding was scrutinised.
Ong suggested that contributions from each individual be limited to RM50,000 and that donations exceeding RM10,000 be reported. He also proposed open tenders utliising transparent electronic systems.
Saifuddin, who is formerly of Umno, noted a need for political parties to reduce their dependency on funding.
“I believe in the premise that if there is a lack of need for political parties to have large amounts of money, maybe there will be less need for corruption,” said the former Temerloh MP and former deputy higher education minister.
He said the nomination day parade might need to be scrapped in future reforms.
“Imagine if BN contests all 222 constituencies. There are an average 5,000 supporters in each Parliamentary area… BN needs to sponsor 222 seats times 5,000 supporters, times the T-shirts, tudung, pocket money… It’s millions upon millions just for one day.
“This is reality. This has been happening all this time,” he said, adding that the culture of plastering flags and posters all over the roads needed to end, and party workers during elections reduced, too.
“Sometimes a BN candidate declares an entire village party workers. The screws on this need for money need to be tightened.
“Just imagine if the candidates need no longer think of money.
“It would change strategies and reduce the need for parties to look for large amounts of money, which would help in the fight against bribery and corruption.”