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Election Commission – instead
of banning posters, ban money politics during elections
His latest proposal of electoral law changes including a ban on posters reminds me of his earlier short-sighted and futile tinkering with the Election Offences Act in 2002 quadrupling the legal ceiling for election expenditures by parliamentary candidates from RM50,000 to RM200,000.
At the time, I had criticized the Election Commission for closing its eyes to the grave electoral abuses which afflicted the electoral system in the past few decades, in particular the 3M abuses of the politics of money, media manipulation and government machinery exploitation.
I had questioned why the Election Commission had instead given its blessings to the politics of money by such four-fold increase for election expenditures when a ceiling of RM100,000 for parliamentary candidates and RM50,000 for state assembly candidates would be more appropriate and desirable in the public interest to send a clear message that elections is not a contest of money but a competition for public support in terms of policies and choice of candidates.
I also described it as a “great blemish” that there was no attempt to place a limit on the election expenditures which a political party or coalition was allowed to spend during a general election, as is the case with other countries like the United Kingdom.
In the 2004 general election, the election expenditures of the Barisan Nasional candidates totalled hundreds of millions of ringgit, which were different and separate from the expenditures of the Barisan Nasional as a political coalition and its member parties in the general election, which would be in billions of ringgit!
I had suggested that the Election Commission should propose in the Election Offences Amendment Bill 2002 that a political party or coalition would not be ` permitted by law to spend more than RM10 million nation-wide in any general election – over and above the election expenditures of their candidates, and that leaders of political parties or political coalition should be liable to prosecution and disqualification as elected representatives if found guilty of such election offences.
Is it any surprise that Rashid and the Election Commission dared not consider such a proposal, which would have gone a long way to minimize if not eradicate the scourge of politics of money, the root cause of worsening corruption in the country?
Now Rashid proposes election law amendments because RM110 million was spent on posters in the 2004 general election while RM3.5 million was spent on posters in the Pengkalan Pasir by-election.
These figures are most shocking and outrageous, making a mockery of the claim of clean, free and fair elections in the country. Spending RM110 million on posters alone would exceed the total expenditures legally permissible for all the parliamentary candidates in the last general elections!
The manifold jump to RM3.5 million on posters in one by-election in Pengkalan Pasir, making nonsense of the RM200,000 ceiling for election expenditure by a parliamentary candidate, is proof that money politics, and its direct consequence, political corruption, has got very much worse since the 2004 general election.
Who were guilty of such excessive money politicking during elections? None but the Barisan Nasional. Postering is only one of the many election expenditures – payment for election workers, feasts and kenduris, gifts, entertainments and last but not least, direct cash payments to voters.
Rashid and the Election Commission should be bold and reformist enough to directly tackle the scourge of money politics in elections, to which must be traced the root cause as to why corruption in the country has become so intractable despite the repeated anti-corruption speeches and pledges of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Rashid’s proposal to ban posters will only make the electoral process even more unfair to the Opposition, which are already disadvantaged by a very lopsided playing field with the 3M electoral abuses.
Rashid said the Election Commission proposals had been submitted to the Government and are likely to be approved. Why didn’t Rashid consult all political parties to make meaningful electoral reform proposals, instead of continuing to tinker with peripheral provisions of election laws when the time has come for far-reaching overhaul of the election laws?
Instead of banning posters, ban money politics during elections!
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman