When cash is king, Harapan can’t afford to be cheap

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COMMENT | Those of us who have been candidates during elections would know how tough staging a run is, especially if you are on an opposition ticket.

Let’s face reality. The biggest obstacle facing opposition candidates is the lack of resources to fund the campaign. When you run out of money in the midst of the campaign, you know that you are doomed.

In an electoral campaign, you cannot depend on luck to win. You have to work, work and work, and ensure that your hardcore supporters and volunteers stay just as focused as you. You cannot afford to slip here as your support base is vital to carry you through.

On top of that, you must have the necessary funds to last the pace. This is where opposition candidates lose out to their BN opponents.

In the 13th general election, one new opposition party in Sarawak fielded six candidates. Their objective was to take on six opponents from a BN party following reports of internal party strife.

I was reliably informed that each candidate was given RM300,000 to mount campaigns and fight for six rural seats.

The results: All six of them were defeated, with three losing their deposits. One immediately announced his retirement from politics after the polls. The president of the new party also resigned.

Now, assuming that each of them really spent RM300,000 – which is a lot of money – and lost, imagine what their BN opponents had to dish out to win.

Who cares about the stipulation in the Election Offences Act 1954 that limits expenditure to RM200,000 for a candidate contesting a parliamentary seat, and RM100,000 for a state seat? I doubt anyone worries about that.

After an election, the candidate is required to file his or her election returns to the Election Commission, failing which he or she would be barred from contesting again.

Seriously, many of us would be curious about the election returns filed by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak after his numerous victories in Pekan, or even Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s returns from his electoral wins in Kubang Pasu in the past.

I, for one, would love to have a peek at their returns and see how much they had actually spent as candidates. But they would have filed their election expenses well below the amount stipulated in the Act. All candidates do the same. I should know.

Talking about election funds, let me get to my point.

Last week, a dear friend of mine, who is also the election director for a Pakatan Harapan party in Sarawak, told me that he has been travelling throughout the state, auditing his party’s seats.

In a WhatsApp message, he said he was in Mukah and had covered Miri, Limbang, Lawas, Baram and Sibuti.

I responded: “Just concentrate on Baram and defend Miri. Saratok and Mas Gading worth gunning for. If national Harapan does not provide a reasonable war chest for Sarawak, then forget it. Tired of the same old story – lack of funds.”

I was merely stating a fact. How many opposition candidates lost in the past because they lacked the resources to sustain their campaigns?

In GE13, a candidate who lost by a mere 300-vote majority told me that if only he had another RM20,000 at his disposal, he would have won...