Malaysiakini Letter

Time to update laws on electoral expenses and political financing


LETTER | Electoral laws pertaining to campaign expenditure and political financing need to be updated to reflect current needs.

Currently, certain provisions of the law are obsolete and unrealistic. For example, Section 21 of the Election Offences Act 1954 forbids anyone other than an election agent, polling agent and clerks and messengers from receiving payments for campaigning.

Such archaic restrictions stifle the spirit of democracy and, if strictly adhered to, tilt the electoral process in favour of the rich and powerful. Some provisions are also liable to abuse and make a mockery of electoral laws.

As an organisation that promotes good governance, the Centre for a Better Tomorrow (Cenbet) believes in clearly defined rules that reflect current needs.

That said, the updated laws and regulations should have no room for blatant vote-buying.

There is a difference between paying party workers or ad hoc volunteers petrol expenses and paying voters transport allowances. The former is campaign expenditure and the latter, political bribery.

We are confident that the Election Commission chairperson will be able to see through the legislative as well as regulatory changes needed to bring our election laws up to date.

As for the video circulating online of a party worker distributing cash, we feel that there's a need to separate the political noise from actual violations.

The government should consider setting up a taskforce comprising the Election Commission, the police, the MACC and civil society groups to look into this incident and receive other similar reports, if any. The taskforce can then make public its findings after polling.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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