Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 21st of July, 2015
Malaysia’s ranking on the Money, Politics and Transparency study on political financing shows that we are in dire need of campaign finance reform
On the 16th of July, the Money, Politics and Transparency (MPT) project, a joint initiative between the Sunlight Foundation, Global Integrity and the Electoral Integrity Project, released a new dataset comprising of their findings on elections law and elections spending.
Out of the 54 countries in the study, Malaysia was ranked at position no.50 scoring 19 points out of a possible 100. Malaysia’s score was lower than that of Indonesia (47 points), Bangladesh (41 points) and Nigeria (29 points). Malaysia’s poor score on this study is consistent with other studies which looks at the electoral process in Malaysia. The Electoral Integrity Project (one of the initiators of the MPT project) had earlier ranked Malaysia 114 out of 127 in terms of electoral integrity.
In the MPT study, the oversight over campaign finance was describe as follows:
“The Electoral Commission is responsible for overseeing political finance. In law, the Commission is not granted investigatory powers. Its appointees are not appointed based on merit, and their independence, in practice, is not fully guaranteed. The body does not conduct investigations, lacks the capacity to do so, and never imposes sanctions on parties or candidates who violate the law. In Malaysia, not only is the regulatory framework fairly weak, enforcement is less than rigorous.”
The lack of political independence of the Election Commission and weak enforcement on elections spending in Malaysia is all the more glaring in light of the allegations put forward by the Wall Street Journal that funds related to 1MDB transactions were channelled into certain accounts for the purpose of elections expenditure during the 13th general election in 2013 including personal accounts under the name of Prime Minister Najib.
The issue of transparency in elections expenditure and political financing is not something new. It was one of the 8 demands of Bersih 2.0. Transparency International Malaysia has also been consistently advocating for political financing reform and published a comprehensive book with concrete proposals for political financing reform in Malaysia. The Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU) has been talking about political financing reform since 2012. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Datuk Paul Low, has also been advocating for greater transparency in political financing since he became a member of the cabinet. And of course, one cannot help but remember the signing of the Elections Integrity Pledge by Prime Minister Najib, just prior to the 13th general election in 2013. What a farce that has become.
In view of the Wall Street Journal allegations and also Malaysia’s poor performance in various elections related studies, I call upon the Prime Minister to remember the pledge he signed up to prior to GE13 and to carry out a comprehensive review of the elections system in Malaysia including political financing and elections related expenditure. There are many examples from other countries which Malaysia can adopt as part of the larger process of electoral reform. What the country is severely lacking now is the political leadership and the political will to start and carry out these much needed reforms.
Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament of Serdang
Attachments from the Money, Transparency and Politics Study:
Rankings, Brief, Key Findings and Full Methodology
 http://www.bersih.org/about-bersih/bersihs-8-points/ (under stopping corruption via vote buying)