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Sunday, February 28, 2016

'No legal requirement, but EC must monitor political spending'

While not required by law, the Election Commission (EC) should keep an eye on political party spending during elections instead of merely resting on its laurels, said Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah.
Although the EC is powerless under present laws to act against excessive political party spending, Maria said the EC should still be more proactive and question election candidates on how much their political parties have spent on their behalf.
The EC has always said that it is not the one to monitor political parties, but you have to. You have to because it is all part of unbalanced political financing,” she told Malaysiakini when contacted today.
She said that there was currently no mechanism at all to monitor political party spending in elections.
If the situation is left unchecked, she said elections would be an uneven playing field where those with more money to spend would have greater sway over voters, by virtue of having better-funded publicity campaigns.
She also urged the EC to support the introduction of the Political Parties Act (PPA), which was mooted by a group of NGOs.
Among others, the PPA specifies disclosure requirements and limits on political contributions, as well as spending limits for both election candidates and political parties.
Maria was responding to a statement by EC chief Hashim Abdullah yesterday, who reportedly said that the commission would neither impose spending limits on political parties, nor push for stricter finance rules.
In a report by the Malay Mail Online, he was quoted as saying that these matters were beyond the EC's purview, and there were currently no laws on political spending except for the Election Offences Act 1954.
The Act places a limit of RM100,000 on candidates contesting in state seats and RM200,000 on those contesting in parliamentary seats, but is silent on political party spending.
For us in the EC, we monitor how much the individual candidate spends in the elections during the campaign period; he or she sends in the invoice and we scrutinise it.
The question of how much a political party spends for elections we are not concerned about, because we don't know whether a political party uses all of its funds for elections,” Hashim was quoted as saying. -Mkini

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