KOTA KINABALU: The government should consider public funding for political parties to reduce corruption in the country, says local think tank the Wisdom Foundation.
Its executive chairman Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau (pic) noted Malaysia’s position in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) dropped six spots from 51st in 2019 to 57th in 2020 out of 180 countries surveyed by Transparency International.
He said many are unaware the lack of public funding is a key driver of political corruption.
“Operations of contemporary parties – from election campaigns, all-year-long service centres, to staffing and maintenance of headquarters – are expensive business,” he said, in a statement on Friday (Jan 29).
“Many parties become beholden to private funds, who may want some favour in policy decisions covering lucrative government contracts,” he said, adding that high profile cases in Malaysia over the years had reflected public funds embezzled for election campaigns.
Opposition parties, he said, that do not have leaders or generous business funders could be overpowered by richer parties while in some cases lawmakers have changed political camps.
“Without, public funding, politics would be a game of the rich at best, and a ritual for kleptocracy at worst,” he added.
Madius said that funding political parties would likely save millions of ringgit that are currently lost through corruption, mismanagement and all other forms of leakages.
He noted that comprehensive research on the issue by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) released on Jan 25 gave an insight on the need for public funding of political parties through studies on countries adopting it.
He said Malaysia was among 49 countries in the world that did not have any form of public funding from among 120 countries which had some form public funding for political parties.
He said it was time for Malaysia to adopt such policies and possibly look at Bersih’s “modest” recommendation of RM123mil to be proportionally distributed among parties as well as allowing indirect funding for broadcast airtime, printing, postage and government buildings.
Public funding for parties would benefit all parties in government and opposition, he said, while fully supporting Bersih’s recommendations.
Madius said state governments should consider introducing their own public funding if the federal government was not prepared to do so.
“We must create a political ecology which deterrent for parties from misappropriating public fund or depending on private funders,” said Madius, whose outfit Wisdom stood for Workable Initiatives for Secularism, Decentralisation, Openness and Moderation.