Academic proposes EC also oversees political parties

10 Apr 2019 / 23:17 H.

GEORGE TOWN: An academic has proposed that the jurisdiction of the Election Commission (EC) be expanded to also cover party elections.

This, Dr Edmund Terence Gomez said, would help to curb money politics that, he claimed, was already rampant on both sides of the political divide.

Gomez, who was speaking at a dialogue session with members of the Penang Forum, said money politics began to emerge “lavishly” in 1993. Penang Forum is a coalition of several non-governmental organisations.

That year, he alleged, Umno spent up to RM300 million at its internal party elections. “Imagine how much that would be worth today,“ he said.

Gomez, a professor of political economy at Universiti Malaya, reiterated the fact that there had to be a stronger than usual political will to dismantle the system of monetising politics and pointed out that it had to begin with the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration.

“I have held discussions with the EC and like-minded politicians on ways to get the independent body to monitor intra-party elections,“ he said. “It is understood that it cannot happen overnight but it must be done eventually.”

Gomez claimed that one form of money politics was the use of government-linked companies (GLCs) to carry out social work. He pointed out that these GLCs could offer cash and other handouts to influence voters in the guise of carrying out a corporate social responsibility project.

He cited Penang, Selangor and Kelantan as states where the GLCs had begun to dominate the business landscape, raising questions on whether they were truly functioning as enterprises or were merely fronts for slush funds.

Another worrying trend, he added, was politicians rewarding their supporters for their loyalty.

He said the high number of GLCs gave the impression that the government was too preoccupied with getting involved in business rather than in governance and enforcement.

“It is the same for all political parties – from PKR to Umno, to PAS in Kelantan,“ he added. “A web of intrigue has been woven around GLCs.”

Gomez also claimed that there were GLCs that had been given the task of winning over voters in areas where the political party was not getting enough support.

Penang Forum member Dr Francis Loh pointed out that there was a need to vet GLCs and their subsidiaries to promote accountability and to prevent the emergence of a complex web of funding for money politics.

But he also acknowledged that there were GLCs that had serve their stated purposes, among which was to execute public policies to stimulate economic growth. He named the Penang Development Corporation as one such GLC.

email blast