Co-President, Gan Ping Sieu on Electoral Expenses
Thursday, January 17, 2019
Electoral laws pertaining to campaign expenditure and political financing needs to be updated to reflect current needs. Currently, certain provisions of the laws are obsolete and unrealistic. For example, Section 21 of the Election Offences Act forbids anyone other than an election agent, polling agent and clerks and messengers from receiving payments for campaigning.

Such archaic restrictions stifles 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 abuses and make a mockery of electoral laws. As an organization that promotes good governance, 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 Chairman 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 Elections 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.
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