New Overview Paper: Party Financing in Southeast Asia


GlasbergenPartyforumseasia’s editor, Wolfgang Sachsenröder, has presented a comparative paper on party finances at the ICIRD Conference (22-23 August 2013) at Chulalongkorn University Bangkok.

Below you find an abstract.
If you are interested in the topic see the whole paper here:
Political Party Finances in Southeast Asia 1

Party Funding and Party Finances in Southeast Asia(Abstract)
by Wolfgang Sachsenröder, visiting fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, and editor of www.partyforumseasia.org

Southeast Asia, riding on a wave of economic and asset growth in the last few decades, has developed an exaggerated level of money politics and enrichment opportunities for all sorts of political entrepreneurs. The part of political parties in this game and the different methods of securing enough funding for the management of the party machineries and the increasingly costly election campaigns vary from country to country. But the basic pattern can be described as a skilful move to blur the distinction between big business, state funds, and political parties in order to control and manipulate cash flows as the main instrument for coming to power and secure it.

Based on traditional patron-client relationships and the remaining big income gap between mostly rural poor and limited mostly urban middle classes, “pluto-populism” and “pork-barrelling” have become prominent features of party politics everywhere. The overrepresentation of businessmen and bankers in parliaments and governments reflects the interdependence of party politics and business sectors, once dubbed as “incestuous relationship” by veteran opposition politician Lim Kit Siang in Malaysia. And the rising cost of being selected as a candidate or branch leader as well as the goodies to be showered on potential voter groups and party supporters are only a logical consequence of these developments which have hardly been affected by progress in democratic and institutional development. Frustration with the level of corruption is high in Southeast Asia, but the vicious cycle of political cash flows and party politics remains below the necessary domestic debate threshold to lead to radical reforms.
As the Malaysian election campaign for the 5 May 2013 “GE13” has shown, anti-corruption rhetoric strikes a strong chord with large sectors of the electorate, but the well-oiled machinery of the incumbent government coalition could not be defeated. In Indonesia, and certainly similarly in other parts of the region, the anti-corruption sentiments seem to be superseded by resignation. Since all parties are more or less involved, and people are so used to the daily petty corruption, the argument is losing appeal in campaigns, also because even the most corrupt parties use it strategically.

State funding for political parties, not to speak of the generous levels in many European countries (e.g. 154 million Euros in Germany in 2013) is widely unknown in Southeast Asia. An exception is Thailand, which has introduced – after long debates since the mid-1990s – a quite generous party funding system.
Membership fees are more or less symbolic in the region (e.g.Democrat Party, Thailand 20,- THB, PAP, Singapore S$ 18 / year) if collected at all. These contributions to the party funding are practically negligible and certainly no serious part of the parties’ income.

The elections in Malaysia (May 2013) and Cambodia (July 2013) suggest that the electorates are increasingly aware and sick of political corruption and vote for the opposition which they expect to be cleaner.

Will Political Corruption in Southeast Asia Come to an End?


Pork1Partyforumseasia: The funding of party activities and election campaigns is closely related to corruption in many countries in the region. This is why many businessmen are in politics or close to politicians and vice versa. But the enormous cash flows in the political arena are more and more tarnishing their image and creating a public outcry and demonstrations. Demonstrations alone would not bother the beneficiaries of this “incestuous relationship” too much, if there were not a backlash against corrupt parties in elections. Malaysia’s GE 13 in May and Cambodia’s July election ended as a very close shave for the ruling parties perceived as very corrupt.
These days it is in the Philippines that citizens demand an end to the infamous pork projects and President Aquino will have to show some results in the second half of his term.
Partiforumseasia will soon publish a comparative assessment of party financing and corruption in Southeastasia which was first presented in the ICIRD Conference in Bangkok last week.
Pork2

Source: Straits Times, Singapore, 27 August 2013

Where is the Ethical High Ground in Malaysia?


Partyforumseasia: There are probably few lawmakers world-wide who live on their official income alone and certainly even fewer who seriously bare their financial situation to the voters. The common tricks are sufficiently known. If you have to declare the financial status of spouse and children as well, proxies are easily found.
As laudable as the newest move towards transparent pockets by 30 Penang state assemblymen may be, doubts are allowed that this move can really put pressure on the financial networks of the Barisan Nasional elite. Though a lot of evidence of corrupt practices has been published so far and the image is sufficiently tarnished, full transparency will be too nice to be true.
Malaysia assets 2

Penang assets

Source: Straits Times, Singapore, August 13, 2013

Unity Government in Malaysia: Extended Wayang Kulit?


Najib denies
najib 2Partyforumseasia: Compromising after the bitterness of the GE 13 election last May cannot be easy for opposition leader Anwar nor for PM Najib, the latter even stabbed in the back by UMNO godfather Mahathir. And before a solution has been found it would not be clever to leak details one by one. A power-sharing solution won’t be easy to swallow for party members on both sides but would probably be conducive for the social cohesion of Malaysia. UMNO would be well advised to swallow its pride since it has to change dramatically if it wants to survive. A majority of the voters has given them a clear signal.

Source: Straits Times 17.08.2013

Malaysia: DAP Can’t Win Against RoS


DAP 1Partyforumseasia: The GE 13 election results have been a big shot in the arm for the DAP. But ignoring the Registry of Societies’ verdict on the internal party elections could not be a viable policy, as different as the internal perception may have been. The danger of being deregistered seems to have changed the minds of the leadership.
As in most similar cases the complaint to the RoS came from disgruntled members of the party. Internal party elections regularly highlight and reveal the ambitions of members and candidates which, more often than not, do not overlap with their image and popularity. Standing for elections is a highly emotional risk and affects the sensitive egos of party activists.

DAP 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source / Link: Straits Times 16.08.2013

Vietnam’s Marxism-Leninism: RIP…?


Partyforumseasia: On a visit to Xinhua News Agency’s training centre in Beijing in the late 1990s, the editor of Partyforumsea asked the somewhat naughty question how many Marxists they had in their faculty. The answer came quickly: Only one, the American guest lecturer…
Has Marxism-Leninism become a luxury ideology in rich countries? At least a number of European countries still have Marxist splinter parties surviving alongside the more successful social-democrats.
For Vietnam in its ongoing economic crisis, the traditional ML-ideology seems to attract few followers among the young. State jobs which require membership in the Communist Party obviously don’t attract many any more. See the Associated Press article in the
Straits Times (16 August 2013)
Vietnam ML

Scholarly Papers on Thai Politics: New Publication by Michael H. Nelson


Link: Nelson, Thailand’s election system Partyforumseasia:  Recommended reading:

The Attempt to Adopt a Mixed-Member Proportional Election System in Thailand: The Near Miss of the Constitution Drafting Committee and Constitution Drafting Assembly in 2007, by

Available at: Academia.edu
and Contemporary Southeast Asian Dynamics, Working Paper Series No. 11, ISSN 2191-169X, Lehrstuhl für Südostasienkunde, University of Passau, Germany

 

Malaysia: Compromise between BN and PR?


Partyforumseasia:Political contestation is as normal in democratic multi-party systems as eventual compromise. National unity governments have helped to reconcile the competitors after bitter election campaigns. Channels of dialogue should be the very least that voters can expect from politicians who declare themselves as patriots and want to serve the country. This is why many fingers should be crossed when signals of dialogue between PM Najib and opposition leader Anwar ( or PM Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy in the Cambodian case) become visible.
See (link) Asia Sentinel 12 August 2013
NajibAnwar

Cambodia: A Surprise in the Pipeline???


Partyforumseasia does not like fortune-telling but the political timeline for the last few weeks looks a bit like indicating a surprise solution:

Mid July
Royal Pardon for Sam Rainsy at the request of PM Hun Senin a spirit of reconciliation

19th July
Triumphant return of Sam Rainsy after four years in exile to avoid imprisonment after a dubious sentence he calls politically motivated

28th July
Election results with heavy losses for the ruling CPP and significant gains for the opposition under Sam Rainsy: 68 seats CPP – 55 seats CNRP

29th July
Press conference of Sam Rainsy: “We are asking for this (investigation into alleged massive irregularities) not to bargain for positions in the government
(Source: Straits times Indochina Bureau Chief Nirmal Gosh, who continues: “He (Sam Rainsy) said it was “premature” to talk about power sharing in the new government.”)

31st July
PM Hun Sen: “The Cambodian People’s Party has an open heart to talk to the CNRP” Background: The CPP has not enough seats to convene parliament and needs the CNRP’s cooperation…

Soon???
– A grand coalition between CPP and CNRP in the national interest of the country?
Sam Rainsy finance minister? or better Foreign Minister?
Partyforumseasia: Probably not a bad solution for Cambodia!

Hun Sam