Partyforumseasia: Most of the region’s countries, except Singapore – and Malaysia to a certain degree – rank as rather corrupt in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI). Here is an excerpt of the CPI 2017 for Southeast Asia:
Since politics has become a profitable business model in the region, many “unusually rich” politicians have attracted criticism from the taxpaying electorate, with envy or without. But, on the other hand, the funding of political parties is widely unregulated or, if contained by legislation, the rules are not enforced at all or only half heartedly. The election campaigns are increasingly expensive, so the necessity of getting donations at any cost, mainly from the private sector or by skimming public procurement and infrastructure projects, has brought about many “creative” solutions.
The financial creativity of the toppled Malaysian leader Najib Razak, who was virtually sitting on a gold mine with his dual role as Prime Minister and Finance Minister is legendary. The 1MDB scandal with billions missing has probably broken his neck in the 9 May election and brought back former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (93) who is now trying to clean up Malaysia and see Najib convicted.
Some recent headlines:
9 August: “Ex-PM accused of receiving $14m in proceeds of illegal activities from former 1MDB subsidiary.”
24 April: “Ex-speaker of parliament Setya Novanto sentenced to 15 years for his role in stealing $170m from public funds.”
6 August: “Vietnam court jails 46 bankers, execs for loan scheme. He joins scores of bankers, executives and former politicians behind bars in the one-party state that has long had the reputation of being one of Asia’s most corrupt countries.”
8 August: “Thaksin’s trial to begin without him.”
The former Thai Prime Minister lives in exile in Dubai since he was ousted in 2006. This case is especially remarkable because the alleged malfeasance took place in the 2003 Thai Petrochemical Industry (TPI) scandal. The retroactive prosecution has been made possible by a new law on criminal procedures for political office-holders which took effect in September 2017. Similar regulations existed in some Italian city states like Lucca and Pisa in the 12th century, but were forgotten since then.
More information about the dilemma of money politics in Southeast Asia is available in our new publication ISBN 9789813230736 which covers nine of the ten ASEAN countries.