Transparency and Disclosure for Political Finance? Don’t Dream!


Partyforumseasia: The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance,  (IDEA) in Stockholm, Sweden, is doing a very good job with its research and publications on a wide range of topics to strengthen democratic developments all over the world. One of the new handbooks, published in November 2017, focuses on the often opaque funding sources for party activities and election campaigns.
“One of the major challenges related to money in politics is the lack of transparency surrounding political party and electoral finance.” (LINK)

That is especially true for Southeast Asia, where too many scandals around the finances of political parties are regularly blowing up. They not only tarnish the leadership but the image of the fledgling democratic systems altogether and leave citizens and voters cynical.
The booklet aims at helping to create more control and transparency by providing information on the possible instruments.

“The open and transparent funding of political parties and candidates is desirable because it helps ensure that everyone is playing by the rules, which in turn strengthens the integrity of, and trust in, politics, among both the general public and political parties.”

Everyone playing by the rules? For many countries, but especially for Southeast Asia, this sounds too good to become true in the near future. Many party treasurers and leaders may support the idea theoretically… when it is to be applied to the other parties. The reality on the ground looks different and the exponentially growing expenses for election campaigns might keep it this way for the medium term anyway. The legal regulations, so far, look good on paper, but the enforcement remains more than weak.
Under the title “Power Broking in the Shade”, Partyforumseasia has finalized a background study on political finance in nine of the ten ASEAN members. We will inform our readers when it is available.