Election Integrity Pledge – A Step In The Right Direction

By Akhbar Satar, President of Transparency International Malaysia

transparency international malaysiaTransparency International Malaysia (TI-Malaysia) applauds the Election Integrity Pledge made by the state the Barisan Nasional (BN) backbenchers and political secretaries in Sarawak as a reported in the media, as this is a right move towards greater transparency.

This move by BN MPs prove that more elected representatives are taking proactive steps towards becoming role models for the society.

The signing of this Election Integrity Pledge will definitely promote a clean and fair election process and reduce corruption in the upcoming polls in Sarawak.

Similarly TI-M also welcomes the intention expressed by Members of Parliament from the Barisan Nasional (BN) to sign the election integrity pledge as this will go a long way in addressing abusive practices during the election period and even before and after the same.

All election candidates must practise a culture of integrity and inculcate integrity as a way of life individually and collectively so that an honest and transparent political culture can be reflected amongst elected representatives in that capacity and when serving the people. As elected leaders they must enhance integrity by applying pure, ethical values as the rakyat wants to see all politicians set an example and become role models to the masses.

Based on the Malaysian Corruption Barometer 2014 survey, political parties are perceived as one of the most corrupt institutions in the country. Ranked 50th in the Transparency International’s 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), corruption, particularly elements of state capture which facilitate corruption are till prevalent in the Malaysian political sphere.

In fact, it was TI-Malaysia who launched the Election Pledge initiative, encouraging hopeful candidates of the last 13th General election to make a public declaration of their commitment towards “observing the principles of truth, integrity, accountability and ethical conduct” both during the elections and after being voted into office. The purpose of the pledge was to recognize that it is the responsibility of every candidate to fight corruption, practice good governance and uphold the rule of law. The pledge also emphasized the crucial role citizens play in monitoring their politicians by providing a platform where the public could monitor and comment on candidates’ performances.

The pledge states amongst other things as follows:-

  • The candidate shall observe the principles of truth, integrity, ethical conduct and accountability, including not accepting or giving bribes or being involved in any way in corrupt practices.
  • The candidate shall uphold and give priority to the interests of the Rakyat as a whole.
  • The candidate shall practice good governance and transparency.
  • The candidate shall comply with all applicable laws and regulations of Malaysia.

This pledge comes at a vital time, as we are now, more than ever, living in an age of growing public awareness of the devastating effects of corruption, and in a time when public anger and the will to fight corruption is widely felt. The increasing involvement of civil society in fighting corruption will spur the public to be more vigilant in monitoring the performance of their leaders.

The voluntary pledge also requires candidates to open a social media account (such as Facebook or Twitter) in order to promote direct communication and interaction between politicians and civil society.

This initiative is an important step towards enhancing transparency, integrity and accountability in a country where there is currently no set limits for donations to political parties and individual candidates, nor requirements to publicly disclose such contributions.

Beside the Prime Minister who signed the Transparency International Malaysia’s Election Integrity Pledge, there were not many members of the Malaysian Parliament who did so (only 4 government members, 20 from STAR, two PKR and one each candidate from Independent DAP and PSM have signed the pledge).

On a separate note it is also time for all of Malaysia’s political parties to step up and be counted and join the ruling party in upholding the Election Offences Act – an Act that was passed in 1954 but yet seems to be honoured in its breaches.

TI-Malaysia has continuously urged greater transparency and accountability by seeking full public disclosure of assets of elected and public officials. There is nothing to fear in making a public declaration of assets if one has no ill-gotten or unexplained wealth. Personal fears of private safety or their family members if the politicians publicly declare their assets have proven to be unfounded.

In this regard the Anti-Corruption Advisory Board and Parliament’s bipartisan Special Committee against Corruption have proposed that the Commission be given more bite to compel relevant officials and persons to declare their assets. This will require an amendment to Section 36 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009 to compel an individual in certain circumstances to declare his finances or assets without the MACC first launching a formal corruption investigation.

Last but not least to make sure the pledge is worth more than the piece of paper it is written on all stakeholders whether the authorities or civil society should monitor and ensure that there is strict compliance with the terms of the pledge or it will all be for naught.

*Transparency International-Malaysia is an independent, non-governmental and non-partisan organisation committed to the fight against corruption.

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