Petty money politics OUT! Bersih election IN!

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Bersih For Elections argues for a clean and fair election campaign instead of one based on petty money politics.

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What exactly is ‘money politics’? Based on scholarly definition, it is about using public funding for private usage; in an election context – vote buying and selling. Or it involves theestablishment of and financial network and ties between private companies and public offices/officials with mutual interests being protected when either of the parties is in need of a favour (not help).

This sort of ‘money politics’ is separate from our everyday life, but its political consequences can still be felt. It is done behind closed doors or sometimes out in the open, disguised in the form of business and legal jargon in contracts, tenders, and public services/responsibilities. Thus, we may know that there is money politics, but we are not sensitive enough to its socio-economic and political implications.

It is the GE 13 election fiesta period now. People’s everyday conversations revolve around who will run and who will be kicked out. Some even go to the extent of betting on winning candidates with a certain number of votes, hoping to strike the jackpot. Well, very few will pay much attention to the candidates’/parties’ policy orientation, but to the manifestos of the coalitions. Even in this, the copy-cat practices between the coalitions attract much attention. Money politics, which I call petty money politics, is the other attraction.

Recently, in rumour or reality, so much money has been spent to provoke crowd-hopping, with the motive of turning these into votes. There is “a dumb survey by goons” used by undisclosed parties to block the ‘true’ outcome of a survey “to vote for change”, which is the slogan of the opposition coalition (see Aliran, TA Online, 15 April 2013).

Another tactic used is that hawkers are being paid RM800-RM1200 per day to provide food for people who attend the 1Malaysia free ”charity dinners”, although it is not a political ceramah (rally, as such. In Penang, on 20 April, a concert will be held at Han Chiang College, Penang, with tickets priced as low as RM1. ‘Goons’have been employed to destroy opponents’ posters and flags, and disrupt their events.

How does this petty money politics reflect our electoral culture? At the top of the hierarchy we see that nepotism and cronyism are still prevalent. These practices have expanded internationally, being linked to the global flow of capital. At the bottom, we continue to see the petty spending of tax payers’ money for private interests, done openly without fear of any legal charges that may be brought. This is because the money is difficult to trace, and worse, people see this as normal practice during election time. Sadly, this has become the norm in this country for over 50 years.

Now it is time for people to act for a Bersih (Clean) election! We must condemn such acts of petty money politics in order to provide a Bersih electoral environment. Let’s not think along the lines of “This is our money anyway, take it, spend it, and we vote for the other one.” Well, I applaud that. But we can be more Bersih if we say,“This is an act of money politics, we shall not allow that, regardless of whether it is taxpayers’ money or otherwise.”

Bersih For Elections is the pseudonym of an occasional contributor to our Thinking Allowed online section.

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