Cash, funds and development

Such obvious voter-inducement, and the appended veiled threat, in the case of the Terengganu MB, is highly questionable. But is it illegal?

By Zedeck Siew, the Nut Graph

IN the lead-up to the Kuala Terengganu by-election, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR)'s fortnightly newspaper Suara Keadilan began taking Datuk Seri Najib Razak to task for not keeping an August 2008 promise.

The party mouthpiece reported that a RM4.18 million allocation for mosques and suraus, which the deputy prime minister pledged during the Permatang Pauh by-election, had failed to materialise. The article was simply headlined "Najib bohong". Berita Harian later reported the funds were already on their way.

Development promises during an election can, indeed, bear special weight. The question is, are such development promises permissible, or even legal?

Not necessarily evil

For Ong Boon Keong, northern regional co-ordinator for Malaysians for Free and Fair Elections (Mafrel), development promises in general are not necessarily evil. In fact, he says, they may actually help voters cast their ballots wisely.

"Positive promises show the party's priorities, as well as its fiscal responsibility," Ong says in an e-mail interview. Outlandish promises will show up a party as wasteful. Those which are unlikely to be implemented will demonstrate a lack of credibility, he explains. Voters, he believes, can judge if pledges are realistic.

"Election promises are by themselves no infringement of any law," Ong adds.

Indeed, democracies the world over see political candidates vowing to undertake one action or the other to demonstrate the tenor of his or her administration. The phrase "campaign promise" is proverbial: when someone is said to make one, you would be surprised if he or she actually delivers.

However, it is when development promises are made to overtly influence how voters will vote that the boundaries begin to blur.

Find out what and how promises were made in KT: