The ruling Barisan Nasional coalition has spent RM1 million in print media advertising in the first three days of the election campaign, said corruption watchdog Transparency International-Malaysia.
“In the first three days of the period under monitor - Feb 25 to 27 - BN was projected to have spent a cumulative total of RM1.049 million,” said TI president Ramon V Navaratnam.
The amount does not include TV advertisements in which TI conceded were where the “lion's share of election advertising monies are believed to go”.
However, the organisation will begin monitoring political parties' expenses for TV election advertisements beginning today.
According to Ramon, the TI study was part of a regional project to promote transparency in political financing.
Over the 13-day campaigning period, TI is monitoring election advertisements in six English dailies, five Malay newspapers, four Chinese titles and three Tamil dailies.
Ramon said that TI’s estimated advertisement cost is based on normal advertisement rates quoted by the various publications surveyed.
If the cost of advertisements was to be divided proportionally among BN candidates, TI said that each parliamentary contestant would have spent RM2,220, while each state candidate, RM1,103 on print advertising alone.
Scrutinise candidates expenses, EC told
Ramon argued that this cost should be reflected in the candidates’ expenses where under the law a parliamentary candidate can spend only up to RM200,000 while a state candidate RM100,000, in election campaign expenditure.
This means that BN candidates have only RM197,780 (for parliament seat) and RM98,897 (state) left to spend for the remaining 10 days of the campaign period.
“TI urges all (political) parties to declare all their advertisement expenses and to require their candidates to report their respective share of such expenses,” said Ramon.
“TI also urges the Election Commission to closely scrutinise the candidates' expenses report and be prepared to lodge police reports for any under-reporting found.”
According to TI, there was no election advertising by opposition parties - PAS, DAP and PKR - over the first three days of the electoral campaign in the 18 monitored newspapers.
“This is the first time that campaign expense monitoring is being monitored,” said Ramon, who is a former top civil servant.
“This is a new addition to election process monitoring and media content monitoring that had started from previous elections and is being performed in this election as well.”