On the 16th September 2019, a delegation from DAP led by MP Kluang, Wong Shu Qi visited the Social Democratic Party of Germany, (SPD) and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES). The participants of the delegation included Kelvin Yii (MP Bandar Kuching), Mordi Bimol (MP Mas Gading), Lim Hui Ying (Senator), Daniel Gooi (ADUN Pengkalan Kota, Penang), Jamaliah Jamaluddin (ADUN Damansara Utama, Selangor), Bryan Lai (ADUN Teratai, Selangor), Teh Swee Leong (ADUN Kota Darul Aman, Kedah), Syahredzan Johan (PolSec to Lim Kit Siang) and myself.
SPD is one of the political parties in Europe that has established friendly ties with DAP as both belongs to the big family of social democracy. It is the oldest social democratic party in Germany and part of the German coalition government.
FES is a think tank that I personally admire very much. The job scope of FES is undoubtedly beyond the existing notion of “think tank” that we know. To be exact, it is a political foundation.
A political foundation in Germany is a very unique organization. On one hand, it is an NGO that functions independently of government but works closely with various government departments. On the other hand, even though a political foundation in Germany is associated with a political party, it is not a subsidiary or school of that political party.
German political foundations receive annual budgets from the government. In other words, as long as a political party gain sufficient votes to enter the German federal parliament, the government will allocate operating budget for the political foundation of that party.
This enables the foundation to be committed to providing political education based on the party’s ideology as well as conducting research activities that will provide the party and the government with information and policy consultation services.
Apart from FES, the other 5 main political foundations in Germany are Konrad Adenauer Stiftung of Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU), Hanns Seidel Stiftung of Christian Social Union (CSU), Friedrich Naumann Stiftung that is related to Free Democratic Party, Heinrich Böll Stiftung that maintains close ties with German Green Party, as well as Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung that is affiliated to the Left Party (Die Linke).
The establishment of German political foundations is closely related to Germany’s experience of developing its modern democratic politics.
After World War I, although Germany formed the Weimar Republic that embraced the democratic political system, the basis of forming the republic was not strong, thus leading to the subsequent spread of ultranationalism and the establishment of the autocratic Fascist regime. In the end, disastrous consequences were brought to Germany, Europe and people all over the world.
In the wake of the painful lesson of World War II, Germany reflected on its wrongdoings and is now aware of the importance of political education and citizen participation in the nation-building process.
Therefore, the purpose of establishing the system of political foundations is to improve citizen competency in politics as well as to promote the values and ideologies espoused by parties in order to prevent the painful lesson of World War II from happening ever again.
Political foundations in Germany that serve as multifunction think tanks with diverse roles might be able to provide us with insights on building a New Malaysia.
A law to regulate political financing is expected to be tabled at next month’s Parliament session but no details were given as to how the act would look like. Meanwhile, one of the Pakatan Harapan’s GE14 manifesto to reform the current political funding system is drafting a new political funding Act touched on formulating a calculation method for the government to allocate budget to support political parties that are qualified.
Therefore, besides financially supporting the operations of political parties, I would like to suggest the government to finance them to establish their respective think tanks that aim at promoting discussion, participation and research on public policies in order to improve the democratic consciousness of our fellow citizens.
Besides reinvigorating the economy, it is of the utmost importance for the new government to implement institutional reforms gradually. Among all, empowering the Rakyat would be the most crucial directions that we must be heading to in order to prevents unscrupulous politicians from fanning the flames of identity politics and “kidnapping” the rakyat by using ethnic appeals all the time.
Let us work hand in hand to make sure that the New Malaysia is on the right track of development in order to build a progressive, equal, just, clean and prosperous Malaysia.