A NEW coalition of leading civil societies that will oversee next month's national polls has called for election authorities to monitor campaign spending.


The Integrity Coalition for Election Observation (ICEO) wants candidates to have a separate bank account for their campaigns to regulate sources of funding and prevent electoral fraud.


ICEO comprises the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society, the Bahrain Jurists Society, the Karama Human Rights Society and the Bahrain Free Labour Union Federation (Al Hurr).


ICEO spokesman Dr Ahmed Alkhuzaie, an independent political consultant 'Žbased in Washington, said the group has presented its proposal to the High Elections Committee (HCE).


'We will be observing the whole electoral process and based on our analysis will put forward suggestions that would benefit Bahrain,' he told the GDN.


'We have initiated our activities and as a first suggestion, we have urged the HCE to ensure that each candidate '“ parliament and municipal council '“ has a separate bank account, different from their personal account.


'The candidates must submit a cleared or ratified account statement to the HCE at the end of the elections, which would give a clear picture about the finances of the candidates.


'This helps the authorities to monitor the source of funding and is a proof for the amount that he or she spent at the polls.

'This move will also help in creating equality among candidates, irrespective of their financial status, and to a great extend will curb bribing and cashing on votes.'


Dr Al Khuzaie, who is also political consultancy firm Khuzaie Associates managing director, said candidates should be held legally accountable if they do not provide bank statements.


'On failing to submit a 'cleared account', there should be a legal action, which could put a winning candidate's position at stake, paving way for the next candidate to be taken in,' he added.


ICEO presented another proposal to set up a framework for volunteers who support candidates.


'These volunteers, some are paid and some claim that they are doing it on their own, either way it has to be monitored,' said Dr Alkhuzaie.


'At the end of the day, volunteers should be doing a service and not a paid job.