Election Campaign Finance to be regulated soon – EC chief

Chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka, Nimal Punchihewa says a draft Bill to regulate expenditure incurred by candidates at elections conducted under the Local Authorities Elections Ordinance, the Provincial Councils Elections Act, the Parliamentary Elections Act and the Presidential Elections Act’ drawn up by the Election Commission of Sri Lanka has been approved by the Attorney General and submitted to the President. If approved by the President, the Bill will be presented to Parliament for ratification.The need for regulating campaign finance has arisen as some candidates and political parties spend billions of rupees to ‘buy’ votes.

Both the People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFEREL) and the CMEV campaigned for regulating campaign finance and Manjula Gajanayake the National Coordinator of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) at the time took the initiative to set up a special team to keep tabs on the colossal amounts political parties and candidates spent on their election campaigns.

Gajanayake said that the CMEV had spent 15 million rupees to monitor campaign finance at the 2019 Presidential Election and 2020 General Election. He said that the CMEV reports showed that approximately 7,800 million rupees had been spent at these two elections but it was just the tip of the iceberg.

Gajanayake said that Sirithunga Jayasuriya, who contested the 2019 Presidential Election and former MP Ranjan Ramanayake, who contested the 2020 Parliamentary Election, were the only candidates who had disclosed their campaign expenditure.

Gajanayake, who is currently the Executive Director of the Institute of Democratic Reforms and Electoral Studies (IRES), said that IRES would monitor campaign spending at future elections. He said that the Election Commission of Sri Lanka should set up a special committee to review the maximum amount each candidate and political party could spend on their campaign at each election and added that it was imperative that the source of funding was disclosed and spending made transparent.He said that laws should be introduced to unseat anyone found guilty of spending over and above the stipulated ceiling; introducing a regulatory mechanism to control campaign finance would undoubtedly change the Sri Lankan election landscape in the future.