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Candidates spend Rs 2.2 bn over Sri Lanka’s polls campaign period

MOSTLY PEACEFUL POLL – Voters lined up at a polling station in Anuradhapura

ECONOMYNEXT – Candidates contesting Sri Lanka’s parliamentary polls held today have spent a sum of Rs 2.2 billion over the course of the campaign period, an election watchdog said.

Centre for Monitoring Election Violence  (CMEV) National Coordinator Manjula Gajayanake said individual candidates have spent nearly Rs 80 million each since campaigning began.

“We studied a wide range of figures when analysing this. At last November’s presidential election, candidates spent Rs 1,897.3 million. In this election, over the past 24 days, Rs 2,200 million was spent by candidates. We estimate the final calculation to be around Rs 10 billion. And that would be around 20 percent of the expense,” said Gajanayake.

“If we divide that total amount by the reproduction cost of a public representative, we have spent Rs 77.7 million; close to 80 million,” he added.

Explaining the cost of the parliamentary election, Gajanayake said Sri Lanka’s treasury had issued Rs 8.5 billion to the country’s election commission for election expenditure, a significant increase from the Rs 2.95 billion spent in the 2015 parliamentary elections. Gajayanake attributes this spike to rapid increase in inflation over the past few years as well as pandemic prevention measures adopted for today’s polls.

“The cost of democracy is high now. But it can be justified if we can elect democratic leaders for the parliament through this democracy,” he said.

Gajanayaka further said that, over the past 16 years, the money spent per voter by a party or an individual candidate has increased from Rs 67 rupees to Rs 523.

“For the parliamentary election in 2004, the government of the time spent Rs 850 million. If we divide it by the number of registered voters at the time, they had spent about Rs 67 per voter. In 2010, this increased to Rs 139 voter,” he said, calling this year’s Rs 523 per voter a “huge amount”.

Gajayanake said the reason for the sharp increase in this figure is due to the number of candidates and the intense competition in every electoral district.

“There are some reasons for that. On previous occasions, we had politicians that espoused patriotism. They did not have to spend this much those days to promote themselves. This has changed,” Gajanayaka said.

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“Also, as a young contestant, it is hard to contest in this competitive election without money, although it is possible in other countries. You need to find a source of income in order to contest,” he added.

Gajanayaka said even though Sri Lanka needs reform in the electoral system, parties contesting the election do not talk about it. The few parties that do talk about it, do not address the major problems such as spending capacity or the limit imposed in an election.

“We need a reform in this election system in order to find a solution to this problem.” Gajanayaka said.

“But unfortunately, when we look at the manifesto of each party, we can see the reforms they have proposed are there to find solutions for the issues in their parties,” he added. (Colombo/Aug 05/2020)

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