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European monitors give clean chit to Sri Lanka’s costly vote

ECONOMYNEXT – European Union election monitors have praised Sri Lanka’s latest parliamentary election as well organised and free and fair, but noted that campaign spending by candidates was over the top.

The 85-member panel drawn from EU member states fanned out to provinces and monitored voting as well as the campaign for the August 17 elections that were won by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party.

"We are happy to say that elections took place in a well-organised manner and we congratulate the new elected members of the Parliament," the EU said in a statement.

The elections were "well-administered and offered voters a genuine choice from among a broad range of political alternatives, although campaign rules were restrictive," said Cristian Preda, Chief Observer.

"Freedoms of assembly and movement were respected, and despite the restrictive campaign rules – not allowing candidates to engage in door-to-door campaigning, to canvass in person or distribute leaflets – party activists and candidates campaigned vigorously, focusing on small meetings with voters."

However, it noted that there was huge spending by candidates in the absence of laws to regulate campaign funding.

"Party and campaign finance are not regulated; there are no requirements regarding campaign spending limits or disclosure of donations and expenditures. According to interlocutors, the campaign was very costly with some candidates spending above 500,000 euro (74 million rupees)," they said.

However, political observers in Colombo said the EU was grossly understating the actual spending by most candidates who spent in excess of 200 million rupees.
 (Colombo/August 19 2015)

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