Sri Lanka national polls cost may be equal to campaigning in one district

ECONOMYNEXT – Candidates in some of the larger districts may spend as much as 4.0 billion for their campaigns, which is about the cost of holding the election in the entire country, Elections Chief Mahinda Deshapriya said.

Tax payers will fork out the cost of staging the August 17 election, eight months after paying about 3.0 billion rupees for holding the presidential election.

"The Presidential election cost about 3.0 billion rupees, and we expect this to cost 3.5 billion rupees or more," Deshapriya told reporters in Colombo.

"In some of the larger districts candidates must be collectively spending about 3.5 billion to 4.0 billion rupees.

In Colombo there are 22 candidates from each party.

In Sri Lanka candidates not only compete among parties, but also against other candidates in the same party to win their ‘preferences’. The battle for preferential votes sometimes goes beyond poster campaigns to fisticuffs and gunfights.

The massive amount of resources needed for campaigning is said to be one reason honest or less dishonest politicians are rare in Sri Lanka and drug dealers and other criminal elements enter Sri Lanka’s parliament.

Others who are financed by various backers then engage in corruption to steal from the tax payer to recoup their money. Members of the elected ruling class often try to get some extra money to put aside a little for the next campaign.

The party leaders get most of the money, according to analysts who know the inside of how parties work.

"The party leadership is a coveted position in Sri Lanka," a political activist who had been close to one of the main political parties in Sri Lanka for over three decades said.

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"People meet the party leader with bags full of currency notes and hands them over personally. There is no accounting for it.

"That is why people are very reluctant to give up  the party leader post. In fact it is more lucrative than being the president."

Deshapriya said fuel, which was a key cost of holding a general election was lower now than the January presidential elections but counting will take extra which will cost more money.

The elections department mobilizes thousands of state workers from other agencies to man polling booths and count votes.
 

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