ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s ruling coalition passed an election campaign financing bill to prevent undue influence of financial resources in election, but opposition criticized the move as a possible strategy to delay upcoming local government polls.
The Regulation of Election Expenditure Bill was passed by a 61 majority votes with 97 votes in favour of the bill against 36 in the 225-member parliament.
The country’s election commission has been in the process of holding the Local Government polls in March after an extension of one year. However, ruling party politicians have openly said the election should be delayed until the country recovers from the current unprecedented economic crisis.
The opposition asked to make amendment in the bill to ensure that it will not be effective for already claimed election.
Harsha de Silva, an opposition legislator before the bill voting said his party was in agreement with the proposed legislation on election expenditure.
“In fact we proposed amendment to strengthen same. Our amended is to avoid law don’t being used to delay local government election with nominations closing in two days. Accept our amendment if genuine,” he said in his twitter platform.
However, he later said the opposition party’s amendment was not accepted by the government.
Politicians, using lack of campaign financing law, have exploited the system to buy votes through spending from well-connected businesses during elections and such moves have deprived genuine politicians from being elected for legislatures as well as local government bodies.
Wickremesinghe’s government is facing a still challenge at the next Local Government polls if held as scheduled in March. The election can be delayed by either a parliament bill or the Election Commission seeing some resignations, analysts say.
However, Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said the chairman of “the Election Commission as well as two commissioners will get powers through the new act”.
Sources at the Election Commission have said there is a possible delay if the government wants to make the new law effective from the Local Government polls.
Most opposition party leaders did not take part in a Wednesday’s party leader’s meeting to decide to debate the bill on Thursday.
Since being elected as the President through the parliament vote, Wickremesinghe has raised taxes and announced some reforms including slashing government spending. The moves have already hit the average households amid over 57 percent inflation.
Sources close to Wickremesinghe have said the President has been not in favor “any elections” this year as the tough reforms are expected to be implemented along with a $2.9 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan.
Many political analysts see a possible defeat to both Wickremesinghe’s center-right United National Party (UNP) and ruling nationalist Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). Such defeat could slow the reforms and IMF loan, they say. (Colombo/Jan19/2023)