Sri Lanka to pass polls campaign finance law before general election

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka is expecting to pass the Election Campaign Finance Bill requiring candidates to reveal sources of funds before the next general election, the Election Commission chairman said.

“We hope to pass the election campaign finance law by December, before the next election,” Mahinda Deshapriya told EconomyNext.

He was responding to a question regarding the use of black money in election campaigns.

An election campaign finance law would put a cap on election expenses and would require candidates to submit a detailed summary of campaign expenditure and sources of funds.

“Unfortunately, with the existing law, we can only monitor if a candidate is exploiting government assets.There is no limit for private funding,” Deshapriya said.

Election watchdogs People’s Action for Free and Fair Election (PAFFREL) and Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) have been lobbying for an Election Campaign Finance Bill.

PAFFREL Executive Director Rohana Hettiarachchi said that the two election monitoring bodies had submitted a draft bill two years ago, the provisions of which were also present in the latest Election Commission’s draft.

“The Election Commission had used its greater expertise to submit an enhanced bill,” Hettiarachchi said.

“It is hard to monitor election spending, but we can limit it,” he said.

Hettiarachchi said that the draft bill is now with the Legal Draftsman.

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The earlier PAFFREL and CMEV draft calls for a candidate’s campaign expenditure to be limited to 100 rupees per eligible voter in an electorate.

Political parties and independent groups are limited to 50 rupees per registered voter in the country or a geographical area.

It also requires a candidate, political parties and independent groups to open a separate bank account within a week of submitting nominations.

The account would only include all campaign income and expenditure for the election duration.

The Parliamentary Elections Act, No. 1 of 1981 repealed earlier laws which had mandated limits on campaign spending and monitoring.
(Colombo/Oct10/2019)