Elections Commissioner restricts candidates expenditure

The Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya says legal drafts required to curb the expenses of the candidates contesting the elections is already in place.

In a statement to the Dinamina newspaper, the Elections Commissioner has said that in the past candidates would sell their properties to enter politics, but now they ride on the backs of thugs and racketeers for the
funds to back their election race.


He further said that two parties have already consented to conduct their election campaigns void of large cut-outs at a large expense and the poster war.

Among these two parties is a prominent political party, he said.

He also stated that the President, Prime Minister and Speaker have all given their approval for the new election expenditure restricting laws, adding that it has received the Cabinet nod and is now in the Legal Draftsman’s Office. However, he had said that it is not certain when this law could be implemented as even making the National Identity Card compulsory at voting took almost 45 years from 1959 to 2004to be implemented.

The Elections Commissioner noted that it was compulsory to curb the expenditure of candidates during election campaigns, adding that in 2016 it was discussed at length regarding the curbing of expenditure during a
workshop organised by the Bribery Commission with the participation of the President, Prime Minister, Opposition Leader and other party leaders. All participants unanimously agreed that in order to prevent corruption during election campaigning, it was vital to curb the excessive expenditure.

Deshapriya said that by the advertisements placed in newspapers it was evident that an election is around the corner, adding that if these candidates used their own funds for such campaigns it was accepted. The
Elections Commissioner also made a request not to name buildings and roads after living politicians.

The Elections Commissioner also pointed out that although discussions are held at the higher levels, the decisions do not treacle down to the lower tiers of politics, adding that even legal action is taken against election
law violators under the criminal code and not the election laws. He noted that even in this case the punishments are generally a suspended sentence or a fine. Deshapriya had also stated that if legal action is initiated
under the election laws, the Attorney General should be consulted and the offender could even lose his/her civic rights.

The Elections Commission has also focussed attention on implementing a proper mechanism for the registration of political parties. He added that currently there is a big demand for the registration of political parties.
Many of the political parties that come for registration do not even possess a 1% vote base, he said, adding that these small parties are formed with the sole aim of nominating a certain individual. He also stated that
in future nominal candidates who dress like others, emulate others and use names similar to others will not be allowed to contest.