Mechanism needed to control candidates’ campaign finances: Election monitors
Election monitors yesterday emphasised the need to introduce a mechanism that could control the campaign finances of each candidate as outlined by the Commonwealth Union and other international election monitoring missions.
The People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) noted that, in Bangladesh, a candidate could spend only five Takas, equivalent to Rs. 12 for the election concerned.
However in Sri Lanka, PAFFREL’s Executive Director Rohana Hettiarachchi told the Daily Mirror that some candidates had started disposing millions of rupees on a daily basis for their campaigning for the parliamentary election set for April 8.
He said that financially rewarding candidates could prop up their images artificially by putting up huge billboards, cut-outs and posters, but they might not have a vision and a mission to develop the country on the economic and social fronts.
“Such mega style and colourful campaigning will deprive those who cannot afford to spend a lot of money, of their chances to win the election concerned.
Moneyed candidates can dupe voters into believing that they are the ones who can turn around things in the socio-economic sector. Reality is overshadowed in this way,” Hettiarachchi said.
PAFFREL also highlighted that the election system should be changed simultaneously when introducing rules and regulations to control the campaign finances of candidates.
The Election Secretariat has allocated Rs. 20 million for police to remove the cut-outs and posters at this election. PAFFREL says that this is a colossal amount of public monies to be spent at this hour.
“However, tax payers’ money has to be spent unnecessarily because of unlawful campaigning by these candidates,” Hettiarachchi said.
Citing the election system in Bangladesh as an example, Hettiarachchi noted that he monitored one election there recently and knew how three persons had been denied nominations because they had failed to pay their telephone and electricity bills, and to settle the bank loan.
The Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) said that the Commonwealth Election monitors who were here during the 2005 Presidential Election, made recommendations to be incorporated in the election law with regard to campaign finances.
“There should be a level playing field for all the candidates to campaign. Otherwise, it is not democratic,” CaFEE spokesman Keerthi Tennakoon said. Tennakoon said that some candidates dispose their ‘black money’ for campaigning during election times.
“At the last election, certain persons have spent as mush as Rs.1.5 million for one TV commercial of three minutes. How have they amassed wealth?” he asked.
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