Bill to check campaign funding

A Bill to regularise election campaign funding is to be submitted to the Cabinet shortly, highly placed sources said.

Election monitoring groups are currently actively involved in drafting the legislation, they added.

People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) Executive Director Rohana Hettiarachchi said the draft bill on ‘Campaign Finance Upper Limitation for Elections’ would be presented for Cabinet approval in the middle of next month.

He said the PAFFREL was asked to come up with a draft bill for this purpose by Provincial Councils and Local Government Minister Faiszer Musthapha when they took part in a meeting of the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Local Government three days ago.

“This is a vital piece of legislation which has been a long felt need. Earlier, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also spoke about the need for such a legislation. Responding to it, we wrote to the Prime Minister asking that this be made a law of the country,” Hettiarachchi said.

The proposed legislation will entail imposing a ceiling on the amount that can be spent by political parties and candidates for election campaigning.

Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, Hettiarachchi said the legislation would impose limitations on the expenditure of election propaganda activities, depending on the number of voters in each constituency.

He said the legislation is being drafted with wide consultations among election monitoring organisations and the Elections Commission while studying similar legislation in other countries.

The PAFFREL chief said as per the new legislation, each political party and candidate would require to open a separate bank account and deposit all money received by them in it.

“Transparency must be maintained. We may also indicate that they cannot receive funds from those engaged in anti-social activities. Inclusion of provisions to divulge the sources where the money came from and how it was spent is also being considered. At the end of the elections, each political party and candidate should produce an audit report to the Elections Commission. This is the usual procedure followed in many other countries,” Hettiarachchi said.

He said the new legislation would help provide a level playing field for all political parties and candidates in election campaigning. “It will restrict the uncontrolled spending by affluent candidates which usually prevent the chance for the talented to come forward. The same applies for political parties,” he said.

Hettiarachchi said as per the advice of Elections Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya, the assistance of the Commission’s Legal Director would be obtained in preparing the draft bill. “He also suggested to us to get the help from Commission member Nalin Abeysekara, who is a former Head of the Legal Draftsman’s Department, for the purpose. We will submit the draft bill to the Cabinet through the Cabinet Sub-Committee. However the legislation, is not limited to Local Government elections but to any election in the country,” he said.

Meanwhile, Citizens Organisations Collective Convener Saman Rathnapriya said they have requested from the President and Prime Minister to include a provision in the new Constitution indicating the limitation of spending for election campaigning by the political parties and candidates.

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