Sri Lankans will go to the polls on 5 August, after a parliamentary election initially planned for April was postponed due to the covid-19 pandemic. In the lead up to election day, DRI Sri Lanka recommends how to improve the draft law on campaign finance prepared by the country’s Election Commission.
A transparent and fair framework to finance election campaigns is essential to limit potential corruption and ensure fair elections. Unregulated campaign finances lead to an uneven playing field and can lead to electoral violence, corruption, misrepresentation, or foreign and domestic interference. When well-regulated, a strong campaign finance framework will ensure electoral integrity, respect freedom of expression, and encourage the promotion of under-represented groups through equitable access to public campaign financing. It will also counter the abuse of state resources and reduce electoral malpractices such as vote-buying.
In Sri Lanka, the current electoral system has not included campaign finance regulations since the introduction of the electoral system in 1977. This has compromised the integrity of elections at the national and local levels. With electoral reform discussions in 2015, the need for regulating campaign finance has resulted in a finalized draft for campaign finance regulations being referred in 2019 to the Cabinet and Parliament for approval.
This briefing paper provides a set of recommendations to strengthen the draft law on campaign finance prepared by the Election Commission of Sri Lanka. These recommendations address five key areas of campaign finance intervention, and provide a set of good practices and considerations to support the implementation of the draft law.