With a record number of candidates vying in the Presidential Election this year, the cost of the Election could be as high as Rs. 5 billion as against Rs. 4-4.5 billion envisaged earlier, Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya said yesterday.
He said the large number of persons up for nominations would mean that the logistical arrangements for holding the Election would have to be done on a larger scale with more officials deployed on duty as well as using bigger spaces as counting centres.
“For each candidate, we have to assign two polling agents, which means at every counting centre, we will have to have room for them along with officials on Election duty, classrooms even in the biggest schools can hold only hold up to 45 persons at most, which means we might have to consider putting up temporary centres or finding bigger spaces,” Deshapriya said.
The initial estimated cost for the Election was around Rs. 4.5 million, but this could reach as much as Rs. 5 billion, he said.
The EC Chairman said that there cannot be any limitations on the number of candidates who wish to contest as it is a right guaranteed by the Constitution. “They are all contesting with the hope of winning,” he said.
The EC Chairman also said that Election laws would be strictly enforced with regards to display of posters and banners of candidates as well as propaganda activities from Monday (7 October) onwards.
“We have given permission for candidates to set up 12, 600 Election offices throughout the country. They can display their cut-outs and posters in these places but not in other public places. Those who put up such propaganda material in public places will be persecuted under the Election law,” he said.
Candidates have also been requested to hand in their asset declarations along with their nomination papers and have been encouraged to display them on their official websites.
“All of them have agreed to do so but they also have the option of handing in the assets declarations within three months,” he said.
Deshapriya said that monitors from the Commonwealth as well as the European Union (EU) would be here for the Election while there will also be a study tour by Election officials from South and Southeast Asia during the Election period.
(Source: Daily FT – By Chandani Kirinde)