Political headaches & electoral pillows
Posted on October 26th, 2012

Editorial -The Island

Transport Minister Kumara Welgama tells us that under the present electoral system, a candidate has to spend as much as Rs. 50 million on his or her election campaign. He has contested several elections and he should know, but we think we are not short of politicians who spend at least twice as much if the manner in which they shower election bribes on the electorate during hustings is anything to go by. Some of them distribute truckloads of dry rations, stationery etc and there have been instances where politicians even gave away mobile phones! On the eve of the 2001 general election, a candidate distributed a lorry-load of arrack in Ratmalana!

Thus, politicians who get elected by spending so much of money are beholden not so much to their electors but to the moneybags who fund their election campaigns. No wonder they go hell for leather to recover their campaign expenses from the word go. They also help their financiers acquire public assets for a song and protect drug dealers and other moneyed anti-social elements in return for lavish funding. Big businesses make it a point to contribute generously to the election campaigns of the prominent members of the two main parties so that their interests would be looked after regardless of who wins. Money talks! When people’s representatives are swayed by pecuniary considerations and not the interests of the electors, there is a big problem, which, however, is not peculiar to this country.

What is the solution? Is it to change the electoral system as the Transport Minister has argued? The Proportional Representation (PR) system is seriously flawed and needs reform. But, the first-past-the-post (FPPS) system is no panacea for all our political ills. The 1977 general election, it may be recalled, was held under the FPPS system. But, among those who got elected were criminals. Post election violence lasted for more than a week. Dozens of people were killed, hundreds of houses destroyed and many women raped. The police were made to look the other way. So much for the argument that the FPPS helps prevent the election of the scum of the earth and is an antidote to violence! At that election even cattle rustlers, bootleggers, murderers, rapists and narcotic dealers entered Parliament and some of them are still in active politics!

A cross between the FPPS and PR is widely considered a way out but that hybrid system is not without problems. The recently ratified local government electoral reforms which paved the way for such a system have led to a situation where the public will have to cough up additional funds to maintain about 3,500 more representatives! One can imagine how bad the situation will be when the provincial council and parliamentary election laws are amended in a similar manner.

Electoral reforms will not help candidates curtail campaign expenses as there will be among them persons with black money at their disposal to outspend their opponents. If a politician spends Rs. 100 million on electioneering throughout a district at present, he will spend the same amount on his campaign covering an electorate to ensure his or her election. So, it is only wishful thinking that electoral reforms will lead to a reduction in campaign expenditure.

The only way to create a level playing field is to enforce the existing election laws or introduce new ones to impose a ceiling on campaign-related expenses and make the process of fund raising transparent. All candidates must be made to account for their assets including funds they spend on their campaigns. And the most effective way of preventing anti-social elements from getting elected to LG institutions, Provincial Councils and Parliament is for the SLFP and UNP leaders to stop nominating political dregs to contest elections. If decent men and women are nominated and the election laws are properly implemented, this country will be a much better place to live in, with or without electoral reforms. What the government is doing in a bid to solve the problem could be likened to changing pillows to cure a headache, as a popular Sri Lanka saying goes.

5 Responses to “Political headaches & electoral pillows”

  1. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    THE PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION SYSTEM WAS THE BRAIN CHILD OF HITLER. IT IS WELL DOCUMENTED IN THE BOOK, ” THE RISE AND FALL OF THE DEUTSCHE REICH ” I say this with authority, as I have read the whole book. It is a soft cover book with around 1000 pages. Hitler adopted the PR system and beat all his rivals. Apparently JRJ read through it, to introduce it himself, in his election and won, beating all his opponents. It was subsequently modified by local politicians with FPPS to create in-fighting amongst politicians, killing each other to gain places. Politicians became ROWDIES of the first order. Education was of no consequence, to be a political figure. Any THUG, RAPIST, MURDERER, and PERVERT could don the ALA GONIYA, fatten their necks and s(h)it in Parliament. The winning political party adopted a ruse to bring in damning losers with a nomination to Parliament. Not only the LOSERS but even Rowdy Henchia s were also given a seat in Parliament. They were Party Favourites, with good physic but mustard brain.

    Parliament is now composed of a motley crowd of un-educated thugs of sorts. I give due respect to those EDUCATED Parliamentarians who truly work for the Country, just a handful of them.

    BRINGING PASSENGERS INTO PALIAMENT SHOULD BE STOPPED FORTHWITH. A RADICAL CONTROL OF THE PERKS OF PARLIAMENTARIANS SHOULD BE ENFORCED.

    The total amount spent on Electioneering by all, could feed an entire village free for one year. Shame

    HANNDA MAGEY ATHEY CONCEPT has to be considered a very bad thought.

    Half past two Politicians, please search your mind and mend yourselves.

  2. Sirih Says:

    If Police and Judiciary is independent, these political thugs will think twice before going into criminal side…
    At the moment police is scared to do anything due to undue corrupt politicos…

  3. Dham Says:

    SW,
    Very true and you described THE PROBLEM beautifully.
    But unfortunately we need a hero like Gota now to get rid of “rotting politico problem”, which is in fact the only problem we have.

    Zionists and Hitler are identical in action. ‘killing” is the mantra. Zionist Julia Gillard wants to sell Uranium stolen from killed Aborigines to India – made Satchin Tendulkar a knight. She wants to be in power stolen by Kevin Rudd just because he criticized the Zionists.

  4. Sunil Vijayapala Says:

    Also we need a strong independant media to expose corruption and bring down governments like the Lake House did when we were juveniles. Of course what’s happening now is elimination or intimidation of journalists and put an end to any investigations. Of course on surface they say everything is democratic, ‘we value the independance of Judicairy’ etc. but what ACTUALLY happens is just the opposite. This fear of politicians and too much respect to them must come to an end and everyone must begin treating them one to one. Some people including politicians must be peeing in their under pants when they talk to their leaders. Our political culture has changed dramatically and it seems we have reached the point of no return. A strong incorrupt leader is needed to reverse this dangerous trend. Son’s of politician seem to far more exercising power than Minister’s themselves. Why has our country stooped to this low. The reason being the Leader has LOST CONTROL.

  5. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    LEADER HAS LOST CONTROL. Quite true Sunil.

    HE IS ON AUTO PILOT MODE, HAVING 40 WINKS, WHILE A DANGEROUS STORM IS BREWING AHEAD.

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