European Union election observers have found that online spending of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) during the Presidential election was higher than any other campaign.
In a preliminary statement today the EU Election Observer Mission (EU EOM) said that the lack of campaign finance regulation contributed to an uneven playing field.
“Political party and campaign financing remain unregulated. There are no limits on contributions or spending, and no disclosure requirements, including of the origin of funding, reinforcing an uneven playing field. Candidates are required only to declare their assets, but financial sanctions for non-compliance are insignificant,” the EU EOM said.
Across all districts, EU observers noted the high-visibility campaigns on the ground of the two most prominent candidates, underscoring a considerable gap in financial expenditure and resources between them and other contestants.
With no limits on campaign advertising, campaign coverage in traditional and online media was highly monetised. Only a few other candidates, namely Anura Dissanayaka, Ajantha Perera, Mahesh Senanayake and B. Thera ventured into paid television and newspapers adverts.
“The SLPP’s spending online was in excess of any other campaign. The party campaigned via five custom-made mobile applications. It dominated across all categories of Google adverts and placed no fewer than 500 adverts on Facebook, including by third-parties,” the EU EOM said.
Total spending cannot be known, as Google shares no data, but Facebook’s ad library offers some disaggregated estimates that do not factor in expenses by third-party sites.
Facebook cited the absence of legally binding disclosure requirements for service providers.
The EU EOM said that such a lack of transparency and accountability in campaign finance contravenes international standards and interferes with voters’ right to make an informed choice.