Sports and political campaigning

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Mr Saitala
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Electoral boss sheds light on issue of political campaigning through sports

BY ROMULUS HUTA

Chief Electoral Officer Moses Saitala.

CHIEF Electoral Officer Moses Saitala warns election intending candidates that display of names by way of t-shirts, promotional banners or posters is a campaign activity and must not be entertained during Christmas festive sporting events until election period has been declared open.

Mr. Saitala made the clarification yesterday when sought for comments by SunSPORTS on such cases where most of the sporting events that usually occur during the Christmas season, probably in most constituencies across the country, are often sponsored by Members of Parliament or intending candidates.

This comes as the country is getting ready to go to polls in next year’s national general elections, which is expected to fall during March or April.

Mr. Saitala explains that such display of promotional banners, t-shirts and posters bearing names of intending candidates during sporting events can only be considered as legal when the election (or campaigning) period is declared open.

But in the event this occurs outside of the election period, then it is strongly deemed as a breach of the Electoral Act and anyone found guilty of this offence faces a penalty of $20,000 fine or two years of imprisonment, or serve both.

“This type of activity is illegal. The displaying of a name of an intending candidate by way of t-shirts or posters is a campaign activity as provided under section 5(2) (e) of the Electoral Act 2018.

“This is campaigning outside the campaign period.

“It is therefore an offence under section 124 of the Electoral Act and an intending candidate can be taken to court as soon as he files his/her nomination papers.

“The penalty for this offence is 20,000 penalty units or 2 years imprisonment, or both,” Mr. Saitala enlightens.

While shedding light on this issue, Mr Saitala on the other hand said, the Electoral Act only allows if the intending candidate or the Member of Parliament sponsors the sporting event.

“Sponsoring sporting events is NOT necessarily a campaign as in the meaning of campaign in Section 5 of the Electoral Act 2018.

“This is not illegal as mentioned above. It is almost like a community service a person provides (irrespective whether the person is a MP or an intending candidate),” Mr. Saitala expressed.

Meanwhile, many constituencies around the country will have sporting events organised for their citizens this upcoming Christmas festive season and most probably, some of them will be sponsored by various Members of Parliament or intending candidates.

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