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The Discontent of the Victorious

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June 24, 2003
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More than two weeks have elapsed since the end of the local elections. However, it is still not possible to make a complex analysis of the results because the final, complete results have not been published yet. As a rule, after the mandates of the local elected officers are validated, it takes about two to three months for the complete results of elections to be published. At present, all that has been published is general data on the results of the voting and the number of councillor and mayor mandates won by the electoral contestants at district (municipal) and town (commune) levels.

Although the elections are over, the combatant spirits of some electoral contestants have not calmed down yet. On 19 June 2003 the mandates of the councillors and the general mayor, elected in the Chisinau Municipality on 25 May and 8 June respectively, were validated. However, the relevant decision of the court has been disputed. In a series of electoral districts there have been attempts and even actual appeals against the results of elections for mayors before their mandates are validated by the district courts.

Although in its public statements the Communist Party of Moldova (CPM) has tried to appear victorious and totally happy with the results of the elections, their behaviour has been evidence to the contrary.

The biggest curiosity is that the results have been and continue to be disputed practically exclusively by the CPM, which has ruled for three years, during which time the CPM has managed to build the so-called “vertical axis of state power”. This is the most eloquent indicator that our rulers are not happy with the results of the elections and would like to revise them and at the same time verify how well the mechanism of “vertical power axis” that they have created works. In particular, it seems that they want to test how loyal the justice is to the ruling party following the reform of the judicial system.

Generally speaking, the behaviour of the CPM is not at all surprising. During the electoral campaign most complaints were filed by the CPM. It was their resource to justice following the first round of the elections in the Chisinau Municipality, which claimed a check of all voting ballots and electoral documents, that started to worry some analysts. Judging by the abusive way in which the electoral campaign had unfolded, the analysts assumed that the CPM wanted victory at any price.

The problem is that the irregularities invoked by the CPM are exactly the same as those that the OSCE observation missions to Moldova have been constantly mentioning in their reports since 1994 and which have been judged not to have affected the final results of elections in any significant way. In fact, these refer to the incorrect compilation of voter lists, the “family vote” that breaches the secrecy of the vote and other violations of this sort. It is curious that it was the Department for Information Technologies at the Ministry of Internal Affairs that was responsible for providing support to the local public administrations to compile the voter lists correctly, which thing is confirmed by the contract that the Central Electoral Commission had signed with the Department. Secondly, the state TV channel behaved abusively in the campaign of denigration of the opponents of the ruling party instead of providing voter education. In addition, what can one expect of the volunteers, employees of electoral offices, of which only 1 or 2 were remunerated and the other 6–10 were only paid on the election day as much as about US$3.

Certainly, all these factors may not serve as excuses for the committed errors. What is certain, though, is that such irregularities may not influence the results of elections. At least there has been no evidence to demonstrate that the violation of technical procedures has influenced the results of the election in any district. If things were different, then the CPM victory in the 2001 parliamentary elections would have been contested by its opponents for the violations signalled in those elections were exactly the same as the ones that the CPM is complaining about now. To see this we only need to have a look at the OSCE observation reports.

The CPM actions of contesting elections in the districts where they wanted to win but failed could have the effect of Pandora’s box. The representatives of the opposition could approach the courts to contest the results of elections in the districts where the CPM won and ask that the constitutional principle of uniform application of laws in Moldova be respected. This is a sure way towards the destabilisation of the political situation in Moldova.

Another indicator to the discontent of the rulers with the election results is the effort of the state media to justify the abuses that it committed during the campaign, but which failed to bring about the victory of the communist candidate for the position of general mayor of Chisinau.

In this sense, observers have noted two significant things. Firstly, the threatening tone that the state mass media has adopted towards the citizens in the districts where the CPM have lost elections. These have been suggested that they might encounter problems because the political colour of the local power is different from that of the ruling party and this could manifest negatively upon the formation of local budgets. Secondly, in his post-election address to the citizens, President Voronin actually warned the mayor of Chisinau that he would have serious problems while executing his mandate. As significant is the remark by President Voronin that the difference of votes that ensured the victory of the current mayor is not so significant and so his activity will be under the supervision of central authorities.

The municipal press that supported the mayor of Chisinau during the electoral campaign reacted sarcastically to the events that revealed the discontent of the rulers, and wrote: “those who do not know how to organise a fair campaign, do not know how to lose with dignity either”. Indeed, the difference in the votes received by the current mayor of Chisinau and his communist rival candidate is of 7.8% (53.9% to 46,1%). At the same time, the absolute victory that the CPM won in the 2001 parliamentary elections was of 50.07%. Normally, that result would not have been sufficient for a vote of confidence to the Government, more so for the election of the President or a constitutional majority of the CPM in the Parliament. Nonetheless, due to the faulty electoral system, the CPM won 40% extra mandates at the account of the democratic parties that failed to pass the 6% electoral threshold. This has ensured the CPM’s comfortable governing with a constitutional majority. Obviously, under such circumstances, the CPM should have considered the interests of the opposition and respected fully the legal norms, but they have avoided to do so.

In this sense, the most curious thing is one of the points that President Voronin made in his post-election statement and namely that “as President of the country” he had called upon the citizens to vote against the communist candidate’s rival for the mayoralty of Chisinau. Article 77 of the Constitution stipulates that “the President of Moldova represents the state”. Thus, it appears that the very Moldovan State, through its supreme representative, called against one of its citizens who was running for a public office. Or, the Electoral Code, in its preamble, stipulates that “the state guarantees the expression of the free will of citizens through the respect for democratic principles and the norms of the electoral law”. Things get even more interesting if we note that this happened after the CEC representatives had tried to rejects the complaints of other electoral contestants about the involvement of the President of the country in the electoral campaign on the side of the communist candidates by invoking the right of the citizen Vladimir Voronin to electioneer as any other Moldovan citizen would. This was a weak argument, unable to calm down the plaintiffs, given that not any Moldovan citizen has unlimited access to the public audio-visual bodies to electioneer as the citizen Vladimir Voronin had.

There is still another factor that reveals the reasons for the CPM discontent with the election results. Thus, on the one hand, the election results show that the CPM received 48% at district level, 45% at village and town levels, and 41% of the mayor seats. For comparison, we would like to remind that in 1995 the Democratic Agrarian Party, in government at the time, received over 50% of votes at district and village/town levels and over 60% of mayor mandates. Curiously, one of the CPM leaders has publicly stated that in the 2003 campaign the opinion polls commissioned by the CPM showed a 60% victory for the CPM. Those who conducted the polls have proved wrong in the long run and have dispelled some vain expectations that they themselves had raised.

Apart from these statistic data, the CPM representatives have all the reasons to be unhappy with the election results. Probably, the results that they have obtained do not seem to be sufficient enough to build a sound foundation for the “vertical axis of power”, more so since the CPM has made considerable efforts and unjustified sacrifices. Firstly, the CPM has engaged in the extremely costly revision of the local public administration system and the territorial organisation of Moldova, which move has undermined the relations between the Moldovan Government and the World Bank and the IMF. Secondly, the rulers have damaged significantly the favourable image of Moldova that she has earned over years due to the fair and free method in which the previous electoral campaigns were conducted.

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