Endless elections?

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July 17, 2003
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More than one month has passed since the date of the general local elections, but it seems that they will never end. The runoff repeat voting for the election of mayors was held on 22 June and 6 July, but the wave of complaints against the results of the elections is growing further. For example, the results of the elections are still being disputed in three localities in the Gagauz region and in several localities in the districts Soroca and Ungheni. It has already become a phenomenon the fact that most often the courts rule in favour of the ruling party. The few complaints that have been made against irregularities committed by the ruling party have been rejected by the Moldovan justice. The third phenomenon is that the CP looses practically all elections as a result of repeat voting with almost a double difference as compared to the disputed results.

As a rule, the CP disputes the election results by invoking the irregularities that the OSCE Mission has been regularly detecting in Moldova starting 1994 and which the OSCE has deemed unable to have a significant impact on the final election results. These refer to the faulty compilation of voter rolls, the “family vote” that breaches the secrecy of the vote, and other minor offences of the kind.

It has been noted that the CP wins the cases in courts of appeal, after the courts responsible for the validation of mandates have ruled to the contrary. It happens though that the rulings of the courts of appeal in favour of the CP are denied by the voters, who, surprisingly, turn out in much larger numbers for the repeat voting and so double the difference in the number of votes received by the communist candidates and their opponents, with the former being the losers. There are two explanations for this phenomenon. First, the citizens protest against the invalidation of their votes and the harassment that those who win over the communists with a significant number of dozens or hundreds of votes are being subject to. Secondly, a month after the end of the electoral campaign, it has become clear for many voters that the promises of the government have been false as important increases in the price of energy and food stuff has occurred immediately after the elections instead of the promised improvement in the quality of life. Thus, within the repeat voting of 6 July, the communist candidates were defeated repeatedly in Costesti (Ialoveni district), Pohornicesti (Orhei district) and Cuhurestii de Jos (Floresti district).

Much sadder are things in the few cases when the results of the elections are being disputed by the opponents of the communists. In these cases, as a rule, the court of first instance pleads in favour of the opponents of communists but the latter later win in the court of appeals. This happened in the commune Rudi in Soroca district and commune Magurele in Ungheni district. The last case deserves special attention as it brings out the new practices in Moldova. The thing is that in Magurele the difference between the number of votes won by the winning communist candidate and his rival candidate was of three votes. The court of first instance ruled in favour of the non-communist plaintiff who had presented a number of evidence of serious violation of the electoral laws. First, the electoral officers in Magurele allowed four citizens, residents of another locality, to vote. Secondly, the polling station closed 10 minutes before the time provided for by the legislation, and four citizens were prevented from exercising their voting rights. Thirdly, three elderly voters were deprived of the right to vote at home, despite their specific request to the members of the electoral bureau. Fourthly, it has been determined that by fault of the members of the electoral bureau who left their work place for a certain amount of time, the ballot of one voter was invalidated because it did not bear the control stamp. The same electoral officers let the son of the communist candidate to vote although he is not 18 yet. Obviously, with a difference of only three votes between the votes received by the two candidates, each of the four violations mentioned above could have influenced the results of the vote. Moreover, things got even worse as there were suspicions that the violations could have even be intended since two of the members of the electoral bureau are related to the winning communist candidate. Therefore, it was only natural for the court of first instance to rule in favour of the plaintiff. The fact that the court of appeal in Balti ruled out the ruling of the court of first instance provokes bewilderment and suspicion. All the more so if one compares the reasons for which the communist plaintiffs win when they complain with the ones mentioned in the Magurele case. The public opinion can only question the way in which the principle of uniform application of laws is being applied in Moldova and whether this is not by any chance what the communist government tried to achieve by reforming the judicial system. Also, another question might arise: what will happen to the electoral process in Moldova after the mandate of the current Central Electoral Commission expires and it is replaced by a new one, appointed by the current ruling party?

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