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Geopolitical elections — the end justifies the means?

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Igor Botan / December 8, 2014
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During the entire 2014, oppositional political forces with pro-Eurasian visions pleaded for a referendum on the Moldovan integration project-whether it should be European or Eurasian. In this sense, pro-Eurasian political forces supported the referendum in Gagauzia. On the other hand, governing pro-European political forces constantly rejected ideas of organizing such a referendum, invoking as an argument the fact that the ordinary parliamentary elections set for 30 November 2014 would become, along with the election of Members of Parliament, a referendum identifying the vector of integration.

It should be mentioned that the joint statement of the International Election Observation Mission, signed by OSCE/ODIHR, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), and the European Parliament (EP), found that the campaign for the parliamentary elections of 30 November was influenced by political aspirations. In this sense, it is not accidental that they express concern that “the late deregistration of one electoral contestant raised questions about timing and circumstances”. In fact, in the seven previous electoral campaigns that took place after Moldova’s declaration of independence, which had no extra-meaning, unlike the elections of 2014, no electoral contestant was eliminated, especially a contestant that, according to opinion polls, had real chances to pass the electoral threshold. As a result, three pro-European parties obtained 55 out of the 101 MP mandates, while pro-Eurasian parties obtained 46 mandates. Returning to the plebiscitary dimension, one can find that the electoral contestants that pleaded for European integration obtained a total of 50.24%, and the ones that pleaded for Eurasian integration obtained 46.62%. It is an insignificant difference, which is not indicative of wide popular support in favor of the European vector, especially given the exclusion from the electoral campaign of a contestant that promoted Eurasian integration. This score is rather indicative of a breach in Moldovan society.

In the sense of the above-mentioned, the statement that Prime Minister Iurie Leanca made on 3 December is not accidental: “There is no alternative for this (European) course if we aim to build a functional and prosperous country. To those who decided to stay at home and were disappointed I can say that their message was understood. Reforms can’t be postponed, because we will not have such a chance anymore. We either make reforms or have no more chances in the following elections.” This quote reveals Prime Minister’s concern rather than joy from having obtained pro-European majority as a result of parliamentary elections. In fact, the reasons to worry are deeper than they seem at first glance. First, they are not only related to the confirmed division of society and support of the alternative integration vector by over 45% of voters. The problem is that a pro-European government should have organized free and fair elections in order to ensure its victory, but it was not interested to do it. A proof of that is the fact that it did not want to adopt new laws or amendments to existing laws to regulate the funding of parties and demonopolization and deconcentration of mass media.

Second, considerations of opportunity had priority in justifying violation of equal treatment of electoral contestants, based on the principles of the rule of law. Thus, the “Patria (Homeland)” Party and its leader were simply treated as a danger for the “European course” of Moldova. It was enough to remove the party and its eccentric leader from electoral competition right on the eve of the voting day. If we took seriously the accusations about non-transparent and illegal funding of the above-mentioned party, we should probably treat in a certain way the attitude of the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) Deputy Chairman Stefan Uritu towards the financial statement on the expenses for the electoral campaign of the Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM), which organized in the center of Chisinau two concerts on 26 and 27 November with renowned artists, such as Toto Cutugno (Italy), Chris Norman (the UK), Francesco Napoli (Italy), Philip Kirkorov, Nikolai Baskov, Maxim Galkin, Laima Vaikule and Andrei Malakhov (Russia). According to the deputy chairman of the CEC, “the PDM spent on public events, including stage, media coverage of the concerts and payment for artists, only 1,096 million lei, which is very little… It means that if the stage, brought from Romania, cost the electoral contestant 1 million lei, then for media coverage and payment of guests it spent less than 100 thousand lei ($6.6 thousand), given that they were foreign stars and the concerts had live coverage on television for several hours.” It is interesting that what is considered dubious when done by the eccentric leader of the “Patria (Homeland)” Party befitted the PDM. PDM representative Sergiu Sirbu justified this situation by claiming that the modest expenses are explained by the fact that the PDM “signed a contract with the organizer of the concert, according to which the latter assumed all expenses… The PDM didn’t deal with the organization of events. Possibly, if the CEC report had a better structure, we would justify the expenses, but as it is, we had no possibility to do so.”

According to the electoral law, all electoral contestants’ expenses are made through an electoral bank account, where resources are collected only with the contestant’s permission so that the origin of the money be verifiable. The PDM representative wants to accredit the idea that the law allows organization of electoral events in favor of contestants by third parties. But for this very reason the “Patria (Homeland)” Party was excluded from the electoral race, since it used cars and mobile phones of third persons, which had been purchased before the registration of the electoral contestant. The amounts spent by pro-European parties were also impressive: the Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova (PLDM)-about 37 million lei, and the PDM-about 35 million lei. And even more impressive is the fact that these amounts were mainly donations from some individuals whose annual income is much smaller than the amount of donations to their favorite parties.

Third, opportunity prevailed over the principles of rule of law also when campaign was started against the preparations of an eventual “Moldovan Maidan” or “anti-Maidan”. There is no doubt that the Information and Security Service (ISS) and the Police had to engage in efficient combating of illegal actions that could be dangerous to public and constitutional order. The problem is that these activities culminated with a nearly hysterical campaign of terrorizing citizens. The intended goal was to motivate citizens, who were disappointed by a non-stop series of corruption scandals involving pro-European government, to come to vote and give one more chance to those who disappointed them, at least so that Moldova does not experience the situation that Ukraine faces now. The effect of this campaign is seen in the major concerns that citizens had before the elections and were identified in the Barometer of Public Opinion.

Finally, looking at all of the above together, we may reach a sad conclusion. Referring to the eighth parliamentary electoral campaign after the declaration of independence, we cannot say that the elections were free or fair. And it happened under a pro-European government, although it did not happen during agrarian or communist governments. Elections are free if citizens have no obstacles to freely realize their active and passive voting rights, i.e. to elect and be elected. Withdrawal of an electoral contestant from the competition automatically meant that its 103 candidates were deprived of the right to be elected. Elections are considered fair if all electoral contestants enjoy equal conditions and treatment so as to be able to conduct their electoral campaigns. The concentration of mass media, deficient use of financial resources and use of administrative factors do not allow elections to be considered fair. So, we keep moving towards European integration!

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Source: Barometer of Public Opinion, IPP

Results of the first round of elections in Gagauzia Gagauzia before the Elections of the Governor