“European integration or closer relations with the Customs’ Union – this is the key issue of the election campaign,” declared a delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) at the end of a pre-electoral mission to the Republic of Moldova to assess the campaign and political climate prior to the 30 November parliamentary elections.
The delegation, which visited the country from 5 to 6 November, notes that, in general, the election campaign is calm and political parties and candidates have the opportunity to campaign freely. A number of interlocutors expressed voters’ concerns with regard to unemployment, pensions, the healthcare system and education. Some interlocutors described cases of misuse of administrative resources and vote-buying. The delegation was also informed of limited cases of religious representatives becoming involved in the election campaign in support of certain political parties. In this regard, the delegation recalls the principle of respect for the separation between church and state in a democracy.
The Electoral Code of the Republic of Moldova provides a good basis for the conduct of democratic elections. The delegation underlines that the key challenge for the conduct of genuinely democratic elections remains the willingness of political parties to exercise the political will to uphold both the letter and the spirit of the law, and to implement it fully and effectively. Recent amendments to the electoral legislation increased the electoral threshold, contrary to Venice Commission recommendations. The PACE delegation recalls that discussions about electoral reform were to be expected. The electoral reform should be conducted on the basis of a wide consensus among the main political parties, and well in advance of the election.
Various interlocutors, including representatives of the authorities, informed the delegation about a lack of transparency of the sources of financing of political parties. The perception of corruption in the Republic of Moldova is widespread in public opinion. The delegation was also informed about the use of “dirty money” during election campaigns, coming from abroad. The Assembly delegation expresses its deep concern with regard to the significant campaign expenditure as well as the role played by businessmen and oligarchs in the political life of the Republic of Moldova, especially in the electoral process. This is of particular concern in a country facing serious social and economic problems and high level of poverty. The delegation also questions the interference of businessmen at local level in the indirect financing of the election campaign.
The rules governing the funding of political parties and election campaigns remain inadequate. In this regard, the Assembly delegation recalls that the Venice Commission recommended the adoption of a law on the financing of political parties and election campaigns, and regrets that the Parliament has not adopted such a law.
Some interlocutors pointed out improvements in media coverage by public broadcasters and a wide range of opinions appearing in different media. Nevertheless, several issues of serious concern remain: the opacity of the sources of financing of some media outlets, whose holding companies are allegedly registered off-shore, a lack of transparency concerning their ownership, the control of media by a number of businessmen and oligarchs, and their close ties to political parties. The delegation also noted that the majority of media remain divided along political and linguistic lines. It also noted the influence on the election campaign of media established abroad and the negative impact of news programmes from these media on the informed choice of the electorate.
The delegation noted that the Central Election Commission, in general, enjoys the confidence of the main political stakeholders. The creation of an electronic electoral register should limit the need for supplementary voters’ lists. The delegation is concerned about the unbalanced distribution of the 95 polling stations abroad. The delegation calls upon Moldovan voters to take an active part in these crucially important elections for the future of their country.
The Assembly delegation invites the authorities to take speedy and efficient measures to ensure the conditions are in place for all Moldovans to express their will freely during the campaign and on election day.
In Chisinau, the delegation met the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of Parliament, leaders of political parties participating in the elections, the Chairman of the Central Electoral Commission, the Chairman of the Audiovisual Co-ordinating Council, representatives of the international community, NGOs and the media.
A full 32-member delegation from the Assembly will return to the country to observe the elections.
Members of the delegation:
Jean-Claude Mignon (France, EPP/CD), head of the delegation
Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC)
Reha Denemeç (Turkey, EC)
Ionut-Marian Stroe (Romania, ALDE)
Nazmi Gür (Turkey, UEL)
Co-rapporteurs for the monitoring of the Republic of Moldova:
Lise Christoffersen (Norway, SOC)
Piotr Wach (Poland, EPP/CD)