Concerning last year’s presidential election in Moldova, Promo-LEX Association concludes that election contenders avoided reporting all campaign expenditures, there was a record number of hate speech, use of administrative resources, bribing of voters, and a high rate of complaints not accepted by the CEC and courts. In some instances, observers were restricted from accessing voter lists and there were isolated cases of observer intimidation by law enforcement and electoral officials on election day. More details on these and many more conclusions from the presidential election campaign can be found below and in Promo-LEX’s final observation mission report.
Legal drawbacks identified during the Presidential election
The problematic public consultation process is regretful, which resulted in a lost opportunity to make amendments at the beginning of the electoral period that would have at least partially responded to issues addressed by the Constitutional Court as early as in 2016.
Besides the repetitive legal issues, certain new legal drawbacks identified during these elections: contradictory provisions in the Electoral Code and the Administrative Code on reviewing and settling electoral complaints; neglecting the need to adjust the Electoral Code provisions to the pandemic conditions; faulty definition of the notion of election contender in presidential elections.
More active contenders and hundreds of electoral incidents
The number of campaign activities did not diminish during the pandemic and election contenders were very active, particularly online. At the same time, some activities of electoral nature were conducted before the legally defined period for this started.
Election campaigns are still affected by the use of administrative resources, with 114 cases reported. Most cases refer to the involvement of public sector employees in the election campaign during their working hours (54%) and election contenders taking credit for works/services performed at the expense of public funds (29%). Observers also identified at least 9 cases that can be regarded as electoral gifts.
Other identified violations include: use of images of religious cults in the election campaign (14 cases); promotion using the image of foreign officials and state symbols (17 cases); non-compliance with public health rules established by the extraordinary public health commissions (65 cases); use of electoral advertising in violation of legal provisions (57 cases); intimidation and use of violence in the electioneering process (12 cases).
Low transparency of expenditures made and reported during the election campaign
These elections were characterized by a lower level of transparency of expenditures made and reported during the election campaign compared to the previous elections. Thus, for the 2020 Presidential Election, an estimated 39% of total expenditures reported to the Central Election Commission (CEC) failed to be reported, compared to 13% during the 2016 Presidential Election.
Eight election contenders failed to report at least MDL 9,099,163 (ca. 434,000 EURO) of expenses to the CEC, which is MDL 3 million (ca. 143,000 EURO) more than in the 2019 election.
Expenditures for delegations of electioneerers were entirely unreported and not a single election contender submitted declarations for volunteer activities to the control body.
Election day affected by organised transportation of voters, flaws in lists of voters, and cases of cash rewards offered to voters
The 2020 Presidential Election was characterised by high civic activism of voters who showed up to vote in greater numbers than for the 2016 election despite of the pandemic. The people who voted in the polling stations abroad stood out in particular. Unfortunately, not all of them had the opportunity to exercise their right to vote due to the huge queues at the polling stations and the insufficient number of ballot papers in some polling stations. In this context, observers once again urge authorities and politicians to consider introducing alternative voting measures and/or extending the voting period.
During the two rounds of voting, 980 incidents (499 in the first round, 481 in the second) were reported – a slight decrease compared to the 2016 Presidential Election (1053) and 2019 Parliamentary Election (1118 incidents). It is important to note that the number of observers at the latter two elections was higher than during the 2020 election.
Cases/rumours of cash rewards being given to voters (36) and instances of organised voter transportation (87), reported in particular at polling stations set up for voters from the Transnistria region, are of concern.
In terms of quantity, the most frequently reported incidents involved violations of secrecy of vote (167), non-compliance with COVID-19 protective measures (110), and deficiencies in operating the electronic voter registration system, ‘Elections’ SAIS (96).
Limited accessibility of lower level electoral bodies
Despite efforts of the CEC to efficiently conduct the election amidst the pandemic, 27% of observed precinct electoral bureaus (PEBs) were closed during office hours and not all lower-level electoral bodies complied with the pandemic-related requirements.
Accessibility for people with reduced mobility remains a problem for district election commissions (DECs) (56%) and PEBs (73%) offices.
High rate of complaints not accepted by CEC and courts
The complaints review process remains a problem for the electoral process in the Republic of Moldova. Particular attention should be given to the high rate of inadmissibility of complaints (75%), which seriously affects the public’s trust in these procedures, the equality of opportunities for contenders, and the right to effective remedy.
The complaints mainly relate to: illegal electioneering, election campaign financing, and the use of administrative resources.
Election affected by discriminatory messages and other forms of intolerance
This election stood out due to the record number of cases (420) of hate speech and incitement to discrimination. The highest number of incidents involved sexism, gender stereotypes, and prejudice against persons with disabilities.
During the election campaign, these incidents took on the form of ironic remarks, threats, incitement to violence, etc. and fueled different social fears that promoted intolerance in the public space.
A recording (with English interpretation) of the conference presenting Promo-LEX's final report can be watched below.