Promo-LEX: End of campaign marked by increase in cases of misuse of administrative resources and potential voter corruption
Report no. 4 of the Promo-LEX Observation Mission for the General Local Elections from 5 November notes perpetuation of practice of legal framework problematic interpretation and implementation. In the last two weeks of the electoral campaign, the activism of competitors has increased significantly, as has the number of cases that can be qualified as misuse of administrative resources and of those with the potential to corrupt voters. The amount of unreported expenditures estimated by Promo-LEX has also increased substantially.
The full report is available here.
The observation period for the events included in the Report runs generally from 19 October to 2 November 2023. Campaign financing observation was conducted until 27 October. The results of the monitoring of hate speech and incitement to discrimination are presented for the period 13 – 29 October 2023.
Problematic interpretation and implementation of the legal framework
Promo-LEX OM notes with concern that, during the monitoring period, the Commission for Exceptional Situations, not empowered by Parliament, has again interfered in the organisation and conduct of elections through its provisions. At the proposal of SIS, CES temporarily suspended the broadcasting licences of six TV stations, without providing extensive explanations of the factual and legal circumstances justifying the restrictive measures.
Regarding CEC’s decision to oblige nine constituency electoral councils to examine the cancellation of registration of candidates nominated for office of mayor and councillor of the Party Șansă (Chance), OM Promo-LEX notes that both illegal financing of electoral campaigns and corruption of voters are serious violations of the electoral process, which are likely to influence the election results. Authorities’ actions to stop these phenomena are necessary in the context of an ongoing election. At the same time, Promo-LEX believes that authorities should examine the legality and constitutionality of the deliberate actions of the Party Șansă (Chance) to associate itself with the image of the former Șor Party, declared unconstitutional.
Promo-LEX OM expresses its concern over the tendency of some competitors to support independent candidates or candidates nominated by other political parties. We also believe that the support of some independent candidates by political parties should be reflected in the competitors’ financial reports.
Doubling of cases of misuse of administrative resources
In the last two weeks of the electoral campaign, the activism of competitors has significantly increased, with about four times more promotional activities than in the previous observation period. In total, at least 1,421 promotional activities were carried out. The most active were PAS – 22% of activities, PSRM – 19%, PȘ – 13% and PDCM – 6%.
The number of cases that Promo-LEX qualifies as misuse of administrative resources has practically doubled. A total of 77 such cases were found, including: involvement of persons holding public office in campaign activities – 21 cases (PAS); involvement of LPA in candidates’ electoral promotion activities – 15 cases (6 – IC Lupov Veaceslav, 9 cases – SSP); electoral candidates’ taking credit for public works/services carried out with public money – 16 cases (6 – SP, 5 – PAS, 4 – MAN, 1 – LOC); organisation of electoral meetings in public institutions during working hours – 25 cases (6 – PSRM, 5 – PAS, 4 each – PLDM and PDCM, 2 each – PSDE and IC Vrabie Vitalie, 1 case each – PR and IC Anastasov Serghei).
At least 5 cases that can be qualified as voter corruption were observed (2 cases – SSP, 1 case each – PAS, PLDM, IC Zagorcea Iurie).
Promo-LEX observers found multiple cases of violation of electoral advertising legislation: unauthorised placement of advertising (96 cases); lack of complete information in electoral advertising (95 cases) and distribution of electoral advertising together with political advertising (9 cases).
Donations with gaps and unreported expenditures
In the period 6 – 27 October 2023, 30 political parties and 16 ICs reported revenues totalling 29.8 million lei. Most revenues (69%) were reported by five competitors: PAS – 23%, PSRM – 15%, PȘ – 12%, PN – 11% and MAN – 9%. About half of these were donations from individuals, and 40% – revenues transferred from the political parties’ accounts. A total of 28.2 million lei in expenditures were reported, of which 1.4 million lei were from material donations.
Following the analysis of electoral competitors’ financial reports, Promo-LEX observers identified collection of cash donations exceeding legal limits in the case of 5 electoral competitors (ALDE, PȘ, PSRM and 2 ICs). Also, in the case of two electoral competitors (PAS and MAN), collection of donations from legal entities was observed which, in the last three years before the beginning of the electoral period, have concluded public procurement contracts. 6 competitors (PAS, MAN, CUB, PLDM, PS and LOC) reported donations from legal entities with arrears to the state budget.
Promo-LEX OM estimated a total amount of at least 2,159,207 lei of expenditures not reported to CEC for campaign activities carried out by 24 political parties and 23 ICs. Of the total estimated unreported expenditures, 42% were for PR, followed by PȘ – 14%, PAS – 10% and PSRM – 9%.
Gaps in the electoral rolls
According to observers, in 15% of the EBPSs visited, electoral rolls were received after the legal deadline. In 13 cases observers were not given access to electoral rolls. The main problems identified in the rolls included: presence of deceased persons on the rolls (94 cases); wrong allocation of voters to the polling station (36 cases); missing voters on the basic rolls (8 cases); wrong allocation of voters to another locality (17 cases); address errors (7 cases).
Attention should be drawn to the fact that in the majority of cases where deceased persons were identified on the electoral rolls, according to the members of the electoral office, their removal was not possible due to missing confirmatory documents, on the grounds that either these persons died abroad or after the electoral rolls were printed.
CEC established that voters living in Corjova commune, including those from Mahala village, who have Dubasari town as their residence on their identity cards, will vote based on supplementary rolls, as in previous elections, including local ones. Officials of the electoral bodies in the locality expressed concern that the ballots, which will be sent according to the number of voters on the basic rolls (about 1100 citizens with the right to vote) could be insufficient. It should be recalled that in the last elections held, the early parliamentary elections in 2021, 992 voters took part in the vote.
Promo-LEX OM reiterates that the problematic situation of voters in Corjova commune must be urgently solved through the joint efforts of Corjova town hall, the Public Services Agency and the Central Electoral Commission, in the interest of the local citizens and in accordance with the legal framework.
Electoral bodies activity
During the observation period, CEC continued the implementation of activities foreseen in Calendar Schedule. The observer accreditation process was intensive, with about half of the total number of observers accredited (716 out of 1493). The share of international observers is about 27%.
Level II Electoral Constituency Electoral Councils (ECEC II) have fully complied with their work programme and five councils had their composition changed. Promo-LEX observers identified several problematic aspects in the work of ECEC I: five cases of obstruction of observers’ work; one case where electoral officials were involved in electoral campaigning; a high incidence of changes in the nominal composition (396 cases for 278 councils) and violations of restrictions and incompatibilities in 67 ECEC I.
In the case of electoral bureaus (EBPSs), the main difficulties mentioned by EBPS members include: delayed technical and material provision; lack of space and favourable working conditions (electricity and heating); poor communication with higher-level bodies; and increased number of changes in the nominal composition of electoral bodies.
Hate and sexist speech
In the period 13 – 29 October 2023, at least six cases of hate and sexist speech were identified. Five cases took place online and one case took place offline at a public electoral event.
Hate speech was based on following criteria: political affiliation, sexual orientation/gender identity and sex/gender and was directed against politicians and electoral competitors (4 cases), women (3 cases) and LGBT people (2 cases). All six cases were distributed 1,144 times and had more than 107 thousand views.