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Germany and Moldova: same electoral system, two different realities

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Victoria Colesnic, Moldova.org reporter, took part in M100 Young European Journalists Workshop. She spent two days in DIE WELT newsroom, where she wrote a short commentary on the German election and the mixed electoral system:

The German federal election is only four days away and is becoming the major topic for the most media outlets. Based on the current predictions, it looks like Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party with its ally, the Christian Social Union, will win most of the votes after 24th September.  However, they will still seek for a coalition in order to form a majority.

These are the basics known by the Moldovan public. From the point of view of an Eastern European country, the election campaign and the formation of the future Bundestag seems to be a well-established democratic process. The fact that the Chancellor Angela Markel will defend her position for a fourth term is a clear sign of stability and persistence.

Germany’s positive image in Moldova strengthened after the small post-Soviet country signed the Association Agreement with European Union in June 2014 and the Moldovans’ sympathies shifted towards the EU and, consequently, Germany.

However, Germany’s good reputation was not always used in Moldova’s best interest. For example, the Federal Republic was given as an example when the Moldovan leading Democratic Party started pushing the law that changed the proportional electoral system to the mixed one.

Why is the German electoral system unsuitable for Moldova? Experts say that the mixed system is appropriate for large states with solid democracies, which Moldova is not. Cristina Gherasimov, a PhD candidate in Political Science at Rutgers University in New Jersey, explains it best for the Royal Institute of the International Affairs.

“If free and fair elections were held in Moldova today, the current ruling Democratic Party would win about 4 per cent of the vote,” states Gherasimov, based on the national polls. It means that the proportional representation system would not secure the party any seats in parliament. “But if they cannot secure a parliamentary presence through popularity, the party seems intent on securing it through technicality”, concludes Gherasimov.

The law passed anyway, in July 2017, in spite of the 25 members of the European Parliament who asked the Moldovan authorities to withdraw draft on mixed electoral system and improve the current system.

My short stay in Berlin proved me that these two countries, with different broad histories, but a recently shared electoral system, face opposing realities. While the mixed system in Germany will favor democracy, the same system risks to disappoint the Moldovan citizens in November 2018, when the next parliamentary elections are expected to be held.

Dumitru Cobzari, Victoria Colesnic and Anton Ruliou in DIE WELT newsroom.
Photo credit: Martin U. K. Lengemann

The commentary was originally published in German, on WELT’s website. 

Politics

The Romanian MEPs’ criticism – chances are that Moldova won’t receive another disbursement in the EU macro-financial assistance

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In the context of the pandemic crisis and the discussions regarding a new disbursement in the EU macro-financial assistance, the activity of the Moldovan authorities provoked a new wave of criticism from some members of the European Parliament (MEP).

The MEP and Rapporteur for the Republic of Moldova, Dragos Tudorache, criticized the recent activity of President Igor Dodon and Prime Minister Ion Chicu, stating that both are not doing enough for the Republic of Moldova to follow its European path, while oscillating between Brussels and Moscow.

“Many of us in Brussels are trying our best to support the interests of the Republic of Moldova, hoping that the promises made for the second disbursement of the macro-financial agreement will be fulfilled by Chisinau authorities. I wrote to the European Commissioners asking them to look for a solution even for a new disbursement. I had discussions with many Moldovan ministers and parliamentary leaders. Everyone assured me that efforts are being made to bring the bills on the conditionality of financial agreement to the Parliament. After the deadlines for their commitments have been missed, President and Prime Minister stated that they do not want these bills to be adopted by Parliament and will ignore even the will of the Parliament where they have a majority,” stated the EU official.

Both Prime Minister Ion Chicu and President Igor Dodon opposed the adoption of the Law on non-profit organisations’ activity, which represents a conditionality imposed by the EU for making a new disbursement in the EU macro-financial assistance.

The most important provisions of the law involve the impossibility of non-profit organisations (NPO) to provide financial support or free services  to candidates during an election campaign. Also, NPOs cannot financially support or provide free services to political parties and socio-political organisations, except the non-profit organisations created by political parties – those may provide free services to political entities in order to strengthen their capacities.

The bill was adopted by the Government of Moldova in 2018, being voted by the Parliament at first reading. However, it didn’t go any further. “Everyone insists on adopting the bill, because it is clearly written that NPOs can provide services to political parties and receive funding from abroad. This means that someone from abroad can found a NPO, for which millions of euros are given, and start political activity here. This basically means interference in the politics of the Republic of Moldova. We are turning into a primitive republic, run by NPOs? Why do we need Parliament, Government, Presidency then?” speculated Igor Dodon.

The opposition claimed there is another reason why socialists don’t want this bill voted. “Some political parties created foundations to receive dubious financial support through them. Under this law, NPOs will not be able to provide political support for political parties, either for a fee or free of charge, during election campaigns. That is the whole problem Dodon has,” said  the opposition MP Dinu Plangau.

See also: Promo-LEX estimates: 19,02 million lei as failed expenses to be reported to the Central Electoral Commission by the political parties in 2019

The member of the European Parliament Siegfried Muresan believes that the current Government led by Ion Chicu will no longer be able to obtain a disbursement as a part of the macro-financial support granted by the European Union. According to him, this missed chance would be a great failure, affecting the citizens of the Republic of Moldova who no longer can take advantage of these resources.

A few weeks ago, the Romanian MEP criticized the Government of Moldova, claiming that the country is lagging behind in terms of implementing reforms. “The Government failed to manage the COVID-19 crisis, as it also failed to implement reforms,” Muresan said. The EU official also mentioned that the report published by the European Parliamentary Research Service on the implementation of the EU Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) with the Republic of Moldova described the same social and political issues as 5 years ago.

“Political instability, frequent government changes and recent political events have significantly contributed to slowing down the pace of implementation of reforms. In addition, a number of events have led to a deterioration of democratic standards and the rule of law, according to the European Parliament’s report. All those reforms demanded by the EU would have strengthened the institutions of the Republic of Moldova, would have reduced corruption and incompetence in the institutions, and Moldova would have been better prepared to defend its citizens against the COVID-19 crisis,” the MEP mentioned.

Prime Minister Ion Chicu overreacted making a scandalous statement on social media:“The opinion of our citizens about the activity of the Government and the criticism of Moldovans matters to us. The concerted attacks of some figures, with pretensions of Moldovan lawyers, can only impress their patrons,” replied Chicu.

Source: AFP

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Politics

Promo-LEX estimates: 19,02 million lei as failed expenses to be reported to the Central Electoral Commission by the political parties in 2019

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A report on political party financing in 2019, carried out by the Promo-LEX Association and published lately, revealed undeclared expenses amounting to about 19,02 million lei. Also, it announced one of the lowest level of financial reporting to the Central Electoral Commission (CEC).

As of May 7, 2020, only 19 political parties (43%) managed to submit their financial statement to the CEC in time, one faction submitted it with a delay and 26 political parties failed to submit any declaration at all. Therefore, Promo-LEX found the lowest rate of political parties’ annual reporting regarding their financial situation since 2014, according to the association’s notice.

“The Promo-LEX Association took into account the specificity of the state of emergency instituted in the Republic of Moldova.” However, the CEC did not have a proactive and transparent attitude in settling the issue and it didn’t remind the political parties of their reporting obligation under the given exceptional circumstances.

On the one hand, Promo-LEX mentioned the lack of transparency due to the absence of obligation to publish information on political party donors, and the vulnerabilities caused by hiding these data. On the other hand, the association highlighted the insufficient control and supervision of political parties’ sources of financing that was exercised by the CEC.

That happened despite the improvements in the legal framework on party financing made last year, such as reduction of the minimum amount of authorised donations from natural and legal persons, allowing donations from  nationals residing abroad, etc. “Despite these substantial legislative improvements, there are unsettled legislative loopholes that arise our concern,” is mentioned in the report.

In 2019, 16 political parties from Moldova reported a total amount of 70 million lei as revenues and 94 million lei as expenses. Other 4 parties that submitted their financial statements did not indicate any revenues or expenses.

Moldovan political parties declared that the subsidies from the state budget represented the main source of their income in 2019 (39%), along with membership fees (32%), donations from individuals (18%), and donations from legal entities (11%).

It was also found that 17 political parties organised at least 2936 promotional activities and events in 2019, including activities organised by charitable foundations. Such foundations as “EDELWEISS”, associated with Vladimir Plahotniuc and the Democratic Party of Moldova, “Din Suflet” Charity Foundation, associated with the Party of Socialists and President Igor Dodon, and“For Orhei” Association, connected with the “Sor” Party, were reported as organising promotional activities. However, none of the political parties associated with the charitable entities mentioned above reported promotion expenses as being linked to charity activities.

In such a way, Promo-LEX estimated that 17 political parties failed to report a total amount of 19,02 million lei (20% more than actually reported), the most questionable category of expenses being that of public events, followed by the expenses for maintenance of headquarters and staff.

Source: Promo-LEX

The monitoring reports carried out by Promo-LEX between 2016 and 2019 showed large discrepancies between the financial statements reported to the CEC and the estimates of the association. The highest share of undeclared expenses was reached in 2017, when political parties from Moldova hid 42,75 million lei, that being 48% more that it was actually reported.

Photo: contaconect.ro

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(Update) Coronavirus: the State of Emergency will be replaced by a Public Health Emergency after May 15

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The State of Emergency in the Republic of Moldova is lifted on May 15. Starting tomorrow, the National Extraordinary Public Health Commission will start its activity with declaring Code Red in the healthcare system or a so-called Public Health Emergency on the territory of the whole country. This was declared by President Igor Dodon after the meeting of the Supreme Security Council.

According to the president, all the responsibilities regarding COVID-19 restrictions necessary during the pandemic crisis will be handed over from the Commission for Emergency Situations to the National Extraordinary Public Health Commission, which was newly created.

Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection, Viorica Dumbraveanu, emphasised the need to maintain the same public health measures after May 15, in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 virus infection and ensure the protection of citizens, as it is declared in a press release of the Minister of Health, Labour and Social Protection (MHLSP).

Prime Minister Ion Chicu announced that the state of Public Health Emergency could remain in force by June 30, as per the request of the National Public Health Agency. “It can be even shorter or longer. We will decide according to how the events evolve,” said the head of the executive. According to him, the new state of emergency concerns only decisions and actions taken in the healthcare industry.

According to the latest official decision of the National Extraordinary Public Health Commission, the Public Health Emergency is established for the period May 16 – June 30 and encloses restrictions concerning kindergartens that will open after June 30; the markets in Chisinau and Balti – after May 31; playgrounds and stadiums – after May 31; general, vocational and university education institutions – after June 30; forests, parks, alleys, beaches for groups of more than 3 persons – after June 30; shopping centres – after June 30 (except groceries and pharmaceuticals units located in the same building), barber shops and dental offices – after May 16, outpatient medical activities – May 16.

At the same time, it is mandatory to wear protective masks in indoor public places.

The restrictions regarding regular flights, regular passenger air charters, international rail routes, regular, special and occasional road transport of passengers are still maintained until June 30, with gradual relaunch depending on the epidemiological situation.

The access of foreign citizens and stateless persons is forbidden on the territory of Moldova until June 30, with the following exceptions:

  • family members of the citizens of the Republic of Moldova;
  • persons holding a long-stay visa, a residence permit or a document equivalent to a residence permit issued by the authorities;
  • persons being on business trips, proved by a visa, residence permit or other equivalent document;
  • members of diplomatic missions and consular posts accredited in Republic of Moldova, of international organisations / missions, as well as members of their families or personnel who provide humanitarian aid;
  • passengers in transit, including those who are repatriated.

Persons who enter the Republic of Moldova during this period will have to fill in an epidemiological form, as well as a declaration on their own responsibility to comply with the self-isolation regime of 14 days in determined places. More decisions and provisions can be found here.

According to the most updated data provided by the MHLSP, there are 5553 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Moldova at the moment, including 2228 cases of people who recovered and 194 cases of death. On March 14, there were 147 newly confirmed cases, while the record number of new cases (252) was recorded just 2 days ago, on May 13.

Photo: Romania Insider

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