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Are the Moldovan citizens prepared for the coming elections? Facts & figures. The expert’s opinion

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The fact that the electoral system was changed to a mixed one for the coming elections on February 24th in the Republic of Moldova was already mentioned too many times in the media. The February election is a widely discussed subject internally and internationally. However, it seems that the common Moldovan citizens don’t know too many things about the new electoral system and the way it works. Is it because of the people’s indifference or maybe because of the limited efforts of the public institutions to clarify this subject? The following presented facts and figures might explain it better.

The public opinion reports

Some TV channels and online news portals from Moldova published materials proving that electors have no idea what the mixed electoral system means, how many ballots they will receive during the voting procedure, what exactly they will elect, what the referendum that will be held on the same day with the elections is about, etc.

Agora.md has posted recently a vox pop that demonstrates that the Moldovan voters are rather uncertain about the process of elections under the new mixt system. People know that there is a new system, however when it comes to explaining it, they shake their heads saying that they have something more important to do or that they will be guided before entering the voting booth.

Some people are even not informed regarding the date of the election and whether the parliamentary or the presidential election is held, according to a similar public opinion report broadcasted by the TV8 channel.

Another vox pop realised by Moldova.org showed that the majority of the questioned people are not aware that a referendum is organised on the same day as the election. Only few persons could name the questions included in the referendum, as well as its scope.

When asked by Ziarul de Gardă (ZdG)about the difference between two electoral candidates that run for the uninominal constituency nr. 33 and have similar names – Andrei Năstase and Andrei Nastas, the inhabitants of the region seemed confused and puzzled. Some of them didn’t know they will find these names on the ballot, others were mixing them up, being quite sure that Andrei Nastas is the leader of the Platform Party Dignity and Truth (PPDT), not Andrei Năstase. In the same time, all of them agreed that such a ‘coincidence’ would create a lot of disorientation during the elections, especially for the elderly people. According to the CEC official website, Andrei Nastas is an independent candidate, whose name was placed right after the Năstase’s name on the ballot.

“If we talk about the Năstase-Nastas case, on the one hand, we have a politician that is quite present on political arena (Năstase) and, on the other hand, a person who is still unknown (Nastas). This is why, we could assume that some electoral distortion is used by certain electoral contestants,” explained the Promo-LEX expert, Igor Bucătaru, for ZdG.

The electoral surveys

One more hint towards the unfamiliarity with the electoral candidates and the electoral process is the result of several surveys conducted before the election. Thus, according to a survey conducted by the iData company, the most trusted politician for whom the highest number of voters (11%) said would vote in the uninominal constituency is Igor Dodon, even though he doesn’t participate in the elections. Furthermore, when asked for whom they would vote in the uninominal constituencies, 63.1% of the respondents have indicated a candidate that doesn’t even run for the respective constituency.

The Central Electoral Commission (CEC) declared that it is imperative to inform the citizens about the new electoral system. As for every election, CEC launched several informational videos, aiming to inform the citizens regarding the mixed electoral system and to motivate them to go to voting. Besides, all the necessary information was posted on their official website. However, as these elections bring a set of novelties, the taken measures seem to be insufficient.

The Moldovan citizens express an indifferent and ignorant attitude towards the elections, as they are not really interested in educating themselves regarding the voting process and the candidates that will run on their uninominal constituency. Hence, 70.2 % of the respondents declared they will surely participate in the elections, according to the iData survey and 55.4% declared the same, according to the survey conducted by the Association of Sociologists and Demographers.

The expert’s opinion

“The new electoral system serves the ruling party in first place. Therefore, it wasn’t meant to satisfy people’s real need of fairer political system. As a result, the responsible institutions do not have the capacity to ensure a well-informed right to vote for Moldovan citizens.

Indeed, the electoral responsible institution started to communicate to the public, but a larger engagement with the citizens that need to understand the mixed voting system is required. This takes time, human and financial resources. Moreover, there are a lot of doubts regarding the legitimacy of the new electoral system. Hence, the communication to the social segments that reject the mixed voting would face an additional obstacle.

There is very little time to radically change the situation about the level of information and education regarding the new electoral system. Obviously, it does not mean that misinformed people will not vote. It means that their vote, most probably, would be easier to manipulate by the political parties that invented the electoral change.

Civil society, media and the extra-parliamentary opposition can try to diminish the negative consequences, but they cannot repair the created situation. However, their efforts should be targeted to the mixed electoral system explanation, as there is the real risk to weaken even more the parliament through the coming elections. The online communication is crucial for urban population, especially for youth, but the politicians should also try to reach the maximum possible number of rural populations by the day of elections.”

The conclusions about the media activity

This is the reason why; the media plays a crucial role in instructing the citizens about elections. Moreover, its neutral position towards the political parties is essential, otherwise it risks being transformed into a manipulation tool of masses.

In this regard, the first Report of Mass Media Monitorization during the election period of 2019 was issued by The Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and the Association of Independent Press (AIP). The report displays the conclusion regarding the activity and neutrality level when approaching the electoral topics of 12 TV channels and 16 online news portals from the Republic of Moldova, during the period of January 9th – 24th, 2019. According to the report’s conclusion, only 3 TV channels out of 12, were displaying a large spectrum of news regarding all politicians and political parties, in most cases, the tone of reflecting political protagonists on these channels being neutral. An important thing to be highlighted is that 4 private TV channels with national coverage advanced merely positive news about the Democratic Party of Moldova and such politicians as Vlad Plahotniuc and Pavel Filip and mostly negative news about the ACUM electoral bloc. Taking into consideration that the majority of the Moldovan population indicated the TV as their main source of information, according to the survey conducted recently by the Association of Sociologists and Demographers, and that the TV channels in question (Prime TV, Canal 2, Canal 3 and Publika TV) have national coverage and are quite popular, their activity can be interpreted as manipulation.

Among the online news portals that display information in a merely neutral manner are Agora.md, Diez.md, Moldova.org, ZdG.md, Unimedia.info and Newsmaker.md, as the CIJ&AIP report states.

The full information concerning the parliamentary elections in Moldova, as for example, the electoral law, critics, information on political parties, national and uninominal constituencies, the electoral campaign expenses reported by the running political parties, survey results and monitorization reports can be found by any interested person on the website alegeri.md.

Photo source: realitatea.net

Culture

East or West? Celebrating Victory Day and Europe Day at the same time

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For 3 years, people in the Republic of Moldova have been debating what is more important: celebrating Victory Day or Europe Day on the 9th of May? In 2017, the Parliament of Moldova adopted a law to make Europe Day an official holiday in Moldova, along with Victory Day.

Every political party, regardless of the political views, organize a celebration on this day. This year, the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM) and the Șor Party organised concerts, parades and demonstrations for celebrating Victory Day, whereas the political bloc ACUM, the Liberal Party (LP) and the National Unity Party (NUP) celebrated Europe Day. Another political actor – the Democratic Party of Moldova (DPM) tried to please everyone and organised a holiday of “peace and prosperity for Moldova”.

At the same time, the Moldovan Government decided to focus merely on Victory Day and postponed Europe Day for the following weekend, on May 11th-12th. In such a way, they considered the conflict of interests resolved.

Now it’s the proper moment to ask: what is the problem with having 2 different holidays on the same day? In fact, they are not even contradictory. On the contrary, they are related, as the end of World War II and the surrender of the Allies armed forces (which is celebrated on May 8th in Europe) represented an important drive for the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community – the forerunner to the European Union. Actually, the only problem with it is the context of the Moldovan social and political behaviour.

First, both holidays are politicized and are transformed into an apple of discord deliberately, as the Moldovan politicians, especially those who are in power today, understand very well that a divided society means a weaker society; therefore, an easier to control society. The debates about directing Moldova to West (the EU) or East (the CIS) never stopped in Moldova. On May 9th, everyone argues about that: the governors, official representatives of the civil society, activists and, consequently, common people that instead of taking time to discuss their real problems, new businesses, initiatives, projects, protests against the injustice that is done to them, most of them are dividing in groups, spreading hatred and treating superficially the true meaning of both celebrations.

People forget that Victory Day is not about expensive concerts organised by the socialists or buckwheat with pickled cucumbers served in the city centre by the democrats. It is not about pompous demonstrations that involve children who are forced to dance synchronously instead of listening from their parents, grandparents and teachers about the tragic consequences of the Second World War.

Children singing and dancing on Victory Day| Photo: ZdG

On the other hand, Europe Day is more than classical music concerts organised in the central park of the Moldovan capital. Behind the exposed photo galleries are people that have been working a lot, searched and applied for European funds, people that didn’t expect somebody to simply come and save them from the poverty, corruption, injustice, etc. Unfortunately, such people are still not enough in Moldova and Europe Day is treated by the majority just as superficially as any other holiday in Moldova: an occasion to eat out, listen to concerts’ music and have fun.

Moreover, the governmental institutions and some big media outlets present the events happening on May 9th as a natural occurrence. So, the fact that several political parties ‘marked’ their territories in the city centre of Chișinău, organizing their own events for their own electorate is considered normal. The direct use of propagandist methods combined with avoidance to declare the events’ costs by the political parties is not a problem in Moldova.

We live nowadays in a country stuck between Eastern and Western worlds, which can perfectly make it without our existence. We live in a country with poor people, morally poor first of all, as we don’t really know much about our past and don’t care as much about our future.  None of these two holidays real meaning is interesting for the biggest majority of the population. We just love their symbolism that takes us back in the past or enables us to dream about the future. May 9th is just another reason to celebrate, not more than that.

Photos: Ziarul de Garda

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Featured

Why do Moldovans have fewer official holidays but still don’t work more than Germans?

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I am an emigrant. Several years ago, I left my home country – Moldova and, after several changes, I ended up in Germany. No, I am not telling you my life story. You just would need some background information to understand why I decided to call your attention to this sensitive topic.

Every year, I encounter the same situation: a lot of people from Moldova are complaining about too many public holidays in Moldova, empty streets and paralysed public services. Especially during this period: Orthodox Easter Monday (April 29th), Labour Day (May 1st), Memorial Easter (May 6th), Victory Day or Europe day (May 9th) – a reason for one more dissension in the Moldovan society, all of them in just two weeks.

So, in a way, it is understandable why some people are not very happy about it. But are they not happy because of the public holidays’ existence or because of the way things are taken care of during these days?

There are a lot of countries in this world that have more public holidays per year. One of them is Germany. That’s true, one of the most hard-working nations in this world (at least according stereotypes) has slightly more public holidays than we, Moldovans, do. So, does that mean that Germans work less throughout the year? Not necessarily.

Well, let’s take it one by one.

First of all, as compared to the Moldovan people that have 12 public holidays in 2019, Germans, in particular Bavarian people (this is the region where I live in) have 13 officially declared public holidays for the same year. Nonetheless, I never heard that Germans would collectively and continuously complain about that. On the contrary, they love it.

Somehow, they got used to the fact that on national public holidays and on Sundays everything is closed, including the grocery stores. In bigger cities, there is still at least one open grocery store at the central train station. In smaller towns, people have the option of gas stations stores only.

Now imagine how people in Moldova would react if one day the government would decide to implement such a measure and almost all grocery stores would be closed on Sundays. It would be a catastrophe!

Germans learned to plan, to prepare everything in advance. That is one thing that Moldovans need to learn as well.

One more important aspect is that some service industries are still open: public transportation is still punctual, even though, it comes less often, there are enough hotels, cafes and restaurants that provide their services, as well as entertainment and sport institutions like theaters, cinemas, museums, swimming pools, tennis courts and so on, remain open. And of course, the emergency services such as fire, medical, police services are available. People that work in these areas usually receive supplemental pay for working on Sundays and holidays. They understand that their job is important for other people who want to be safe or go out during their free time. At the same time, nobody expects postal services, administrative institutions, fashion shops, travel agencies, family doctors, lawyers to work in these days.

What do I want to actually say through this article? It is not as much about the amount of working time as it is about the efficiency of the effort. It is the government’s job to assure the basic public services during the national public holidays (e.g., public transportation) and it is the people’s job to adapt to the free days setting and plan everything in advance. That refers to Moldovans as well – we should stop complaining and try to be more productive during the working days, so that no frustrations would appear when we have our free days, which are, by the way, not as many as we think.

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Important

Expert: The possible effects of snap elections in the Republic of Moldova

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The Institute for European Policies and Reforms (IEPR) published recently an analytical note that describes the possible effects that the snap parliamentary elections in the Republic of Moldova could have.

The main conclusion expressed in the note: the decline in the geopolitical character of the recent parliamentary elections, the delay in functioning of the institutional structures of the newly elected parliament, and the uncertainty about the formation of a parliamentary majority capable of appointing a new government, escalates the risk of having snap parliamentary elections.

According to the author of the document, Mihai Mogîldea, an IEPR associate expert, more than 2 months after the parliamentary elections, the political parties that entered the Parliament failed to advance in the establishment of a parliamentary majority. The only rounds of consultations, organized by the Socialist Party of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM) and the political bloc ACUM, revealed the diametrically opposed positions regarding a possible coalition formation.

Moreover, the character of the geopolitical vote, used in the previous elections as a powerful tool of dividing the society on the basis of language, ethnicity, geographical location and geopolitical options, has changed. “As less geopolitical discourse during the last pre-electoral and electoral period was present, the attention of the political parties was focused on other areas besides foreign and security policy of the Republic of Moldova,” stated Mogîldea.

At the same time, by analyzing the impact of the mixed electoral system and electoral rhetoric on the results of the parliamentary elections, the author concluded that the current electoral system favoured to a large extent the Democratic Party of Moldova (DPM), which with a result of 23.62% of the votes (the results in the national constituency) obtained 30 seats in Parliament (out of which 17 seats were allocated based on single-seat constituencies results). On the other hand, the mixed electoral system clearly disfavoured the ACUM bloc, which received 26.84% of the votes and only 26 seats (12 seats based on single-seat constituencies results). Even if the PSRM obtained the highest electoral score (31.15%) and the highest number of seats (35), it proved to suffer the greatest loss from the mixed electoral system. Due to the configuration of the single-seat constituencies, the PSRM lost its primacy in the regions considered to be pro-Russian.

Therefore, the following effects of early parliamentary elections in Moldova can be highlighted:

Effect 1. Running early parliamentary elections in in a short space of time after the local elections could favor the DPM, which could get a higher score of about 5-7% due to its administrative resources at the local level.
Effect 2. The active involvement of President Igor Dodon in a possible electoral campaign for the snap parliamentary elections would facilitate the wider mobilization of Socialists’ voters.
Effect 3. Keeping the non-geopolitical character of the electoral campaign might disadvantage the PSRM, whose electorate may partially and gradually migrate to the supporters of the “Șor” Party.
Effect 4. The organisation of snap parliamentary elections could cause a lower presence in the polls during the fifth voting process organized in only three years.

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