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Opinion

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

Society

Lifting coronavirus restrictions in Moldova – risks and future costs

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Another 153 new cases of infection with the novel coronavirus were confirmed today in the Republic of Moldova, informed the Minister of Health, Labour and Social Protection (MHLSP). Altogether, the number of infected persons reached 8 251 cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

In the last week, there was a decrease in the number of confirmed cases by 11%, according to the specialists from the National Public Health Agency (NPHA). At the same time, the number of recovered cases increased by 5% as compared to the week before. Still, the cumulative incidence of cases reported in Moldova, when compared to other states, increased to 2 224 cases per one million population (21 out of 46 countries, according to statista.com), while the death rate increased from 67 deaths per one million population to 80 deaths per one million population.

While most of these numbers are interpreted positively by the Moldovan authorities, there are still restrictions on which the pandemic evolution depends. In case they are lifted to soon, the next wave of infection cases could begin. If they are kept for too long, a lot of businesses and family budgets would suffer. Therefore, a lot of future risks and costs depend on the next steps taken by officials.

Unbalanced restrictions’ lifting

The last decision of the National Extraordinary Public Health Commission lifted certain restrictions imposed during the state of emergency in the country. For example, it was decided to open all open-air markets in the country, including the ones from big cities (Chisinau and Balti) starting June 1, relaunch the activity of the shopping centres, except for restaurants and entertainment units located inside – June 8, allow religious ceremonies, including meetings in public places for celebrating important religious holidays – June 5. Starting June 15, gyms and restaurant units will be reopened as well.

On the other hand, the Government of the Republic of Moldova decided to cancel this year high school graduation exams. “Given the exceptional circumstances, it was necessary to adopt some measures aimed at reducing the risk of contagion of middle school and high school graduates and teachers. The organisation of graduation exams involves a series of indoor activities and a large number of persons (high school graduation exams – about 40 000 people, the Baccalaureate exams about 20 000 people), which increases the risk of infection, even though the necessary protection measures would be followed,” said the Ministry of Education, Culture and Research (MECR).

The Parliament approved, on 21 May, a draft law on the cancellation of national graduation exams of the 2020 examination session.

Not everyone agreed with the taken decisions though. “As the markets open, where the congestion is very high, as the supermarkets worked during severe quarantine, in the same way, examinations could have been carried out with all the restrictions imposed to avoid the spread of the new type of coronavirus,” declared former Minister of Education, Corina Fusu, for ZdG.

“Many decisions on restrictions’ lifting have no logic. One of them would be the reopening of gyms with no access to the bathrooms or locker rooms. […] Strategies were lacking in Moldova. Instead, we enjoyed daily statistics, not well-determined actions. We have paid for it, both with the health and lives of people, as well as with a downgraded economy, “ said the WHO expert and former Minister of Health, Ala Nemerenco. The former dignitary argued that Moldova is way behind other European countries when it comes to the pandemic evolution, however the restrictions are lifted at the same time.

“The number of new cases, the serious or critical cases is still very high. At the same time, the number of deaths is high. In other European countries people are more educated in this regard. They know what shift work means and what sanitary hygiene means. Our people still don’t know anything about this. I still argue that the Rahmanish Easter (religious holiday postponed for the beginning of June in Moldova) should be cancelled. I am also against the markets’ reopening,” head of the NPHA, Nicolae Furtuna, claimed for ZdG.

Restrictions are not for everyone

The opposition MP, Sergiu Litvinenco, filed a complaint with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, to fine President Igor Dodon because he didn’t comply with the rules imposed during the pandemic period. First, the president expressed a superficial and uninformed opinion regarding the novel coronavirus, saying it is not more than a flu that affects merely older people.

Moreover, Dodon recently posted several photos and videos on social media where it can be observed that meetings with local public authorities, economic agents, citizens, including older people and children, were conducted without wearing a protective mask and  keeping social distance, especially indoors.

“The law is the same for everyone and must be equally applied. Igor Dodon must be punished for the obvious violation of the mandatory rules on prevention and control measures of epidemic diseases!”

Nevertheless, Minister of Internal Affairs, Pavel Voicu, declared that no deviation from rules were found. “We did not fine him because he has immunity. We have not seen any deviations from the Commission’s provisions so far,” he said.

COVID-19 is still here

Speaker of the Parliament, Zinaida Greceanii, signed a provision regarding self-isolation regime establishment for all members of the Parliament from May 22, as several persons in the legislature, including a MP, were tested positive for coronavirus previously.  All members and staff of the Parliament were tested and were asked to stay at home until the confirmation of negative results for COVID -19, as it was announced in a press release of the Moldovan Parliament.

Meanwhile, 1602 cases of infection (19,41% of total cases) have been confirmed among healthcare system employees, including 380 doctors, 20 pharmacists, 630 nurses, 84 janitors and 488 support staff.

The authorities desire to relaunch the economy of the country is understandable, as well as the opposition and experts’ reluctance regarding the speed and relevancy of restrictions’ lifting. However, taking into consideration the relatively low level of informing the population on how to correctly exit the restrictions’ period and the lack of a consistent strategy of authorities on how and when to reopen various activities, the future costs of the already taken decisions could be really painful.

Photo: Dreamstime.com

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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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Opinion

Survey// Popular COVID-19 fake news in Moldova and people’s (dis)information sources

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More and more Moldovans have to deal with fake news every day. Unfortunately, a part of population believes them. According to a survey conducted by the WatchDog.MD community, in cooperation with CBS Research, the degree of acceptance of various false statements indicates an extremely high level of trust in such manipulations among Moldovan citizens.

For example, when asked about quite a few popular fake statements that circulate the whole world regarding the novel coronavirus, the survey participants answered the following:

  • 50.4% of respondents believe that the virus is no more dangerous than a flu and that it was intentionally made to destroy the economy;
  • 37.8% of respondents admitted that the virus was created by Bill Gates, in order to introduce nano-chips in the bodies and control them;
  • 37,2% of questioned people think that the COVID-19 virus was created in a Chinese laboratory;
  • 35,9% of them said the pandemic is an excuse to impose a global Government that will rule the whole world;
  • 33,4% of participants consider garlic a remedy for coronavirus;
  • 32.7% of persons who answered the survey dangerously consider that the virus is a myth and everything is just a lie;
  • 32,3% of them are sure that only old people get infected and die;
  • 32,2% of survey participants believe that democratic regimes have bigger troubles with managing the crisis than the dictatorial ones;
  • 29.7% of persons said the EU will collapse due to the novel virus;
  • 28.8% of respondents fear the COVID-19 tests are already infected when getting tested.

And these are, by far, not all false statements some Moldovans declared as being true during the survey. Some respondents think that the virus is spread in the Republic of Moldova through the 5G technology (11.7%), even though there is no such technology used in the country yet. Others claimed that the European Union didn’t offer any support to Moldova during the pandemic crisis (21.3%), despite the existing facts they can easily check.

Out of 1003 respondents, only one denied absolutely all false or manipulating statements.

At the same time, 45% of the Moldovan citizens who answered the opinion poll don’t trust at all or trust very little the World Health Organisation as a source of information. 5.2% of them don’t even know anything about the organisation.

When it comes to the local information sources, the survey respondents claimed that they merely find out what’s new by watching TV (77.2%), by accessing web pages (42.2%), various social media platforms (35.7%), such as Facebook, Odnoklasniki, Instagram and Vkontakte, or talk to family members (12.7%), friends and neighbours (15.1%).

Another important aspect is that only 1.4% of respondents inform themselves in any other language than Romanian, Russian or both. Even so, 16.3% of survey participants said it is rather hard or very hard for them to understand what news are accurate and whether the information presented is true or not.

A crucial source of disinformation for people of Moldova, which is not mentioned in the options of the survey though, is the church. Lately, the Moldovan Orthodox Church spread dangerous fakes about COVID-19 vaccination, nano-chipping and 5G.

See also: The Moldovan Orthodox Church spread dangerous fakes about COVID-19 vaccination, nano-chipping and 5G

**

The survey was conducted at the national level between May 5-11, being part of the project “Facilitating crisis communication and accountability as a civic response to COVID-19 pandemic in Moldova”. It was implemented with the support of the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation of the German Marshall Fund and involved 1003 persons aged 18 years and over.

The study measured political trends, geo-political preferences, media consumption, as well as the impact of manipulative rhetoric, false news and conspiracy theories in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo: Lukas Blazek| Unsplash

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