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Were the parliamentary elections in the Republic of Moldova free and fair? The conclusion of election observation missions

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Several national and international elections observation missions issued official statements and reports comprising preliminary findings and conclusions regarding the parliamentary elections in the Republic of Moldova held on February 24th. Some of them raised a red flag, expressing their concerns about the way the election process was organised.

The OSCE International Election Observation Mission of the parliamentary elections mentioned in its report that “The 24 February 2019 parliamentary elections were competitive and fundamental rights were generally respected.”

The report stated that due to the control and ownership of the media by political actors, the range of viewpoints presented to voters was limited. In the same time, “most aspects of the elections were administered in a professional and transparent manner.”

Taking into consideration that these were the first elections held under the mixed electoral system and that a referendum was held on the same day, “the electoral bodies faced difficulties with reconciling result protocols” and it also “caused confusion among some voters and commission members.”

Even though the report highlighted that “the legal framework generally provided an adequate basis for conducting democratic elections,” it also mentioned that the lack of transparency in the way some polling stations were allocated “contributed to the perception that the decision was made for political reasons.” Here is important to add that several polling stations abroad were allocated in small cities of Italy or USA, for example, in contradiction to the Moldovan voters’ preliminary registration for the elections.

The OSCE report brought up the subject of media reflection of the electoral campaigning, saying that some national TV channels did not comply with the legal requirements to provide fair, balanced and impartial campaign coverage.

“Main campaign messages focused on socio-economic issues, while geopolitical and foreign policy topics received less attention.”

Additionally, the report noted the “large-scale bussing of voters from Transnistria and that police initiated an investigation into whether some of them were paid to vote.”

On the other hand, the statement of Transparency International – Moldova on monitoring parliamentary elections was less optimistic:

“Transparency International – Moldova expresses its deep concern about the spread of political corruption in the Republic of Moldova and the superficiality with which some institutions have monitored the parliamentary elections of February 24, 2019.”

The organisation noted that “these elections took place in conditions of state capture, when most of the relevant public institutions demonstrated political fidelity to the ruling party, often neglecting legal rigor.”

The context mentioned by Transparency International – Moldova included money laundering; the legislative initiatives dedicated to legalizing money with fraudulent provenience (the citizenship by investment law and the law on capital liberalization and the fiscal amnesty); modifying the electoral system, despite the recommendations of the Venice Commission; issuing integrity certificates to compromised candidates; massive persecution of political opponents, local leaders, civic activists through law enforcement institutions and controlled media; mass transportation of voters from Transnistria and their compulsion to vote for a specific candidate for payment; launching populist projects involving enormous public resources by the parties in power; impeding the diaspora to vote using expired passports or contest this limitation of the right to vote, etc.

The Civic Coalition for Free and Fair Elections assessed the parliamentary elections of February 24th, 2019 as incorrect and partially free. The assessment was made based on the electoral system modification prior to the elections, use of the administrative resources in electoral campaigning, voters bribing, restriction of the voting rights of citizens from diaspora, lacunae and errors in the State Electoral Register and voter rolls, intimidation of national observers and attempts to compromise civic education campaigns, etc.

The Promo-LEX Observation Mission for the parliamentary elections of February 24, 2019 presented in a press release 420 incidents that occurred during the election day. The incidents included 8 cases of providing restricted access or obstruction of free observation in the polling station, 22 cases of violence or intimidation of voters, 22 cases of rumours, attempts, or even factual material or monetary rewards offered to voters in the perimeter and /or near the polling station to influence the voters’ choice, 38 cases of unjustified group voting, 24 cases of unjustified presence of unauthorized persons within the polling station, 18 cases of electoral campaigning or adverse campaigning at the entrance to/in the polling station in order to influence the voters’ choice, 39 cases of organised transportation of voters, 61 cases of deficiencies in electoral lists (address discrepancies, deceased voters, signatures in place of other people), 13 cases of deficiencies in the operation of the SIAS Elections System (suspension of operation, situations when SIAS Elections System indicates that the voter voted, and he claims not to), 50 cases of photographing of ballot papers or other violations of the secret voting, 4 cases of voting of a suspiciously large number of voters residing at one and the same address, and others.

Photo: sputnik.md

Important

Democrats leave government to the new coalition

The decision was taken after today’s National Political Council of the Plahotniuc’s party, announced Vladimir Cebortari, vice-president of the DPM.

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According to Cebotari, DPM’s decision is a clear signal that the Democratic Party no longer holds power in the country.

“However, our decision will not solve the constitutional blockade,” Cebotari said.

“Regardless of what solutions will be found, as long as we have the decisions of the CC in place, the Government that will be installed will operate illegally, and the officials of the institutions will not be legally able to execute the decisions of such a Government and will be in a situation of legal risk. That is why final elections will be reached, as it’s the only way to solve the crisis created by the binomial Socialist Party–’ACUM’ bloc legally and completely,” finalized the DPM vice-president.

Vladimir Cebotari said that the next move on behalf of the DPM should be expected. However, it might be way too early to call it good news just yet.

Two days ago, the leaders of the bloc ‘ACUM’ Maia Sandu and Andrei Nastase asked the Moldovan citizens to come to Parliament for the  “march of the people” on Sunday, June 16th. President Igor Dodon, too, called on the country’s citizens and his supporters to participate in the march, in support of the new government.

Maia Sandu warned that “the Plahotniuc regime will do everything in its power to prevent citizens from coming to the march of the people. They will try to stop public transport, threaten drivers, block the streets.”

“Prepare yourself! Come early, come to your relatives’s place and stay overnight in town. Offer car seats to those who wish, but don’t have the possibility to join. They stop the cars? We walk! They will hear our every step and see that Moldova doesn’t belong to them, but to the people and children of Moldova,” said Maia Sandu at the press conference.

She addressed all police officers who refuse to obey to Plahotniuc’s orders as well as those responsible for national security and citizens to maintain public order and ensure that no citizen of this country would suffer.

Will Plahotniuc’s remaining army find ways to prevent the event from happening? How many of Moldova’s remaining people will attend the rally? That’s for us to find out on the coming Sunday.

Rebranding of DPM’s logo: Constantin Șarcov

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Cristina Balan, the Moldovan ambassador to the US and former DPM vice-president, is ignoring new MFA’s recall for consultations in Chisinau

Moldovan Ambassador to the US Cristina Balan ignored the order of the new Moldovan Foreign Minister in the Government of Maia Sandu, Nicu Popescu, in which she was asked to present herself no later than today, June 14, 2019, at 3 pm, for consultations in Chisinau.

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According to Nicu Popescu, this confirmed that Cristina Balan chose to execute the diplomacy of Plahotniuc’s Democratic Party, instead of the state’s diplomacy.

“I reiterated to the US authorities that from now on, all the steps taken by Balan are made on her own account, and do not reflect in any way the position of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova”, claims Nicu Popescu.

He mentioned that he has decided to submit to the Government of the Republic of Moldova the proposal to dismiss Mrs. Cristina Balan from the position of ambassador of the Republic of Moldova to the United States of America.

Cristina Balan is the former vice-president of PDM, where she was responsible for the DPM’s foreign affairs management. Oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc was elected to this position on May 8, 2018.

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What we need to know about the recent ECHR decision on behalf of Turkish teachers’ expulsion

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Not many might remember, but quite a while ago, on the morning of September 6, 2018, seven Turkish citizens were expelled from Moldova. SIS previously stated that the seven Turkish citizens might have had links to an Islamist group, a group about which there are indications that they are carrying out illegal actions in several countries.

However, this doesn’t only concern President Dodon, who – although not capable of suitably commenting on the outrageous events – seemed to have had very close ties with the Turkish President. Additionally, in September, the ECHR was notified in connection with the expulsion of the seven Turkish citizens from Moldova by Vitalie Nagacevschi, the president of the “Lawyers for Human Rights” Association. Shortly after the application was filed, the ECHR told that it had notified the case and asked the Moldovan Government (then led by Pavel Filip) for explanations regarding the expulsion of Turkish teachers. Back when the Plahotniuc–Dodon (DPM-SPM) cooperation was still running, a reasonable explanation on behalf of a Democratic Party member like PM Filip would have been impossible.

In the explanations submitted to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) regarding the case of Turkish citizens, the Moldovan Government stated that it did not violate the procedure for declaring them undesirable and escorting from the country.

*

Yesterday, ECHR issued a decision communicating that Moldova violated the rights of foreign nationals expelled from the territory of the Republic of Moldova in September 2018. The ECHR detected a violation of Articles 5.1 and 8 of the Convention on Human Rights, and this is what it has decided:

The Moldovan Government will have to pay € 25,000 for five of the seven Turkish citizens whose rights have been violated and who filed complaints before the Court.

In front of the Court, the applicants said they were illegally detained on the morning of September 6 and that they were being illegally handed over to the Turkish authorities. The Moldovan Government has admitted that Turkish citizens have been detained but has told the Court that this was justified and the plaintiffs did not oppose the expulsion to their country of origin.

Although the Government of Chisinau insists on not being aware of the applicants’ fears of being expelled to Turkey, the Court notes that in the asylum applications the plaintiffs clearly expressed their fear of being persecuted. At the same time, in its decision of 4 September 2018, the Bureau of Migration and Asylum considered that the applicants’ fear of being politically persecuted in Turkey was well founded in connection with these asylum applications.

More so, since the applicants have integrated into the Moldovan society and have genuine family relationships, the Court considered that their expulsion from Moldova radically disturbed their private and family relationships. Therefore, Lawyers for Human Rights noted that there has been an interference with their rights in this respect.

Today however, Nicolae Frumosu – the lawyer of the Turkish citizens, declared undesirable and remote from the territory of the Republic of Moldova, claims that the government agent did not submit any evidence that teachers constituted or constituted a danger to security and the order of the Republic of Moldova to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Image result for nicolae frumosu

“The ‘Orizont’ Moldovan-Turkish Lyceum file is not yet complete,” said Frumosu.

According to him, the most important aspect is that “neither before has the European Court of Human Rights, the government official, the Moldovan state submitted any evidence that the applicants constituted or constituted a danger to the security and public order of R Moldova”. The lawyer says he does not have any current information about the status and situation of Turkish teachers.

What’s next?

“There are national disputes regarding Turkish citizens. Here I am referring to challenging decisions on refusal to grant refugee status as well as challenging the decisions of the Migration and Asylum Bureau regarding the declaration as an undesirable person of those persons with their removal under escort. Many of these cases were discontinued on the part of the proceedings because of the lack of empowerment, whether they were taken out of service, or that they had been surrendered or refused to be received. But there are a few files still pending at national courts,” concluded the lawyer.

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