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Why young people from Moldova prefer not to vote? A case study on local elections held in Chișinău

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Today, November 3rd, the second round of local elections in the Republic of Moldova are held. There are still 384 mayors to be elected. However, there are enough people who boycotted the elections by choosing to not vote at all. Especially, it is the case of young people aged 18 to 25.

Why is this happening? Let’s uncover a couple of possible problems through studying the case of local elections held in the Moldovan capital city – Chișinău.

Background

In 384 localities from Moldova (including Chișinău), no candidate had an absolute majority in the first round of local elections (more than 50% of people’s votes). Therefore, top two candidates, according to the elections’ results, must contest the second round.

For the second round of local elections, just like for the first one, a lower turnout as compared to previous local, parliamentary or presidential elections was recorded. The turnout for the parliamentary elections in February 2019 was 49.24%, those for the presidential elections in 2016 were 49.17% (first round) and 53.52% (second round). The turnout for local elections in 2015 was 47.4%. At the local elections held in October 2019 participated` 41.68% of population, out of which 6.89% were represented by voters aged 18 to 25, according to the Central Election Commission (CEC) data.

More about the first round of local elections here.

The results of local elections in Chișinău seem a copy-paste version of the way people voted last year. The same two candidates participated in the local snap elections – Ion Ceban from the Party of Socialists and Andrei Năstase from the political bloc ACUM – obtaining almost the same results in the first round. The last year local elections were won by Andrei Năstase. However, his mandate was invalidated due to the electoral agitation he made on the day of pre-election silence through a video posted on social media.

The electoral opponents Ion Ceban and Andrei Năstase

At the beginning of October 2019, the Chișinău Court of Appeal (CA) overturned the decision of the Chișinău Court, which annulled the mandate of Andrei Năstase, and issued a new decision confirming the results of the local elections of 2018 and validating the mayor mandate. But it was already too late, as Andrei Năstase and his counter-candidate Ion Ceban already had been involved in a new election campaign.

Reasons not to vote

Out of 1.1 million voters who showed up to the polls, just over 80 thousand people aged 18 to 25 (6.89%) and 271 thousand people aged 26 to 40 (23.16%) voted, whereas 8.50% of voters were young people aged 18 to 25 voted at the parliamentary elections in February 2019 and 10.07% at the presidential elections in 2016, according to CEC.

When asked about the reasons they prefer to not vote, some young people use the classic explanation that their vote does not matter, others said that they do not understand what the candidates promise in the election campaign or that they simply do not trust anybody. Young people seem to be interested in their social life online rather than offline.

At the same time, young people don’t follow political news, nor they don’t show any interest in this area. Indifference spreads from elder to younger generations and among peer groups. However, experts say it is not a specific situation for the Republic of Moldova only. Sociologist Petru Negura said that adults aged 30 to 40 have a greater awareness of integration into the community.

“Most of those who do not participate in the elections are convinced that their vote will not influence the final result. But the reality of Moldova shows the opposite. Often, the electoral polls in the country are won with a very small difference of only one vote between the candidates. Thus, the option of a single citizen can decide the fate of the elections,” anthropologist Lilia Nenescu said.

At the same time, the fact that electoral candidates are not trustworthy to their electorate, while running for the second time for the same position, tells about some issues regarding their image and the way they manage their election campaign.

Problems

Both candidates running for the mayor of Chișinău meet most of the electorate’s expectations (men with traditionalist views, religious, married, with kids). They have political backgrounds, as both of them are members of political parties and held different positions at the Government and/or the Parliament.

Still, none of them have experience in administrating a city. Their current election campaigns mostly conveyed populist statements and promises without concrete action plans. That could be observed during the debates the candidates had, as they talked less about the real problems of the municipality, bringing mutual accusations, despite the agreement of non-aggression between the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM) and the political bloc ACUM.

Moreover, when it comes to sensitive topics such as the rights of sexual minorities (e.g. organising the annual prides in Chișinău), one candidate proved to be evasive in declarations – “I will respect the Constitution and the laws of the country. The right to association is guaranteed by the Constitution. I will be as fair as possible and will respect the law,” Năstase declared – whereas another candidate chose to openly express his discriminatory attitude towards the sexual minority groups and declared he wouldn’t authorise such manifestations.

Tensions increased even more when the candidates accused each other of different misconducts. Ion Ceban accused Andrei Năstase of striving for the position of Speaker of the Parliament during the PSRM- ACUM negotiations and of lack of knowledge regarding his own sustainable urban mobility plan. Andrei Năstase accused Ion Ceban and the PSRM of being “accomplices of the real estate mafia”. Ion Ceban answered by suing his counter-candidate, demanding a moral injury equivalent to the cost of Năstase’s car – €41,000, and the series continued.

Conclusion

The described situation regarding the way the election campaign for the local elections in Chișinău was managed is applicable to other election campaigns as well. On the one hand, there are the same people running for public functions and making the same promises. On the other hand, there are the traditionalist views of the electorate, their indifference or fear to opt for a new and unknown option. That is why the same candidates run for the same function twice in Moldova in such a short period of time (one year and a half) and that is why there is a high probability that such situations would repeat over and over.

In the meantime, the people of the capital city of Moldova (and those of other localities) chooses today the lesser of two evils. Again.

Photo: Art work by Loren Fishman

Jurnalistă that speaks English very well. De aia Maria are grijă că prietenii noștri străini să nu piardă nicio informație valoroasă despre actualitatea din Moldova.

Society

“Pobeda” – the last Moldovan kolkhoz

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Copceac is a village situated near the Ukrainian border, being separated from the main territory of the Autonomous Territorial Unit (ATU) of Gagauzia. Locals proudly claim that their dialect is similar to the old Gagauz language and sounds more like orthodox version of Turkish. This could be caused by the enclaved position of the village: from one side, there is a national border with no crossing points and a Bulgarian settlement from another side.

That is not the only thing that was preserved through time in this village though. The village of Copceac has on its territory the last kolkhoz in Moldova and one of the few remaining from the entire region of Eastern Europe.

Workers of the viticulture team prepare themselves for spraying the grape gardens of Kolkhoz “Pobeda”. Copceac, Gagauzia, Republic of Moldova

Workers of the viticulture team being transported to the grape gardens of Kolkhoz “Pobeda”. Copceac, Gagauzia, Republic of Moldova.

Kolkhoz “Pobeda (tr. as “Victory”) was founded in 1947. In its best times, workers of the collective farm were growing different crops, such as sunflower, corn, grapes, tobacco, plums, peaches, as well as were raising livestock. However, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a lot of things have changed.

Archived photos from Kolkhoz “Pobeda” stored at Copceac public library. Copceac, Gagauzia, Republic of Moldova

Workers and land sections’ holders, who were used to the way things worked before, decided to continue the same way. Later on, the failed state program of land privatisation implemented during 90’s only confirmed that the decision to continue as during the Soviet period was the right one.

Still, the workers of “Pobeda” cannot enjoy their victory at the moment, being quite sober about the situation at the farm. During the most productive Soviet times, there were around 4000 people working, while today this number shrunk to around 300. In Soviet times, one had few options to do something else. Nowadays, villagers choose mainly to leave the country for seasonal work. Others work in construction business to serve those who come back with savings to build a new house.

Workers of the viticulture team tie up young trees at the grape garden of Kolkhoz “Pobeda”. Copceac, Gagauzia, Republic of Moldova.

A boy from Copceac village bought bread from the Kolkhoz “Pobeda” bakery. Copceac, Gagauzia, Republic of Moldova.

Dmitry Dragan, chief of the tractor team “brigada Nr1”, discussing how to manage second harvest of the year after heavy rains. Copceac, Gagauzia, Republic of Moldova.

Harvester operator prepares equipment for the second crops field harvest of the year. Copceac, Gagauzia, Republic of Moldova.

As some workers of the farm recalled, they were proud that it was doing well when other collective farms were broke. Meanwhile, thanks to the grants from the EU and subsidies from the state things got better.

In 2002, after the new legislation on the forms of property was adopted, Kolkhoz stopped to exist as legal entity, but still received state subsidies until 2009. For the last 11 years, there are no subsidies anymore, in contrast to other agricultural entities. When the management learned that no changes can be made to the law, they started to work on adjustment of farm’s status according to the legal framework.

There is also a local bakery in Copceac. It was opened in 2006, being located right next to the kolkhoz mill. People who hold a land section in the kolkhoz have the right to leave their wheat harvest at the bakery and instead they receive coupons. Afterwards, they can exchange their coupons to freshly baked bread or flour.

The bakery produces 1500-2000 loaves a day. Five people per shift work at the bakery, two at the mill.

Inside the mill of Copceac village. Copceac, Gagauzia, Republic of Moldova.

The mill and bakery of Kolkhoz “Pobeda” in centre of Copceac village. Copceac, Gagauzia, Republic of Moldova.

Workers of the bakery prepare dough for the new round of bread to be baked and distributed. Copceac, Gagauzia, Republic of Moldova

Giving the circumstances of Moldovan unstable politics, people are still pessimistic about the future of the country and continue to live in the present moment.

This article was made with the support of the National Endowment for Democracy.

This text is a translation. The original article here.

Photos: Ramin Mazur

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Society

Women from the left bank of the Dniester

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The village of Doroțcaia is located on the eastern side of the Dniester River, near a border crossing point installed by Transnistrian separatists back in 1992. The village, that was a battlefield during the Transnistrian war and went through gunfire and dropped bombs, is the home for 3038 inhabitants nowadays, according to the 2014 census.

“It used to be quiet in the morning. We worked until noon, after which we ran home when bombs and gunshots began to sound throughout the village. We were sleeping in cellars and were afraid that we might not wake up the next day,” revealed Nina Diordiev, a resident of the village that is now under the control of Chisinau authorities.

Most of the local agricultural lands are on the side controlled by Transnistrian authorities. That means people can’t get to their lands without presenting their identity card. Many times the separatists did not allow the locals to reach their lands, which caused them great losses. However, people said that the situation has improved since August 2018 and now they can reach their lands safely.

Doroțcaia is a sun-kissed place, cooled by the wind coming from the Dniester and inundated in flowers’ fragrance. The village has well-kept streets, a museum with centuries-old objects, a beautifully renovated cultural centre and many smiling people.

In Doroțcaia, there are 1560 women (51.3% of the total population). This article paints some of their portraits:

 Eugenia

Eugenia Berzan has been the artistic coordinator of the cultural centre since 2011. Back then, she returned from France with her whole family. She managed to organise many concerts, while introducing modern concepts. Eugenia is the screenwriter, organiser of events and the one who stays behind the curtain and makes sure that everything works perfectly. Although she likes her job, Eugenia still thinks about moving to another country after her daughters graduate from high school. “To have a better future,” as she says.

Mădălina

Mădălina Nicolaev is 8 years old and she really likes football. In time, boys had to accept her in their team. She likes to play so much that often she loses the track of time.

“My father told me that if I played so much, I would faint and fall. So I stay home until 4 p.m., after which I run to the stadium,” she said. Mădălina remembers that her mother wanted her to go to dance lessons, but she chose football.

“Don’t ask me how many times I’ve already changed soccer balls. You don’t want to know…”

Galina

Galina Leașco is a former agronomist. She spends the whole day in the greenhouse where big and flavourful tomatoes grow. Galina also has rabbits, chickens and takes care of her large garden with flowers, trees and vegetables. She is a member of the Nistrenii Folk Ensemble and a woman that always laughs, even if her eyes are full of tears, as she confesses.

Before he died, her husband had been suffering from different illnesses for 20 years. The last years were the hardest times. After a stroke, he started to have epilepsy seizures. “I always had to be by his side, but I couldn’t just stay at home, because I also had to support our three children,” Galina recalled.  She used to take him to her job during the day, and she was staying up all night. In order to make the sleepless nights easier, she began to buy and read love novels and detectives, which are now gathered in a personal library.

Angel’s star

Beside a folk ensemble, a dance troupe and a marching band, there is a a band of five 18-year-old girls called Angel’s Star in Doroțcaia. The band was formed about 5 years ago.

“I was in the 6th or 7th grade when I joined the band. It was already formed, but it still didn’t have a name and they said they needed a drummer,” said Ana, band’s drummer. The girls are the winners of international contests, doing the rehearsals in a small room of the cultural centre. The room has the walls covered with red carpets, for a better sound.

Maria

You can find the house of Maria Crocmazan amid flowers. She has a colourful and fragrant garden, which she takes care of every morning and evening, when the sun does not burn so hard. “In the morning, before work, I go to see them, talk to them and ‘rebuke’ the weed,” confessed Maria, who works as head of village’s warehouse for agricultural goods. Half of her life, she was surrounded by flowers. Maria has always loved them, planted and took care of them.

In Maria’s garden, one can find over 100 rose bushes. She says that the best gift for her is a new flower bud, for which she would choose a place in her garden. Since 2013, Maria has been living in the house she bought from the former mayor of the locality – a hardworking person who built houses, a stadium, a cultural centre, a museum, schools, and an oil mill in the village.

Nina

Nina Diordiev works as a secretary at the mayor’s office. She told us that, during the ’92 conflict, she had to come to work, issue reports and send building materials to people whose houses had been destroyed by bombs.

“It was awful. You never knew what was coming”

Nina use to say that during the summer there is no time for rest. After work, she has to work the land. “People rest during the winter,” she said.

Elena

Elena Toderiță is responsible for cleaning at the town hall and sings in the Nistrenii Folk Ensemble along with other 20 members. At least, that’s what she did until the pandemic. For the past four months, she has been singing in the kitchen. “Before, we used to say we don’t have much time, but now we want to get together,” she claimed.

Aunt Hana

Ana Gherlac is a 77-year-old woman who is also called Aunt Hana by villagers. Her whole life was marked by two wars. “I worked my entire life, but I was left with nothing,” she said. You can meet her at 8 o’clock in the morning on the way home, after she went twice to work her lands. Even if it’s hot outside and this weakens her body, her yard is kept in good order. Previously, Aunt Hana had three cows. Now, she has chickens and geese.

“I didn’t sleep at night. I cleaned, cooked, so that during the day I could go to work”

It’s getting harder now. That day, she couldn’t bring home her groceries bag from the store. “I walked a little and got down. Luckily, I met some villagers and they helped me,” Aunt Hana confessed. In 1992, a bomb fell on her house’s barn and shattered it. Her lungs were damaged when she tried to put out the fire.

This article was made with the support of the National Endowment for Democracy.

This text is a translation. The original article here.

Photos: Dionis Nicolai and Tatiana Beghiu

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Politics

Critical changes blocked in Moldovan politics – the Constitutional Court dictated the separation of powers

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On July 7, the Constitutional Court (CC) of the Republic of Moldova issued a decision, according to which, the dissolution of the Parliament in the last six months of the presidential term of office is prohibited under any circumstances, even though the president resigns during this period. Moreover, according to the same decision, holding parliamentary elections and presidential elections during the same period is prohibited. Simultaneous local elections are permitted though.

The CC took this decision after 2 members of the Parliament (MPs) submitted 2 notifications in this regard. The institution explained its decision by the fact that the separation of powers is needed, that meaning the temporal separation of the presidential and the parliamentary election campaigns.

“We are on the verge of social revolts due to the deepening poverty, as well as the injustice in the country. The Constitutional Court issued a decision that leaves no room for interpretation. From now on, a Government capable of relaunching the economy and ensuring the safety of the people of Moldova must be formed,” claimed Andrian Candu, the member of Pro Moldova (a political party formed after the separation of democrats).

The vice-president of the Dignity and Truth Platform Party, Alexandr Slusari, declared that the CC decision was predictable. “It was clear for us from the the very beginning that simultaneous parliamentary and presidential elections is a wrong and strictly political path. […] If several MPs had acted in unison, without making use of a hidden agenda, the Chicu government would have long gone down in history,” he said.

Socialists consider the current Parliament as being compromised, as it ‘sunk’ into many corruption scandals and the opposition boycotted legislature’s plenary sessions for several times already. “We addressed the CC to make this clarification. We would have liked to save the citizens’ money and to hold the snap parliamentary elections on the same day as the presidential elections, on November 1,” is mentioned in a press release published on the page of the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova.

“In this context, we support the idea of President Igor Dodon that, the first decree signed by the head of state after the autumn presidential elections must be about the dissolution of the current compromised Parliament and holding snap parliamentary elections,” is also declared in the press release.

The socialists’ dissatisfaction is especially reasoned by 3 failed attempts of the Parliament to meet in plenary session, during which the bills for which Chicu’s Government took responsibility before the Parliament were supposed to be communicated. Opposition MPs urged the Government to withdraw its bills from Parliament and register them for parliamentary scrutiny.

Photo: Facebook| The Parliament of the Republic of Moldova

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