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.
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.
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.
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.
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
A leopard never changes its spots or the ambitions of President Igor Dodon
Recently, a minority government was established in the Republic of Moldova at the initiative of the Moldovan president – Igor Dodon. It was formed of only one party – the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM) – which is unofficially led by Igor Dodon (according to the law, the president can’t be a member of a political party). The socialists helped by democrats (the Democratic Party of Moldova – DPM) offered the confidence vote to the Government led by Ion Chicu, who is a closely connected person to the president. Therefore, President Dodon has now more and more influence on the key state institutions for promoting his own vision on how the things should be done in the Republic of Moldova. How is that possible? Let’s take it one by one.
On November 12th, the government led by Maia Sandu fell as a result of the no-confidence motion submitted by PSRM in the Parliament. The representatives of the previous government coalition (PSRM and the political bloc ACUM) couldn’t reach a compromise regarding submitting the list of candidates for the position of Prosecutor General. The no-confidence motion was voted by 63 Members of the Parliament (MPs) – 34 MPs from PSRM and 29 deputies from DPM.
The next day, socialists declared their support for the initiative of President Igor Dodon to create a minority Government. “It will be made up of professionals, apolitical and technocratic people, to ensure the good development and progress of the Republic of Moldova. […] The next Government will be a technocratic one, not a political one. However, the Government will have all the powers to implement the economic and social projects that the PSRM has promoted so far.” it was said in a PSRM statement.
Political experts though, have very big doubts that an apolitical minority government controlled by one political party is possible, from the very beginning, being clear that it will be directly connected to PSRM and President Dodon.
In such a way, beside assuming the responsibility for the minority government in Moldova, PSRM is currently represented by the speaker and the vice-president of the Parliament, as well as by four members of the Permanent Bureau of the legislative power.
The new prime minister along with the new Government were appointed as quick as lighting, President Dodon said there is no reason to wait 90 days as the law stipulates and Ion Chicu (the former adviser of the President Dodon) was appointed the prime minister of the country. In reality, all of it seemed like a hell of a plan: ruling in a coalition to gain credibility internationally and, at the proper moment, getting rid of it and establishing a new, controllable Government with the support of own political party.
Beside Prime Minister Ion Chicu, there are five more former advisers to the head of state who were appointed Ministers in the new Cabinet, as well as the PSRM lawyer. That is one of the reasons why the newly established Government can’t be categorised as apolitical by political analysts and civil society.
The first signs of attempting to control the Government were openly manifested at the first sitting of the Cabinet of Ministers, which was personally chaired by the President Dodon, even though that challenges the principle of separation of power in a state. The sitting was suddenly and without any explanation held behind closed doors, albeit it was initially announced as public.
“The Government led by Chicu is meant to solve problems certainly in the interests of society, but especially in the interests of the head of state. This is obvious,” declared the analyst Igor Boțan for FRE/RL.
Former Prime Minister Maia Sandu declared that she had information about negotiations between President Dodon, socialists and democrats to tear down the government since September. “No matter if we had assumed the responsibility (for the amendments to the Law on Prosecutor’s Office) or not, the government would have been anyway dismissed.[…] I was aware that, once Plahotniuc was away, Dodon would also try to subordinate the state institutions, but we could not fight both Plahotniuc and Dodon at the same time. We had to get rid of the most toxic first. The fact that Dodon subsequently violated the agreements with ACUM, showed his true self,” said Maia Sandu in an interview for G4Media.ro.
The Prosecutor General
The General Prosecutor’s Office (GPO) has a new Prosecutor General – Alexandr Stoianoglo, the only candidate (out of 4 proposed) who previously had a political (DPM) affiliation. President Igor Dodon signed the decree and presented him to the GPO. Everything happened in less than 24 hours since the interviews with candidates were conducted. “The appointment of the Prosecutor General is a long awaited moment, in order to overcome the deadlock of the General Prosecutor’s Office. I reiterate that, nowadays, the Republic of Moldova cannot afford to maintain a key institution in a semi-functional regime,” declared Igor Dodon.
Despite the lawsuit filed by the deputy of Prosecutor General Eduard Bulat against the Ministry of Justice, as well as the allegations made by former Minister of Justice Olesea Stamate, the same list of four candidates for the position of Prosecutor General was transmitted to the Superior Council of Prosecutors (SCP) by the decision of the new Minister of Justice, Fadei Nagacevschi.
More details on the subject here.
“The political situation that took place around the dismissal of the Government led by Sandu and the appointment of the Government led by Chicu was the high stake of President Igor Dodon to obtain and take control of the Prosecutor General, which would give him personal comfort and neutralise any surprise that could have appeared in the case of an independent prosecutor, as well as would ensure him a smooth election campaign and the second term in the next presidential elections,” opinated the economic expert Veaceslav Negruța in a press conference organised by IPN and Radio Moldova.
Accent TV (one of four TV stations affiliated with PSRM) has been renamed “the First in Moldova” and has obtained the right to re-transmit the broadcasts of the Russian main TV station Pervii Kanal. After the creation of “the First in Moldova” TV channel, Telesistem TV SRL (the founder of Accent TV) requested to the Audiovisual Council (AC) to issue a new broadcast license for the TV station Accent TV. Previously, Prime TV, a TV station affiliated with the former democrat leader Vladimir Plahotniuc, had this exclusive right.
Additionally, two other televisions – NTV Moldova, which re-transmits the Russian NTV channel, and Exclusiv TV, which re-transmits the Russian TV station TNT – are both administered by Exclusiv Media SRL, founded by the PSRM member Corneliu Furculiță.
As a result of these events, several NGOs from Moldova expressed their concern about the latest decisions of the AC, which would, according to them, stimulate media monopolisation in the Republic of Moldova. Also, the NGOs drew the attention of the AC members to the fact that PSRM affiliated TV stations reflect the most important topics on the public agenda by strongly favouring and promoting the PSRM members.
“It may happen that we will have an ideology that dominates the country again. We already had a time when everyone was thinking the same way. This led to nothing. The history repeats itself. When the government is changing, the redistribution of the media market is beginning. It’s sad. It proves that we didn’t develop as a society, as a state or as a political culture,” said the media expert Ion Bunduchi.
Igor Dodon is one of the most trusted persons in the Moldovan society. According to the last survey performed by the Public Opinion Fund, 26% of respondents said they trust President Igor Dodon the most. Therefore, having the society’s support, control over media and the most important state institutions, it seems that the plans of President Dodon to gain the second presidential seat and switch to the presidential system have a big potential to become true. But will they?
Former Prime Minister Vladimir Filat was released from detention
Former prime minister Vladimir Filat was freed from detention on December 3rd, after a request was registered at the Chișinău District Court by the administration of the prison no. 13 (the prison where the former prime minister spent his detention) on November 12th. The detention of Vladimir Filat was reduced by 709 days based on the decision of the national court as compensation for the inhuman and degrading treatment that was inflicted to him.
Vladimir Filat was supposed to serve a nine years prison sentence until November 5th, 2022. However, the law provides for the possibility of conditional release after serving 2/3 of the sentence. The former prime minister could have been released from detention on October 15th, 2021.
However, in July and October this year, there were two court decisions (based on a decision of the European Court of Human Rights) on reducing the sentence by 709 days, as a compensation for the bad conditions of detention. Thus, after the execution of 709 days reduction, it was concluded that Vladimir Filat has already reached 2/3 of his sentence on November 6th.
“Filat was sentenced to nine years in prison. Two-thirds of the sentence is six years. Now he’s four years old. One year was calculated for two, because he was sentenced in inhuman conditions. […] The law allows that when there are no civil actions and no recovery of damages,” explained Filat’s lawyer Ion Vâzdoaga for TV8.
Vladimir Filat was sentenced to nine years of imprisonment on October 15th, 2015, being found guilty of passive corruption and traffic of influence. His criminal case was directly related to the disappearance of one billion dollars from 3 banks of the Republic of Moldova.
There is also a second criminal case, in which the former prime minister is charged with committing large-scale money laundering. The former prime minister pleads innocent.
Violence against women in Moldova. Facts and figures
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) launched the “Break the Silence” campaign in the Republic of Moldova and throughout Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, on the occasion of the annual 16-Day Activism Against Violence campaign. According to the OSCE research, women who face violence in Moldova rarely contact the police.
The study revealed that three out of four women think that violence against women (VAW) is common in Moldova. Cases of VAW remain under-reported to police and other specialised organisations because of a lack of trust in institutions among women and a limited specialised services for survivors of violence. Also, according to the survey conducted within the OSCE study, one third of women personally know someone subjected to domestic violence among their family and friends, and the same percentage within their local neighbourhood. Two out of five women say that they have experienced physical or sexual violence since the age of 15 by a partner or non-partner.
Therefore, just as in other countries where the survey was conducted – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo and Ukraine – violence against women remains a huge social problem in Moldova, as well as a serious violation of human rights and the most serious form of discrimination against women. “The research conducted by the OSCE is essential for raising awareness with policy and lawmakers, but also the general public, law enforcement agencies and many other stakeholders. […] Attitudes, norms, and beliefs that justify violence against women need to be tackled at their root, as they continue to perpetuate this grave human rights violation. This survey provides the information needed to take action,” said Serani Siegel, OSCE Project Manager.
According to a study conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), violence against women is more common among women in rural areas, the phenomenon is more often with the age of the woman and it is indirectly related to her level of education. The married women are more reluctant to report cases of violence and, consequently, the highest rates of reported VAW is recorded for divorced women and widows.
60% of women from Moldova reported at least one form of psychological violence, while physical violence was disclosed by about 40% of women. About 19% of women said they suffered sexual violence at least once in their life. (Violence against women report, NBS, 2011)
13 women were killed by one family member, and another 22 women lost their lives as a result of traumas caused by their partners since 2018, as NGOs official data revealed.
Most of the time, the women do not report the cases of violence because they are afraid of the aggressor, they are blamed by the society, they do not trust the authorities and the judiciary, they do not have sufficient financial resources and employment opportunities (especially if they have children), and the support services are insufficient or even missing.
Several organisations and representatives of civil society are calling for the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) until the end of 2019. The NGOs from Moldova also launched an appeal the President of the Parliament of Moldova Zinaida Greceanîi and to Prime Minister Ion Chicu.
The Istanbul Convention is currently the most effective international tool to ensure the prevention and fight against VAW, being based on the belief that VAW seriously violates the fundamental rights to life, security, freedom, dignity, physical and emotional integrity of women. The document calls on implementation of comprehensive and coordinated policies against this type of violence, governmental support for specialised non-governmental organisations (NGOs), collection of relevant data, changes in social and cultural models for eradication of prejudices, customs, traditions and other practices, which are based on the idea of inferiority of women or on stereotypical roles for women and men.
The document also provides for the development of support services for victims, raising awareness, education and training of professionals, participation of private sector and media in preventing and combating violence, etc.
The Istanbul Convention was signed by Moldova on February 6th, 2017 but until now its ratification has been delayed, even though the representatives of the Government and the Parliament have repeatedly assumed a public commitment in this regard.
Moldova is part of the European Convention on Human Rights since September 12th, 1997. The Convention is the main instrument within the Council of Europe for guaranteeing fundamental human rights. Moldova also has an obligation not to infringe the guaranteed rights and freedoms and to ensure adequate judicial protection.
Since 2008, the Republic of Moldova regulated domestic violence, adopting the Law on Preventing and Combating Domestic Violence. The law prohibits the aggressor from approaching victims for a specific period. Still, the authorities do not have an effective mechanism of protection, as the victim is rarely offered a place in a specialised centre, psychological counselling and material assistance.
In 2017, the Government of the Republic of Moldova adopted the National Strategy on Prevention and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence for 2018-2023 and the National Action Plan for 2018-2020 regarding its implementation.
The National Coalition “Life without domestic violence” is an informal platform that gathered 21 NGOs and public institutions that try to do their best in their work to prevent and fight against domestic violence.
The Coalition members managed to provide telephone counselling, emergency and long-term psychological counselling, legal, primary and qualified assistance, social assistance, financial support, material and placement to 5600 beneficiaries, working in 1681 localities with the direct involvement of 200 specialists.
There are also local projects supported by international organisations involved in fighting against VAW. One of them is “Combating violence against women in the Republic of Moldova: exploring and learning from local solutions” – a pilot project from Autonomous Territorial Unit (ATU) Gagauzia, supported by UNDP Moldova. The purpose of this project is to help the local implementation of the the National Strategy on Prevention and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence for 2018-2023 and to use the lessons learned, as well as the results of the initiative proposed in the pilot project, for offering improved policy recommendations to the decision makers.
Photo: Tumisu – Pixabay
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