IRI Preliminary Statement on Moldovan Parliamentary Elections

Chisinau, Moldova – “Moldova’s February 24 parliamentary elections are a step forward in terms of electoral administration and public trust in the electoral process,” said former Congressman and International Republican Institute (IRI) Board Member Jim Kolbe, in releasing IRI’s preliminary report.

IRI’s international delegation of short-term observers was led by Mr. Kolbe, IRI Vice President for Programs Scott Mastic and IRI Regional Director for Eurasia Stephen Nix. The delegation also included parliamentarians and party officials from Belgium, Sweden, Lithuania, Ukraine, and the United States, as well as IRI staff from Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine and Macedonia.

IRI’s preliminary statement reflects a composite view of both the pre-election environment, including registration of initiative groups and candidates, formation of electoral administrations, campaigning, the media environment and legal issues, and Election Day administration and voting.

“Moldova’s new, mixed system of elections presented a potential challenge to voters in terms of which candidates they were voting for.  However, Moldovans met the challenge which is reflected in the low number of voided ballots,” said IRI’s Director of Eurasia Stephen Nix.

KEY FINDINGS

Election Day

IRI congratulates the Central Election Commission of Moldova (CEC) for a well-organized and well-run voting process. IRI observers noted that election workers at the precinct level (PEC) conducted themselves in a professional manner and that PEC leadership was well versed in electoral procedures. IRI also commends election commissions for the significant number of women in PEC leadership positions. 

The registry check used to verify voter identity and as a safeguard against multiple voting is a significant improvement to the credibility of Moldova’s elections.  The voter registry appeared to be generally accurate and did not detract from the efficient administration of the electoral process.

Due to a change in law, campaigning was for the first time allowed on Election Day.  Although this created the possibility for confusion, IRI’s observers reported a calm environment outside virtually all polling stations visited. However, observers noted that voters questioned the legality of Election Day campaigning several times, suggesting some were not fully aware of the change in law.  IRI observers did not witness Election Day intimidation of voters.  Of the 223 polling stations visited by IRI’s observers, IRI noted that nearly 66 percent were not accessible to persons with disabilities.

IRI observers noted the participation of large numbers of Transnistrian voters at certain polling stations, which at times resulted in long lines. IRI urges Moldova’s electoral authorities to make more polling stations accessible in areas frequented by these voters and to clearly inform Transnistrian voters of their designated polling sites.

IRI noted that long Election Day hours, combined with the large number of ballots to sort and count, placed a burden on election officials attempting to earnestly perform their duties.

Pre-Election Environment

IRI’s long term observers (LTOs) monitored the process of signature verification by the District Election Commissions (DECs) and found a substantial number of signatures were invalidated. LTOs reported concerns regarding the verification of signatures because evaluation of authenticity was done in an arbirtrary manner by DEC representatives.

Election commissions were formed according to deadlines and were fully staffed and worked without barriers.  Trainings were conducted by the CEC Center for Continuous Electoral Training by qualified trainers and were well attended.

On January 19, the CEC approved the establishment of 125 polling stations outside Moldova. However, the state budget had envisioned 150 PECs. IRI believes the rationale for the number and location of polling stations outside Moldova could have been undertaken in a more transparent manner.

IRI’s LTOs concluded the election campaign was conducted in a peaceful and orderly manner. However, candidate debates, which were not well attended, were a missed opportunity to address issues important to voters. The absence of lively political debate restricts the voter’s ability to make a comparison between candidates.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. IRI believes the voter registry check has made a significant contribution to increasing citizen confidence in electoral integrity.  IRI urges the CEC to continue using the verification system in future elections, including the next local elections.

  2. Noting the participation of large numbers of Transnistrian voters in the elections, IRI urges Moldova’s electoral authorities to make more polling stations accessible in future elections and to clearly inform Transnistrian voters as to their designated polling sites.

  3. The large number of polling stations that were not accessible to persons with disabilities represents a challenge to full civic participation in the electoral process, IRI urges local authorities to make a concerted effort to address this problem in future elections.

  4. IRI recommends that political parties and candidates make greater use of opportunities to present platforms and address critical policy issues, including through more active participation in candidate debates.

  5. In order to avoid inadvertent errors in vote tabulation due to fatigue, IRI recommends that the CEC streamline sorting, counting and verification procedures at the PEC level.

IRI Election Observation Mission

IRI's report is based on the observations of 46 Election Day observers. The observers visited 223 polling stations located in 101 villages, towns and cities.  IRI’s delegation visited 43 of 48 single-mandate districts across Moldova. The mission also included an observer at the Central Election Commission. This was IRI’s first international election observation mission in Moldova.

The short-term observers deployed to Moldova on February 19 for briefings with political parties across the spectrum of Moldovan politics, as well as government officials such as Chair of the Central Election Commission, Alina Russu, President Igor Dodon, Prime Minister Pavel Filip and Speaker of Parliament Andrian Candu. These teams visited rural and urban locations across Moldova, monitoring polling stations on Election Day.

IRI’s long-term observation team included fourteen long-term observers, and three long term analysts (legal, electoral and media).  LTOs have been in Moldova since early December and have conducted more than 855 interviews and meetings with election stakeholders and attended over 175 events including political rallies, campaign events and court proceedings throughout the country. LTOs have been based in Edinet, Ungheni, Orhei, Anenii Noi, Hancesti, Comrat and Chisinau. The observers released interim reports of their findings in January and February that can be found on IRI’s web portal https://www.electionportal.org/.

Responding to requests for the Institute to continue observing the post-election environment, IRI has pledged that its LTOs will remain in the country to monitor the adjudication of election complaints and the election validation process, including by attending court hearings, CEC briefings and other post-election activities. IRI observers will conclude their mission on March 26, 2019.

Background

The International Republican Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to advancing freedom and democracy worldwide. IRI enables political parties to become more issue-based and responsive, helps promote citizen-centered governance, and works to increase the role of marginalized groups in the political process. Since 1983, IRI has observed more than 200 elections in roughly 60 countries.

IRI has provided valuable support to Moldova in consolidating its democratic transition and assisting in the establishment of more participatory, inclusive, transparent and accountable government processes since 2003.  IRI works to promote accountability and inclusivity in the Moldovan political landscape as well as supports the development of democratic issue-based political parties that are responsive to citizens.

For more information, visit www.iri.org.