The amendments made to the electoral and related legislation, including the Contravention Code and the Penal Code, have been debated intensely and controversially in the recent past as not only the quality of the future elections, but also the state of democracy in Moldova depend on the quality of the electoral legislation. The fact that Parliament devoted special attention to this issue by giving a first reading to important amendments on July 9 and by holding broad public consultations on July 14 confirms the importance of this topic. The subject was discussed in a public debate entitled “Amendments to the Election Code: advantages and risks to democracy” that was staged by IPN News Agency.
Igor Boțan, IPN project’s standing expert, said the preamble to the Election Code says “the people’s will is the basis of the power in the state. This will is expressed in free elections that are held periodically by universal, equal, direct, secret and free suffrage. The state guarantees the expression of the people’s free will by defending the democratic values and norms of the electoral law”. When it goes to the role of the legislation in a democracy, we should start from the definition saying that democracy is institutionalized freedom. This way, the elections are mechanisms that ensure the institutionalization of freedom and its transformation into state power, as the Constitution provides,” stated the expert.
According to Igor Boțan, the Central Election Commission is the main player in the process of amending the electoral legislation. This is a public institution that organizes and manages the electoral process. “Under the Election Code, the CEC, after each electoral cycle, is obliged to analyze the way in which the elections were held and should formulate proposals for improving the electoral legislation. Among other players interested in the electoral process are local and international observers who oversee the elections. An important role is also played by the political parties, primarily the parliamentary ones. Their role is to promote their interests by debates in the legislative body, taking into account the necessity of a balance and not ignoring their colleagues from extraparliamentary parties,” noted Igor Boțan.
According to him, the recently amendments are very important as the CEC analyzed the electoral legislation after the local elections of October 2019, including after the parliamentary elections of February 2019. The OSCE also presented a compilation of the observations gathered from different elections and mentioned the main proposals that should be taken into consideration. In such conditions, the basis for amending the electoral legislation was formed. Many amendments are made to the Election Code in time as things evolve. The electoral legislation was adjusted also because the Administrative Code, which was earlier called the Code of Audiovisual Media Services, was adjusted. Important things related to personal data protection appear. It is a mistake to believe that no new changes will be needed in the future.
Socialist MP Grigore Novac said that when the amendments were discussed in Parliament in the first reading, there was more understanding. But the opinions changed overnight and this is worrisome. The Parliament’s commission for appointments and immunities thoroughly discussed the amendments today, July 15. A final decision will be yet taken by the legislature. Even if an amendment wasn’t accepted by the Commission, this can be adopted in Parliament yet.
“During the last few days, I heard a lot of pompous statements that there is a danger. I would say that these statements are strange. When they hear them, the ordinary people become alarmed as no arguments are provided as to what the danger is and how great it is,” stated the MP. According to him, there are legislative proposals as to the organized transportation of voters.
“But a question appears here, if this deviation will also be ascertained outside the country, where the diaspora mobilized through social networking sites, organizing transport etc. How will the violation be determined in such cases? I think in such conditions, it goes to the applicability of the law as the logically explained proposals are supported by anyone,” he stated, noting there were also discriminatory proposals that weren’t accepted, including as regards voting during two days in the diaspora. The opposition MPs say one thing today, but do another thing tomorrow and are against what they supported initially.
Party of Auction and Solidarity MP Sergiu Litvinenco noted that his colleague Grigore Novac has no problems with the amendments of the electoral legislation several months before the elections, as he had no problems with the adoption of the mixed electoral system that was practically imposed by Vlad Plahotniuc. “But the Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters adopted by the Venice Commission and the Constitutional Court’s case law clearly say that the electoral rules, primarily those that limit particular rights, cannot be adopted within minimum a year before the elections. Particular proposals generate questions. Moreover, they are biased and advantage a particular candidate – Igor Dodon,” stated the MP.
Sergiu Litvinenco also said that the bill to amend the electoral legislation is divided into three chapters, the first being strictly terminological in character. This adjusts definitions, technical matters that in time generated problems. “There are practically no divergences here. By the second chapter, effort is made to deal with the six opinions formulated by the Constitutional Court after the validation of the presidential elections of 2016. Some of the issues are solved, while others are only partially or formally solved. But the third chapter contains controversial, debatable issues that are even biased. An example is the attempt to limit the voting period and this is made during a pandemic, when distance should be maintained, etc. This is a matter that limits the people’s right to vote. As regards the transportation of voters, including in the Transnistrian region at the elections of 2016 or of 2019, things here are diametrically opposed to the situation in the diaspora. You cannot distinguish between a sincere, freely expressed vote and an influenced, manipulated, bought vote as the one witnessed in 2019,” stated Sergiu Litvinenco.
The debate “Amendments to the Election Code: advantages and risks to democracy” was the 144th installment of the series “Developing political culture through public debates” that is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation.