Igor Boțan: Postal voting is welcome, but opposition’s arguments should be examined

The government’s initiative to enable categories of voters abroad to vote by post, along with the traditional voting method with physical presence at ballot boxes, is welcome, but the arguments of the opposition should be seriously examined because they can be useful for improving the bill that provides for this, the permanent expert of IPN’s project Igor Boțan stated in a public debate titled “Postal voting: pros and cons”.

The expert expressed his disagreement with the argument of the BCS MP Grigore Novac, from the debate’s panel, who said that within the pilot project on the implementation of postal voting, which offers this right only to voters settled in Canada and the United States, choosing a particular area for experiments discriminates against others. He noted that in this case it does not go to discrimination. On the contrary, it goes to an area where an alternative is proposed and a positive thing is that the citizens can still participate in elections with physical presence. Postal voting means only that the state assumes the expenses, while the costs associated with traveling to polling stations, where distances are large, are covered by the citizens.

On the other hand, Igor Boțan agreed with MP Grigore Novac’s assertion that, by adopting this law, a facilitation is ensured for certain categories of citizens, such as the Moldovan citizens from the U.S. and Canada. He also agreed that the bill could be renamed as the notion of piloting has a temporary experimental charge.

The expert reminded that in the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova there is Article 30 “Secrecy of correspondence”. He believes that when postal voting is initiated, we start from the realities of the Republic of Moldova. “Postal voting is not based on “Poșta Moldovei”. Polling stations operating with postal voting are taken outside “Poșta Moldovei”. The citizen who secretly exercises his/her vote and the Election Commission are linked to each other not by “Poșta Moldovei”, but by the mail of the state where the postal voting takes place with the electoral bureau of the respective constituency abroad, which handles these ballot papers that will subsequently reach the Republic of Moldova by diplomatic mail. This is something we cannot ignore,” he said.

Igor Boțan opined that when we resort to postal voting, we must rely on the quality of mail and on the fact that the countries where postal voting takes place are democratic states that respect the secrecy of correspondence. The expert also proposed criteria that can be universally established to identify countries where postal voting takes place, including: democratic countries (states where periodic changes of power take place), distance between localities, information on how mail works.

He noted that long-term observers abroad are not necessary. In Moldova, the effect of long-term observers provided by Promo-LEX Association is useful, but it is not immediate. The synthesis of their work is materialized through amendments to the law. In contrast, overseas the observers immediately report particular irregularities. “Another positive thing for large parties is that postal voting in the future can motivate large parties, either opposition or government ones, to carry out a targeted activity for communicating with the diaspora. The specificity of the Republic of Moldova is that almost a third of the citizens entitled to vote are abroad and we cannot leave them without communication. Postal voting is practiced in a series of countries and it works,” concluded the expert.

The public debate entitled “Postal voting: pros and cons” was the 303rd installment of IPN’s project “Developing Political Culture through Public Debates”, which is implemented with support from the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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