Public debate: Characteristic features of the elections of October 20, 2019

Press-Release
on the organization of the debate
Characteristic features of the elections of October 20, 2019”. Developing Political Culture through Public Debates”. Public debates series held by the news agency IPN in its conference room with the support of the German Foundation “Hanns Seidel”


Held on 20 September 2019, Debate No.117 brought together: Political analyst Anatol Taranu; Political scientist Dionis Cenușa; Mihail Sirkeli, executive director of the Piligrim-Demo Association, Comrat and Igor Boțan, the project’s standing expert.

Igor Botan, the permanent expert of the project, said that the local elections in October are the 7th exercise of the kind since the declaration of Independence. The first local elections were held on April 16, 1995 and since then, local elections are held every four years. A specific feature of the local elections is that they cannot be early elections, although there was an attempt in this regard made by the Communist Party in 2002, but the Constitutional Court stated that it was not possible. Thus, the elections must take place within the deadlines set by the legislation - every four years.

"There is a specific feature of this year's elections - they are held four months later than they should have been, according to the legislation. And this fact shows that something is not right if they had to be postponed. It is due to the political crisis, which we had in the spring of this year, and this crisis will leave its mark on these elections too,” noted Igor Botan. According to him, local elections are politico-administrative elections, unlike parliamentary or presidential elections, which are strictly political in nature. The mayors, local councillors and district or municipal councillors of II level are elected - in Chisinau and in Balti. In Gagauzia ATU elections are held only at I level - citizens choose there only the local councillors and mayors, because the People's Assembly and the Bashkan are elected, according to Gagauzia’s special Law.

"What matters in these elections is the context. Somehow it was rash of me to say that we could have early parliamentary elections. But now we have a coalition that governs the country. And the things that happen with the coming of this coalition are interesting, leaving their mark," noted the expert. According to Igor Botan, the current election campaign started languidly, the parties did not rush to register their candidates. At the same time, there is a party that is a champion of political activism in this campaign. It is the Socialist Party, which has candidates for mayor in more than 80% of the settlements of the country, practically, in all councils. The other parties are anaemic,” said Igor Botan.

Political analyst Anatol Taranu hopes that the elections will be free and fair. Even if various collisions occurred in the Republic of Moldova during election campaigns, the electoral process was usually recognized as complying with acceptable democratic parameters. At least this has always been established by multiple international institutions monitoring the electoral process in the Republic of Moldova. In his opinion, the specificity of these elections, really depends on the administrative aspect, because the outcome of this election depends on the daily life of the people in each settlement. And this element requires a certain approach for each voter who comes to elect his representatives in the local administration system.

"But at the same time, the Republic of Moldova has an extremely politicized society, especially because of those events that have taken place lately. And the local elections, unquestionably, also carry this extremely important political element. I believe that it will fully manifest itself in this election campaign. Maybe not at village level, here the political aspect will be less marked. But in the big cities, in the municipalities, within the II level local administration, this will be felt to a great extent,” explains Anatol Taranu.

The analyst claims that another trait of these elections is the former favourite of the local administration, the Democratic Party, which by various methods, often less orthodox, has appropriated an imposing number of representatives of local public authorities, whom it has taken in its "custody." According to him, after leaving office, the PDM has lost its influence over this par, and the result it will attain in the October 20 elections will largely reflect the real political and electoral potential of the party within the society. In his opinion, this potential will already be devoid of the excesses related to administrative resources, exaggerated financing, etc. The analyst believes that the Socialist Party seems the most organized in this campaign and could consolidate its positions significantly as compared to its result in the previous elections. The results of these local elections will determine the results of future parliamentary elections, regardless of whether they are early or ordinary, says Anatol Taranu.

Political scientist Dionis Cenușa said that several political processes are taking place in the country, in parallel with the preparations for local elections. According to him, all the pressures of administrative type, the use of law enforcement authorities, by filing cases, detentions, etc. are not strictly linked to the local elections, but they will certainly have an impact on them. In his opinion, one can see how disciplined the government is trying to be, showing that during the first three months of government it tried to achieve something.

"These demonstrations of efficiency, which are for both the home audience and the external partners, somehow create the impression that, in essence, the government is preparing for local elections. But in reality they are also thinking about other parameters of their presence in the political context”, mentioned Dionis Cenușa. The political scientist does not necessarily link to the coming elections the events that the government organizes. These events are more important for changing the political situation, the public's perception towards institutions, but also as an element of reorganizing the political scene.

"The government has promised that it will conduct fair local elections, and this criterion is an important one in the evaluation they will receive from external partners. The reference to external partners is not accidental, which is why I think that many efforts are being made to ensure fair and transparent elections, without any excess of zeal and disproportionate use of power, in this sensitive period, in order to manipulate, influence public opinion and channel it in one direction or another, in favour of one party or another, "said the political scientist.

Mihail Sirkeli, executive director of the Piligrim-Demo Association, Comrat, is of the opinion that the legacy, which remained from the Democratic Party, will be experienced in the elections on October 20. He claims that the PDM, from the position of the ruling party, has taken actions to destroy political pluralism, which have left their mark on the current situation. According to him, the first sign constituted the election polls of the Bashkan of Gagauzia ATU, which was held, practically without an alternative. Mihail Sirkeli asserts that the most prepared for the local elections is the Socialist Party and in Gagauzia this is visible, since, practically, each settlement has candidates for the mayor position, as well as for the councillor positions.

"If previously a certain national party was balanced by some local or regional power, then at present, there are no such forces in Gagauzia. There is no one to ensure the balance. Other coalition partners, who govern the country with the PSRM, for some reasons, were unable to coagulate these forces. There are no territorial nuclei. The old parties have practically disappeared from the political landscape. And this fact, in my opinion, will greatly influence the composition of the future local councils and of the mayors that will be elected following the October 20 elections”, Mihail Sirkeli.

In his opinion, the quality also depends on the possibilities of the candidates. "The parties participate in the elections, but there is no politics without money and from this point of view, at least in the Gagauzia ATU, the best in this regard, is the PSRM." According to him, for example, in Comrat, for the time being there is only one candidate - from the PSRM. In Ceadâr-Lunga, there is just one candidate so far, and also of the Socialist Party." Practically everywhere, the Socialist Party dominates, there are practically no local political forces, and national political forces are missing. I think it is nothing more than the result of the preceding four years: the destruction of local political leaders and the destruction of political pluralism,” said the director of Piligrim-Demo.

"The characteristic features of the elections of October 20, 2019" public debates constitute the 117th edition of "Development of political culture in public debates" cycle, held with the support of Hanns Seidel German Foundation.
The Agency published 5 news stories on the debate (see the English version of www.ipn.md): on 20.09.19, „Characteristic features of the elections of October 20, 2019. IPN debates” - https://www.ipn.md/en/characteristic-features-of-the-elections-of-october-20-2019-ipn-8004_1068259.html; „Igor Boțan: Instead of an effervescent campaign there is total apathy” - https://www.ipn.md/en/igor-botan-instead-of-an-effervescent-campaign-there-is-total-8004_1068260.html; „Mihail Sirkeli: At the local elections people vote for those who managed to convince them” - https://www.ipn.md/en/mihail-sirkeli-at-the-local-elections-people-vote-for-those-8004_1068261.html; „Anatol Taranu: The result of local elections will show the potential of the parties within ACUM bloc” - https://www.ipn.md/en/anatol-taranu-the-result-of-local-elections-will-show-the-8004_1068262.html, „Dionis Cenuşa: At local elections, geopolitics will be dispersed into all kinds of projects” - https://www.ipn.md/en/dionis-cenusa-at-local-elections-geopolitics-will-be-dispersed-into-8004_1068265.html.

IPN promoted the debate before and after the event, in particular the ensuing news stories, using all the available channels, including social networks. Confirmatory materials of deliverables, as well as a media coverage dossier are attached.

Valeriu Vasilica, director of IPN