ENEMO: Campaign was marred by personal attacks and defamation

The second round of the Presidential election was managed efficiently, despite lack of a proactive approach of the CEC to address issues related to campaign finance. Fundamental rights were upheld during the campaign and candidates could campaign freely. However, the campaign was marred by personal attacks and defamation, which eclipsed discussions based on policies. Election day was largely well administered and procedures were carried out in line with the legal provisions, with few procedural violations that are assessed not to have affected negatively the legitimacy and integrity of the process. This was stated in the Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions for the Second Round, released by ENEMO International Election Observation Mission (IEOM) to Moldova.

The electoral legal framework provides a sound legal basis for holding of democratic elections, as it was already noted in the first round. Nonetheless, different matters regarding the conduct of the second round of the election are not sufficiently regulated.

Although the CEC managed the technical aspects of the electoral process efficiently, the overall level of trust in its impartiality was seemingly hindered before the second round of the election, due to its rather passive approach to handling of complaints and legal notices, as well as the level of disagreement amongst its members in most pressing matters. The CEC published scanned protocols of all polling stations for the first round and, on Election Day, real-time live updates on turnout and preliminary results were available, which contributed to increasing the transparency of the process. However, minutes of CEC sessions during the second round were not posted online, reducing transparency.

„Candidates were able to openly express their messages to the public, and fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly were upheld. Political polarization was particularly evident during the second round. In a tense campaign atmosphere, candidates often resorted to unethical campaigning and personal attacks, especially against Ms. Sandu. Elements of a functioners’ campaign were observed again in the second round, as numerous public officials openly campaigned, or supported candidates”, said Dritan Taulla, Head of the ENEMO Mission, at the press conference at IPN.

ENEMO assesses that the polarized media environment remained a concern. The Audiovisual Council showed a limited understanding of its role and responsibility towards the citizens of Moldova during the election campaign, or lack of willingness to address biased media conduct. The supervisory role of the AC was limited to post-factum non dissuasive sanctioning of broadcasters, failing to ensure that voters were provided with unbiased information.

„Election day was largely well administered and procedures carried out in line with the legal provisions, with occasional procedural violations that are assessed not to have affected negatively the legitimacy and integrity of the process. Instances of organized transportation of voters and allegations of voter influence persisted during the second round, especially with regards to voters residing on the left bank of the river Nistru, even becoming a source of occasional conflicts during election day”, stated Mr. Oleg Reut, Election Analyst of the IEOM.

ENEMO’s international observation mission for the November Presidential Elections in Moldova is financially supported by the Delegation of the European Union, Government Offices of Sweden, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the National Democratic Institute. The content of the document is the sole responsibility of ENEMO and does not necessarily represent the position of the donors.

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