Public debate: Does legal framework guarantee free and fair elections?

Press Release
on the organization of the debate
Does legal framework guarantee free and fair elections? Who guarantees correct implementation of legal framework?”. 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 9 October 2020, Debate No.155 brought together: Promo-LEX program director Pavel Postica; project manager of WatchDog Community Valeriu Pașa  and Igor Boțan, IPN project’s standing expert.

The Republic of Moldova needs free and fair presidential elections a lot. The first argument is to avoid crisis situations and instability with violent manifestations similar to those witnessed in Kyrgyzstan or not so violent, but very large as those in Belarus, caused by the elections whose correctness is challenged by society. The participants in IPN’s
public debate “Does legal framework guarantee free and fair elections? Who guarantees correct implementation of legal framework?” discussed on whom and on what the presidential elections set for November 1, 2020 depend.

Igor Boțan, the standing expert of IPN’s project, said the elections are the most complex democratic process because all the functions of the state institutions converge during the elections. The Constitution stipulates the election of the state institutions and says who has the right to take part in elections. The Election Code only develops these constitutional principles. The electoral proves lasts for several months and in the period the national and international observers and anyone who is interested can see the democratic or anti-democratic façade of society. Thus, the elections are regulated by the Constitution, the Election Code, the Code of Audiovisual Services, the Penal Code, the Contravention Code, the legislation on the protection of personal data, etc. In the case of the elections in Moldova, there are specific phenomena related to the vote of the citizens from the Transnistrian region, which is not controlled by the constitutional authorities, and by the fact that one third of the Moldovans eligible to vote, who form the most active and competent part of society, are abroad.

The players that can adjust the electoral legal framework are: the Government, Parliament, the Central Election Commission (CEC), the Audiovisual Council, judges, etc. Among the institutions responsible for the observance of the legal framework are the law enforcement agencies and the CEC, which can resolve electoral disputes that do not require the involvement of the police or the prosecution service. The elections should be fair so as to ensure political stability in the country and the legitimacy of the power. The integrity of the electoral process means all the aspects of an electoral process, starting with the legislation, which is pertinent and ensures the election of persons voted by the citizens to representative posts. The integrity of the electoral process is the second aspect raised when it goes to free and fair elections and the broad monitoring of the electoral process is welcome.

Promo-LEX program director Pavel Postica said that when the electoral legal framework is discussed, one cannot discuss only two categories of documents, such as legislation or good or bad normative documents. There is also the middle category. Moldova’s legislation contains electoral provisions of which the country can be proud, including in relation to other states, but there are also defective provisions that in parts shadow the accomplishments and positive provisions. “No matter how small or defective a provision is, if a lot is speculated on it or it is used or implemented with bad intention, we risk vitiating the whole product or the whole electoral process,” he stated.

The main negative aspects of the electoral legislation are the same as those underlined by the Constitutional Court in 2016. It goes to the vote abroad, the vote of the electors from the Transnistrian region through the angle of their transportation and corruption of voters, dishonest involvement of media providers, NGOs, religious denominations and resolution of challenges. Several years ago, the voters’ will was thrown into the garbage bin by several judges who decided that particular legal provisions are defective or particular actions of an electoral contender do not meet the legal provisions.
“From my viewpoint, this is the worst aspect in the implementation of the legislation in Moldova because, no matter how good the legislation is, regrettably, when there is wish to implement it with a bad intention, we risk reaching fully unexpected or disastrous results,” said Pavel Postica.

WatchDog Community project manager Valeriu Pașa noted that Moldova’s electoral legislation is rather contemporary and was adjusted to the realities. But it is not ideal and contains outdated exceptions. “We remember the series of findings of the Constitutional Court, the findings of national and international observers, especially after the elections of 2016, which remained mainly unsolved. Those changes, adjustments that were required then remained unimplemented. What is regrettable is that Parliament did nothing to adjust the upcoming presidential elections to the pandemic situation, but this was necessary. They pursued an electoral logic in the interests of an electoral contender, to the detriment of another contender, ignoring voters’ interests,” he stated.

It also goes to the recommendation to hold the elections during two days or at least only in the diaspora, as the establishment of an appropriate number of polling stations where more voters come, in the diaspora and in the country, will not imply very large costs. There is also the differentiated attitude to these elections at the level of legislation. The procedure, rules for establishing polling places abroad is not clearly specified. The problem of permanent polling stations outside the diplomatic services hasn’t been yet solved. The addresses of polling places haven’t been yet published. These details should not be mandatorily defined in the electoral legislation, but given the sad practice of the past, they should probably be specified.

The public debate “Does legal framework guarantee free and fair elections? Who guarantees correct implementation of legal framework?” was the 155th installment of the series “Developing political culture through public debates” that is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

Representatives of the ruling party of that period were invited to the debate, but neither representatives of the Pro-Moldova Party nor those of the Democratic Party of Moldova found possibilities to take part. The Agency published 7 news stories on the debate (see the English version of
www.ipn.md): on 09.10.20, „ Who and what guarantee free and fair elections? IPN debate” -   https://www.ipn.md/en/who-and-what-guarantee-free-and-fair-elections-ipn-debate-8004_1076742.html; „Pavel Postică: CEC has a strange approach” -
https://www.ipn.md/en/pavel-postica-cec-has-a-strange-approach-8004_1076744.html; „Valeriu Pașa about independence of Central Election Commission - https://www.ipn.md/en/valeriu-pasa-about-independence-of-central-election-commission-8004_1076745.html; „Igor Boțan: National Commission’s decision on organization of elections is insufficient” - https://www.ipn.md/en/igor-botan-national-commissions-decision-on-organization-of-elections-8004_1076746.html; “Igor Boțan about work done by CEC” - https://www.ipn.md/en/igor-botan-about-work-done-by-cec-8004_1076748.html ; Valeriu Pașa: Right to vote of people from occupied territories should be restricted” - https://www.ipn.md/en/valeriu-pasa-right-to-vote-of-people-from-occupied-territories-8004_1076749.html ; „Pavel Postica about role of CEC and law enforcement agencies”-  https://www.ipn.md/en/pavel-postica-about-role-of-cec-and-law-enforcement-agencies-8004_1076751.html .


Valeriu Vasilica, director of IPN

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