Moldova is a parliamentary republic with executive power exercised by the government and legislative power vested in the National Assembly (parliament). The president serves as the head of state and holds certain limited functions and authority, including on foreign policy and national defence.
The upcoming presidential election will be the first direct presidential election since 1996. On 4 March, the Constitutional Court declared that the constitutional revision from 2000 stipulating that the president is indirectly elected by parliament was unconstitutional.
As a result of this decision, on 1 April, the parliament called the presidential election for 30 October. The current political context is characterised by a general lack of confidence in state institutions resulting from multiple corruption scandals, notably in the banking sector, as well as economic stagnation and a continuing division within the society over the geopolitical direction of the country.
A)Throughout 2015 and beginning of 2016, a series of demonstrations took place across the country opposing corruption and the government, facilitated by a newly created movement, the Dignity and Truth Platform (DA), along with several opposition parties.
In October 2015, following the protests, the parliament dismissed the government by a vote of non-confidence. In January 2016, after repeated failures to form a new government, parliamentary factions of the Democratic Party (PDM) and Liberal Party (PL), supported by a number of non-aligned members of parliament (MPs), agreed on a new government. In reaction to the government’s appointment, protests restarted and culminated with the storming of the parliament as well as the opposition calling for another vote of non-confidence.
The OSCE/ODIHR has previously observed twelve elections in Moldova. 4 The most recent OSCE/ODIHR Limited Election Observation Mission deployed for the June 2015 local elections concluded that the “elections were efficiently administered and offered the electorate a diverse choice.
They were held in a context of political turmoil due to a massive financial scandal and the Prime Minister’s resignation two days before the elections. The campaign environment was strongly impacted by the division of political forces and society over the country’s future orientation.”
The final report included recommendations for the authorities on how to improve the electoral processes and bring them more closely in line with OSCE commitments.
B. LEGAL FRAMEWORK AND ELECTORAL SYSTEM The legal framework for the presidential election primarily includes the 1994 Constitution, the 1997 Election Code (amended in 2016) and the 2007 Law on Political Parties. It is supplemented by other laws, including relevant sections of the Criminal and Administrative Codes, and Central Election Commission (CEC) regulations and decisions.
The Constitutional Court decision from 4 March necessitated changes to the Election Code to legislate presidential election. 6 The required amendments passed the first reading in parliament in April, which was followed by a request to the OSCE/ODIHR and Council of Europe’s Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) to provide an opinion on the draft changes.
The joint opinion concluded that the draft amendments were “generally in accordance with international obligations and standards, and, if properly implemented, should enable presidential elections to take place in conformity with them, however, several draft provisions would benefit from further revision or clarification”.
The amendments primarily focus on provisions specifically pertaining to presidential election, with more general aspects of the election legislation largely unchanged. Several previous OSCE/ODIHR and Venice Commission recommendations were partially addressed, including with regard to outof-country voting and candidate registration. However, a number of other issues remain unaddressed, in particular, on signature collection and verification, the financing and conduct of the electoral campaign, sanctions on election violations and campaign restrictions.
On 23 June, the amendments passed the second reading and were promulgated by the president on 27 July. While OSCE/ODIHR NAM stakeholders acknowledged the need to amend the legislation, party representatives expressed concern that the process of finalizing the amendments and developing supporting regulations would only be completed shortly before the election. In addition, civil society representatives raised issue over the abridged period of drafting the amendments and an overall insufficient level of consultation.
C. ELECTION ADMINISTRATION The election will be managed by three levels of election administration: the CEC, 35 District Electoral Councils (DECs) and some 2,000 Precinct Electoral Bureaus (PEBs). The CEC consists of nine members, two of whom, the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson, are women.
The CEC is appointed for a five-year term, with current members appointed in June 2016; eight members are appointed by parliament and one by the president. DECs and PEBs are established for each election. DECs consist of 7 to 11 members nominated by local courts and councils, as well as parliamentary parties.
PEBs consist of 5 to 11 members nominated by local councils and parliamentary parties. At all levels, political party representation in election commissions is proportional to their representation in parliament. The CEC has already commenced election preparations; however, many of its regulations have yet to be finalized following the adoption of the Election Code amendments.
Through its training centre, the CEC continually undertakes a series of training programmes for election stakeholders, and is already developing activities targeting lower-level election staff. Voter education campaigns, as well as general electoral awareness activities are also envisioned.
The CEC also informed the OSCE/ODIHR NAM that they undertake activities to facilitate voting of people with disabilities. This includes agreements with mayors to improve accessibility of the polling station locations as well as conduct of special awareness and mobilisation campaigns.
OSCE/ODIHR NAM interlocutors generally noted the CEC’s professionalism and capacity to administer elections; however, they also raised concern over the ability of CEC members to independently undertake their work and referenced several potentially politically motivated decisions in the past. Some of them also expressed concern that the CEC membership had been almost completely renewed and that the new members might therefore lack experience. As in previous elections, voting is not expected to take place on the territory under the de facto control of the Transdniestrian authorities.
However, to facilitate their participation, the CEC is undertaking preparations for Moldovan citizens residing in Transdniestria to vote in designated polling stations.
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