Moldova - no lesson learned?
Earlier this year, Moldova has been shaken by protests against the manner of conduct, and implicitely against results, of parliamentary elections in April. The main complaint was the inaccuracy of voters' lists, with deceased, people living abroad and unknown persons artificially increasing the number of voters. This gross irregularity, combined with the control of the main media channels by the government, has placed the validity of the results under suspicion. Consequently, new elections have been called. Many feared the process will be as perverted as the previous one, yet we all hoped opposition parties, civil society and international community would have learned the lesson and do a better job at controlling the process. New elections will be held in a week. Observers on the ground, both domestic and OSCE's, report again on inaccuracies of voters' lists and on media bias. One gets the feeling of having seen this before (too many times, if one looks at the pattern of elections in the Black Sea region).
It all started with Stalin's (in)famous line "it it not important how they vote, but how we count their votes", and seems to never end. The voters' lists and the media are the most obvious reasons for concern for the fairness of next week's elections. But there are other, less obvious, less reported on, which will still disenfranchise many voters - and "many" means a lot for a voting population of 2 549 804 (as stated by CEC in April 2009). Election day is in the middle of vacation season, so the interest of the population in the vote is even lower than usual. In result, many Moldovans, especially those living in urban areas, will be away from their homes and polling sites. Students are on vacation, back to their families, and away from their places of residence (University cities), where, according to a new provision in the law, they should vote. It is also a working day for the many Moldovans working and living abroad, who will not be able to travel from their towns of residence to the consulates in the capitals.
Then, election day has been made a holliday for all state employees, who thus have all the time to go vote, but not for those working in the private sector. The latter will have to rush to polling sites early in the morning, or late in the evening, if they still have the time or energy for it. So, city dwellers, students, people living abroad and those working in the private sector are less likely to vote. While those living in rural areas, pensioners, and state employees face no obstacles in exercising their electoral rights. That is an interesting coincidence with the groups most in favor of the current government. These seem already too many reasons for concern, and these are all signals that should make the opposition challenge the government in its preparation of these elections, should make them increase their observation capacity, and do their best to allarm the (small part of) international community following these elections.
Yet opposition says and does nothing in this respect, they campaign as if campaigning in these circumstances can actually make a difference. And they consider entering a coalition with the Communist Party once in Parliament. We have also seen this before. So one can not stop wondering €“ what was the fuss in April all about? And what were the lessons learned?
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.