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Moldova - Elections 2019

Moldova is one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in Europe and only recently recovered from a devastating banking scandal in 2014. The European Parliament has declared it "a state captured by oligarchic interests."

Parliamentary elections took place 24 February 2019. The current political context is characterised by public distrust in state institutions amid ongoing corruption investigations and economic stagnation. The governing coalition continues to consolidate its influence by garnering support from an increasing number of members of parliament (MPs) from other factions and local government representatives. The recent lack of validation of the Chisinau mayoral election by the courts following a complaint resulted in a series of protests against the ruling party and judiciary and more broadly diminished confidence in state institutions. Many ODIHR NAM interlocutors expect the events around the mayoral election to impact the conduct of the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Since the 2014 parliamentary elections, the majority of parliamentary factions have significantly changed their composition. The 101-member parliament comprises 51 members from the governing parties (Democratic Party 42 and European People`s Party 9), and 44 members in opposition; the Party of Socialists (PSRM) 24, Liberal Party 9, Party of Communists (PCRM) 6, Liberal Democratic Party (PLDM) 5, and 6 non-aligned members (elected mostly on PLDM and PRCM lists).

The electoral legal framework primarily includes the Constitution, the Election Code and the Law on Political Parties, and is supplemented by other laws and Central Election Commission (CEC) regulations. In 2017, the Election Code underwent a series of significant amendments, including to introduce a mixed electoral system. Of the 101 MPs, 50 will be elected by proportional closed-lists in a single nationwide constituency, and 51 MPs in as many single-member constituencies. Other amendments focus on constituency delimitation and the funding of parties and electoral campaigns and additionally on the election administration, and voter and candidate registration.

The 2017 amendments were reviewed by ODIHR and the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission). On certain issues, previous recommendations have been partially addressed, including on constituency delimitation, enhancing womens participation, campaign finance contributions, and out-of-country voting. Many other recommendations on a range of issues remain to be addressed.

An ad hoc boundary commission was established to delineate majoritarian constituencies. The majority of representatives from opposition parties boycotted participation in the commissions work due to not supporting the change of electoral system. A number of stakeholders alleged that many commission members were affiliated with the main governing party and raised concerns about criteria to establish constituencies, in particular, the two constituencies in Transniestria and three for citizens abroad, which were noted to challenge the principle of vote equality. The elections will be managed by a revised structure of election administration that includes the CEC, Constituency Electoral Councils (CoECs) and Precinct Electoral Bureaus.

Candidates can participate through closed party lists, in an electoral bloc, or in single-mandate constituencies either by party nomination or independently. New provisions require candidates to obtain an integrity certificate, which includes information on any legal constraints to stand as candidate or to hold public office and personal financial disclosure.

The lack of validation of the May 2018 Chisinau mayoral election by the courts following a complaint resulted in a series of protests against the ruling party and judiciary and more broadly diminished confidence in state institutions. The CEC established that election was won by Andrei Nastase in the second round. The law provides that elections are validated by a court. On 19 June 2018, the Chisinau City Court issued a judgment that the election could not be validated based on a complaint which alleged that Mr. Nastase received support from abroad and campaigned on election day. The Courts decision was upheld by the Chisinau Court of Appeal on 21 June. Many interlocutors expected the events around the mayoral election to impact the conduct of the upcoming parliamentary elections.

The media and advertisement markets are dominated by two holding companies affiliated with the two largest parties in parliament. The circumstances under which other media outlets struggle for financial sustainability could limit media pluralism and the independence of editorial policies and would likely limit the media coverage of contestants not affiliated with media owners. Media representatives noted the complexity of covering the upcoming elections and pointed to harassment of individual journalists, limitations to access information, including on candidate registration and campaign financing.

The campaign lasted from 30 days until the day before election day. Campaigns are financed from contestants` own funds and donations. Funding from foreign, state, public and anonymous sources and from non-profit and charitable organizations and trade unions is prohibited. Donations from out-of-country income remain prohibited.

Moldova's pro-Russian opposition Socialist party claimed a narrow lead, but no majority, in the country's national elections after ballots had been counted with 31.2 percent of the vote. The pro-European ACUM garnered 26.6 percent of Sunday's ballots and the incumbent Democratic Party was in third place at 23.8 precent.

President Igor Dodon, formerly the leader of the Socialist party, estimated that "risk is high that it could come to a snap election in the coming few months." In turn, Democratic Party leader, oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc, said his faction was ready to launch coalition talks and "form a functioning government and parliamentary majority for the people."

The Socialist Party and pro-EU Democratic Party were fighting over Moldova's future. Dodon pledged to renegotiate a 2014 association agreement with the European Union if his party wins the vote. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, wants even closer ties to the bloc. The Democratic Party-led coalition government has, however, lost support following a string of corruption scandals. It has also been accused of trying to rig the political system in its favor by introducing votes on direct mandates alongside votes on party lists.

Elections held in February resulted in a hung parliament, leading to months of coalition negotiations. The February elections were certified on March 9, and analysts have assumed that the deadline for forming a new government was June 9. However, on June 7 the Constitutional Court ruled that the deadline was actually June 7, 90 days after the certification.

On June 7, the Constitutional Court ordered new elections be held under Moldovan law that requires a government be formed within three months of the certification of election results. But in an extraordinary parliamentary session on June 8, parliamentary leaders from Dodon's Socialist Party struck a deal with a pro-European bloc known as ACUM. The two groups, which together control 61 of parliament's 101 seats, agreed on a framework for political cooperation and approved a new government. The move was widely seen as a way to keep Plahotniuc and his Democratic Party out of power. The Democratic Party, which held 30 seats in parliament, slammed the deal, and appealed to the Constitutional Court, which then suspended Dodon and appointed Filip as interim president.

Moldova plunged deeper into political crisis after the country's top court suspended President Igor Dodon and his appointed replacement dissolved parliament and called for snap elections. Thousands of people massed in the capital, Chisinau, on June 9 in support of Dodon's replacement, Pavel Filip, while Dodon slammed the court's decision and accused a rival political party, the Democratic Party -- backed by an influential tycoon -- of trying to cling to power.

Filip then dissolved parliament and ordered new elections to be held on September 6.

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