The Letter

Introduction

This letter is a plea from the representatives of the Moldovan civil society, activists and NGOs to ask the international community to help us stop the current corrupt government from rigging the Moldovan electoral system.

 

 

To the attention of:

Donald TUSK, President of the European Council

Jean-Claude JUNCKER, President of the European Commission

Antonio TAJANI, President of the European Parliament

Pedro AGRAMUNT, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

Thorbjørn JAGLAND, Secretary General of the Council of Europe

Federica MOGHERINI, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission

Johannes HAHN, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations

 

Presidency of the Council of the European Union

Dr. George VELLA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malta

Sven MIKSER, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia

Miroslav LAJČÁK, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovakia

 

Pirkka TAPIOLA, Ambassador, Head of the European Union Delegation to Moldova

Jose Luis HERRERO, Head of the Council of Europe Office in Moldova

Michael SCANLAN, Head of the OSCE Mission to Moldova

Alex KREMER, World Bank Country Manager for Moldova

Armine KHACHATRYAN, Resident Representative of the International Monetary Fund in Moldova

Dimitri GVINDADZE, Head of the EBRD Office in Chisinau

Karen HILLARD, Director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

Dafina GERCHEVA, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative

 

Heads of the diplomatic missions, accredited in Chisinau

James PETTIT, Ambassador of the United States of America in Moldova

Ulrike KNOTZ, Ambasador of the Federal Republic of Germany in Moldova

Lucy Joyce OBE, Ambassador of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Moldova

Signe BURGSTALLER, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Sweden in Moldova

 

Dear Friends of Moldova,

This letter will be submitted to national EU governments by the Moldovan Diaspora representatives in each country, while activists and NGOs residing in Moldova will send it to development partners of Moldova.

We are writing to bring to your attention and express our serious concerns about the increasing risks for a democracy backslide in Moldova, caused by proposals made by the Moldovan government to change the country’s electoral system prior to the upcoming parliamentary elections of 2018. Our concern, shared by a wider society is that this move represents a serious threat to our country’s already fragile democracy due to the fact that in the current circumstances it is aimed at marginalizing the non-incumbent or upcoming political parties. This will only worsen democratic norms in Moldova, a country which is already blighted by state capture, political control of the mass media[1] and endemic corruption[2]. This also endangers the results of the substantial foreign assistance provided to Moldova.

We urge the international community to condemn this initiative and use its influence to ensure that this initiative is not adopted.

 

Background:

For over a year, Moldova has been ruled by a majority that has, altogether, an approval rating of around 5%[3] . It has been fifteen months since virtually all of the political power has been concentrated in the hands of Vladimir Plahotniuc – now the leader of the Democratic Party of Moldova. On March 6th, 2017, Vladimir Plahotniuc has launched the initiative to change the procedure of election of the Parliament from proportional to first-past-the-post electoral system. While the officials’ arguments may seem plausible on paper, most independent experts believe that this reform has one and only objective – to favour the Democratic Party and the pro-Russian Socialist Party (their only likely coalition partner after the next elections) after 2018[4]. Nothing good comes when reforms are made in someone’s own private interest.

The experience of other countries proved that the first-past-the-post electoral system favours larger, established parties and undermines plurality. On the other hand, in Ukraine and Romania, the first-past-the-post electoral system brought corrupt local leaders to the Parliament and created serious impediments for combating corruption. In the case of Moldova, this move, disguised as an upgrade to democracy, would mean favoring political corruption and the incumbent parties with access to generous financing, while new, non-corrupt opposition parties that stand a real chance in restoring the rule of law and implementing the necessary reforms in the country, would barely survive. Also, experience from 2012 elections in Gagauzia confirms our grave concerns about the corruptibility potential of this system in the conditions of the Republic of Moldova.

The initiative to change the electoral system is brought by a party that discredited the pro-European sentiment of many Moldovans, seeking ways to rig the electoral system and maintain the power together with its pro-Russian de facto ally. Their primary interest is to survive and avoid punishment for multiple corruption scandals that have shocked the country and the world, such as the theft of a billion dollars from the National Bank reserves; the laundering of over 20 billion dollars from the Kremlin coffers through Moldova, to Europe[5]; multiple dealings involving intermediary companies with non-transparent ownership structures, state-owned enterprises and monopolies (energy, telecoms, metal exports, to name a few).

A range of respected independent voices[6] have spoken against the change of the electoral system and in favor of maintaining the present proportional system. In a country where corruption flourishes and public institutions do not function, this proposal would mean that democracy would become a contest of who buys more votes and influence.  What we want is truly a free and fair election.

In addition, when approximately 1/3 of a country’s population is abroad and a party of Moldovan territory is not controlled by the official authorities, a proportional system is the best way to ensure the adequate representation of all citizens, regardless of their place of residence.

 

A Skewed Debate

The Moldovan authorities have promised an open and inclusive debate in the society about the change of the electoral system.  However, in reality, a massive propaganda campaign on all communication channels owned by Plahotniuc in favour of first-past-the-post electoral system is taking place. We are witnessing a full mobilization of the so-called “independent” experts, bloggers and internet trolls. The politically controlled media has been invaded by manipulative material that can barely be called news or talk shows, and Moldova’s towns and cities are flooded with outdoor advertisements. The funding is visibly generous while the origin of the money, or at least the budget of the action, is totally non-transparent. Within a few weeks, the media holding subordinated to the Democratic Party has transformed the present proportional electoral system into Moldova’s one and only problem, blaming it for corruption and all the wrongdoings in our country. Finally, questionable opinion polls are trying to create the illusion that this reform is supported by a vast majority of the population.

The Democratic Party is using populist tactics and manipulation to convince people that all problems in the country will be solved if the electoral system is changed, while ignoring the issues of rampant corruption and the situation of state capture where government ministers, MPs, mass media, law enforcement and courts system, are under the control of a small group of individuals affiliated with the Democratic Party.

Such an approach, build on deceit and manipulation is far from an “open and inclusive debate”. It does not engage the society in honest discussions, nor allows for a truly alternative and critical opinion.

 

The real problems of the Moldovan electoral system

Obscure funding and lack of fair rules for funding of political parties, lack of independence of the Central Electoral Committee, concentration of media in the hands of politicians, impunity for manipulation in elections, limitation of the right to vote for Diaspora, illegal involvement of the church in elections, are just a few of the real problems of the Moldovan electoral system. These problems have been recognized by the Moldovan Constitutional Court, as well as by the local and international electoral monitoring missions. The initiative of the Democratic Party does not address any of these problems. Furthermore, the repeated requests of the NGOs to address them were disregarded by the authorities. Without solving these problems, no electoral system can be fair.

 

In conclusion:

We hereby call on You to disapprove and discourage the March 2017 initiative to change the procedure of election of the Moldovan Parliament. We call on You to urge the Moldovan authorities, as a matter of urgency, to concentrate on the real problems of the Moldovan electoral system.

This country and its institutions are still afloat thanks to the generous financial support of our international partners. Meanwhile, this Government has failed to restore the international partners’ and the population’s confidence, as they promised. Instead, in the last year, they made multiple attempts to further cement the corruption and political control of state institutions.

We are convinced that the international community will not stand idle while an illegitimate political class tries to maintain Moldova’s state capture while pushing it further into authoritarianism. It is our hope that the combined efforts of the Moldovan civil society and the international community will help prevent the backslide of democracy in Moldova, free and fair elections will be conducted in 2018 and a constructive inclusive dialogue regarding a possible reform of the electoral system will be organized afterwards.

 

Association for Efficient and Responsible Governance (AGER)

Association of Independent Press (API)

Center for Investigative Journalism of Moldova (CIJM)

Center for Health Policies and Studies (CPAS)

Center Partnership for Development (CPD)

Center for Policies and Reforms (CPR-Moldova)

Child Rights Information Center (CIDDC)

Foreign Policy Association (APE)

Independent Journalism Center (CIJ)

Institute for Public Policy (IPP)

Legal Resources Center of Moldova (CRJM)

Piligrim-Demo

Transparency International – Moldova

”WatchDog.md” Community

 

 

 

 

[1]Freedom House about press freedom in Moldova: Concentration of ownership is a problem, and accessing public information is difficult

https://anticoruptie.md/en/blog/victoria-dodon/freedom-house-about-press-freedom-in-moldova-concentration-of-ownership-is-a-problem-and-accessing-public-information-is-difficult

[2] Transparency International: ”Corruption index reflects Moldova’s disappointing response to corruption”. https://www.transparency.org/news/pressrelease/corruption_index_reflects_moldovas_disappointing_response_to_corruption

[3] International Republican Institute poll released Vlad Plahotniuc, head of the ruling Democratic Party – approval rating 2%. Ruling Democratic Party – approval rating 4%.

http://www.iri.org/resource/moldova-after-2016-election-poll-indicates-improved-confidence-government

https://www.ziarulnational.md/sondaj-iri-doar-trei-partide-ar-accede-in-viitorul-parlament-iar-al-patrulea-la-limita/

[4] CPR-Moldova Opinion on the amendment of the Moldovan electoral system
https://www.facebook.com/notes/cpr-moldova-centrul-de-politici-%C8%99i-reforme/opinion-on-the-amendment-of-the-moldovan-electoral-system/596777527177721

[5] Financial Times: ”Otrage over Moldova bank scandal threatens reforms”

https://www.ft.com/content/b582ad2c-c424-11e5-b3b1-7b2481276e45

Forbes: ”Billion Dollar Theft: In Moldova, One Rich Banker’s ‘Crime’ Has A Nation Doing Time”

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2016/08/01/billion-dollar-theft-in-moldova-one-rich-bankers-crime-has-a-nation-doing-time/#7264fedd4f7e

The biggest known money laundering operation in Eastern Europe

https://www.occrp.org/en/laundromat/

[6] Igor Botan: https://www.facebook.com/notes/igor-botan/%D0%B0%D0%B9-%D0%B4%D0%B0-%D0%BF%D1%83%D1%88%D0%BA%D0%B8%D0%BD-%D0%B0%D0%B9-%D0%B4%D0%B0-%D1%81%D1%83%D0%BA%D0%B8%D0%BD-%D1%81%D1%8B%D0%BD/1798883450137166

Gender Equality platform:

http://jurnal.md/ro/politic/2017/3/25/platforma-pentru-egalitatea-de-gen-sistemul-uninominal-defavorizeaza-femeile/

Moldovan Diaspora is against changing the electoral system http://epochtimes-romania.com/news/diaspora-moldoveneasca-se-declara-impotriva-sistemului-electoral-uninominal—258952

Photo credit denisjardan.com

 

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