The Parliament voted in the first reading the amendments to the Electoral Code. However, the new draft amendments to the Electoral Code sparked criticism from the opposition parties and the Western Partners. Siegfried Mureșan, Member of the European Parliament, criticized the amendments, mentioning that the new bill will prohibit the civil society organizations to monitor the elections, or issue public statements about irregularities detected during the campaign.
The new draft amendments to the Electoral Code sparked criticism from Western partners and the opposition parties.
The New Draft Amendments
On July 9, 2020, the Parliament voted in the first reading the draft law, amending the Electoral Code, the Code of Offenses, and the Audiovisual Media Services Code. The project sparked debates in the parliament. The opposition accused the deputies, who wrote the initiative, that they would’ve introduced several elements that will compromise the new draft amendments to the law.
According to the new draft amendments to the law, the Electoral Code will prohibit the use of hate speech and discriminatory discourse in the electoral campaign. Moreover, the Code of Offenses will include sanctions for violations of the amended Electoral Code.
The involvement of the religious denominations in the election campaign will be also sanctioned. Moreover, the organized transportation of voters to polling stations (if this is intended to cause them to vote for a particular candidate), the involvement of non-profit, charitable and trade union organizations in the election campaign, an incorrect reflection of the campaign by the media institutions will also be sanctioned according to the Code of Offenses.
The draft also grants the disabled voter the right to apply the facsimile instead of a signature and also grants observers full access to voter lists by signing a confidentiality statement.
According to the draft, the voting time will be reduced. Another proposal provides for the establishment of voting hours from 8.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m. compared to 07.00 a.m. to 9.00 p.m. (now).
The draft also proposes to establish rules on the content and method of election advertising, the appeal procedure, as well as sanctions for initiative groups, electoral contestants, election officials, media institutions.
The bill is to be voted on in the second reading.
Criticism from the Western Partners
Siegfried Mureșan, a Member of the European Parliament, criticized the new draft amendments to the Electoral Code, stating that the bill prohibits the involvement of the non-commercial organizations in the electoral campaign, including monitoring the election, issuing public statements about irregularities detected during the campaign, etc.
Mureșan also criticized the reduction of the voting time by two hours.
“The bill proposes to reduce the voting time by two hours. This amendment does not seem to address the issues identified in the 2016 presidential election, especially in the Diaspora. Moreover, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the main aim of the authorities should be to avoid congestion in polling stations, not to limit the right to vote by reducing the time available to citizens,” Mureșan mentioned.
The MEP also highlighted the absence of sanction for organized transport of voters and bribing the voters to get a result in favor of a particular candidate.
Regarding the changes related to the Audiovisual Council, the key media oversight authority, Mureșan stated that the bill expands the powers of the Audiovisual Council, which can abusively sanction media service providers, including by suspending the broadcasting license.
Mureșan claims that Moldova’s citizens need an Electoral Code that meets democratic standards, but also the commitments made by the authorities to international partners, including the European Union (EU).
“I expect the deputies from Moldova’s Parliament to ensure correct evaluation of the proposed amendments and to improve the electoral process, avoiding new problems for the final version of the law,” Mureșan wrote on his Facebook page.
The EU Ambassador to Chișinău, Peter Michalko, claims that the amendments to the Electoral Code do not fully correspond to the recommendations of the Venice Commission.
The ambassador said that there was a need for a broad consensus among political forces, based on genuine consultations with civil society and other stakeholders.
“The current process of changing the electoral framework should not become a missed opportunity to address persistent issues and should not bring new challenges and limitations to the state of electoral democracy and pluralism in Moldova, including the rights of voters, candidates, and observers. Democratic and electoral standards are among the essential commitments to the country’s international partners, including the EU, but primarily to the citizens Moldova.
There is a need for a proper process and assessment of the proposed amendments to the Electoral Code, as there are indications that they do not fully comply with the recommendations of the Venice Commission and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. The amendments also do not comply with the issues raised by the Constitutional Court after the presidential election in 2016. It requires a broad consensus between the political forces, based on authentic consultations with civil society and other stakeholders,” said, said EU Ambassador to Chișinău, Peter Michalko.
Previously, former Prime Minister Maia Sandu accused Dodon of trying to swing the elections through the new amendments to the Electoral Code. Dodon dismissed the accusations stating that he is also against shortening the voting time.