RACING TO PRESIDENTIAL VICTORY IN UNDECLARED CARS

RACING TO PRESIDENTIAL VICTORY IN UNDECLARED CARS
02 November 2020 | 19:57

Igor Dodon, the incumbent president and the Socialist Party’s favorable candidate for head of state, used a new Skoda Superb car in the first three weeks of the election campaign. The vehicle worth more than €30,000 was not declared to the Central Electoral Commission (CEC).

President Igor Dodon publicly promised not to use administrative resources during the campaign; however, he was accompanied by an army of bodyguards at most of his meetings. Thus, at one of the pre-election sessions in his hometown Sadova village, the central part of Moldova, 20 protection officers secured the president. The deputy head of the State Protection and Guard Service (SPPS) and the head of the socialist faction in the Parliament joined the president in his electoral meeting with the citizens. Moreover, employees of the Presidency posted publicly media content from the event. 

The example of Igor Dodon, who did not report to the Central Electoral Commission the car used in the election campaign, is followed by other candidates who compete for the presidency. Most of them reported modest or no transportation service costs. 

October 27, 2020. Igor Dodon, the incumbent president and the PSRM’s candidate for the head of state’s position, arrives at an electoral meeting in his native village – Sadova, Călărași district. In front of the Culture House, at 15:15, an employee of the State Protection and Guard Service (SPPS) opens the door of a black Skoda Superb car, with tinted windows, including the front ones. The incumbent president gets out of the car and is welcomed with bread and salt and a bouquet of white flowers.

“You see, I do not use my office car.”

ZdG first noticed the vehicle on October 2, the day when Igor Dodon launched the campaign and told journalists that he was not using administrative resources:  “You see, I do not use my office car. I have a different car which I rented.”

Indeed, the head of state did not use the Mercedes in this election campaign, which he has in the president position. However, ZdG analyzed documents, revealing that although the president publicly stated renting a car, he did not submit it in his electoral financial disclosure.

Financial reports show that during this period, Igor Dodon spent around 500 EUR (MDL 10,000) on fuel and the same amount on a contract with the transport company Omnibustrans. The company indicates on its Facebook page that it offers passenger transport services using minibusses and buses. Mini buses can be seen accompanying candidate Dodon to meetings with his voters. The manager of the company, Sergiu Chiorescu, told ZdG that he provided the president with passenger transport services, however, he had not rented him a Skoda car.

“It is a service contract, without specifying the number of transport units. The client makes the request, and we offer it. We do an act of receiving-handing over the services. We rent minibuses and provide driver service; we don’t have other vehicles, not even owning a license for light cars,” pointed out Sergiu Chiorescu, manager of Omnibustrans company.

On advertising sites, renting a car as Igor Dodon’s costs at least 60 euros per day. Also, the price of a new car of this model is more than €30,000, depending on its characteristics.

Dodon, accompanied to the meeting with his voters by protection officers and socialist deputies.

At one of the pre-election rallies in Sadova village, Igor Dodon was accompanied by a convoy of more than 10 cars and dozens of SPPS officers, including the institution’s deputy director and former socialist MP Petru Corduneanu. He provides state protection to the president, even though Igor Dodon has taken a leave of absence to campaign for the elections.

The ZdG team managed to film Igor Dodon’s procession as he entered Sadova, and the president’s first destination was not the village center, where voters were waiting for him, but the “Sadovo” resort, which the previous president denied any connection. Then, Dodon visited his mother and later went to the meeting with the voters where a security perimeter by several SPPS representatives was set.

Except for the state guard, the socialist deputies Corneliu Furculiță and Grigore Novac, as well as the photographer of the Presidency, were also present at the meeting. Soon after the meeting, a short video was posted on the candidate’s Facebook page showing Igor Dodon visiting his mother. Later, another video, about 6 minutes long, was published, which captured several meetings of Igor Dodon that day. The video showed only a few excerpts from conversations with voters. The footage which shows a large number of security officers guarding the president and other accomplices was cut from the video, together with the recording of his visit to a recreation center, previously renovated for millions of lei MDL. ZdG wrote that the renovation works were supervised by the president’s brother-in-law, Ghenadie Merineanu.

After the discussion with the voters from Sadova, ZdG asked the president who owned the car used in his campaign, but he refused to answer. 

Reporter (R): What car did you take to the meeting today?

Igor Dodon (I.D.): Ask colleagues and you will get the answer. It was Skoda.

R .: Who owns the Skoda?

I.D .: It is rented by the electoral staff.

A .: Which company?

I.D .: Ask your colleagues from the electoral staff.

A .: This car is not found in the financial report submitted to the Central Electoral Commission.

I.D .: Because it was leased, no owner.

A .: It must be indicated in the report anyway.

I.D .: I repeat: there are colleagues who deal with the report. Please, ask them.

A .: The company from which you contracted transport services says that it did not lease you this car.

I.D .: Ask them again.

After this dialogue, the socialist deputy Corneliu Furculiță told us that the car is rented and this is indicated in the financial report, “including all other expenses”.

“I don’t want to give this information over the phone”

We called Olga Rață, the treasurer of the candidate Igor Dodon, but she refused to tell us about the company where the car was rented and suggested that we should send her a request by mail. Rata refused to get the request online. When she was asked why this car was not reported to the CEC, Olga Rață said that these expenses would be included in this week’s report, even if Dodon used the car throughout the election campaign.

“The car is rented for 30 days and we are going to make the payment in the last week of the month. We report expenses each week, not those incurred, but paid. The car rental is for a month and the contract foresees the payment monthly, not daily. You will see in the report. I don’t want to give this data over the phone. You don’t have to come to the office because I’m very busy, We are amid the campaign”, said Olga Rață.

How does the treasurer of Maia Sandu motivate the non-reporting to the CEC of the cars used in the campaign?

The candidate of the Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) for the presidential elections, Maia Sandu does not declare any car in the financial reports. She reported to the CEC, for the last three weeks period, only expenses related to fuel, in the amount of about MDL 153.000. The person responsible for financing, Artur Mija, informed us that the party declared only the fuel at the CEC because it is difficult to give an exact number of cars involved in the election campaign”.

“For example, on Sunday and Saturday, about 110-140 volunteers drove their own cars throughout Moldova. Yet, we do not have the technical capacity and we do not believe that it is feasible to monitor each car and its degree of use in the campaign “, says Artur Mija.

In a TV show, Maia Sandu said that she had a driver during the election campaign. As for these expenses, which are not included at the rubric “remuneration of temporarily employed drivers”, Artur Mija said that the driver’s salary is indicated at another rubric in the financial report.

“Regarding the speculations according to which the driver’s salary expenses are not included in the report submitted to the CEC by the candidate Maia Sandu, we want to mention that it is included in the secretarial services, which are declared weekly in the last annex of the report. We declare weekly around MDL 25,000, secretarial expenses, permanent staff of the party, employment of the party people, including the driver”, concludes the PAS treasurer.

Transport costs reported by other candidates

Another presidential candidate, Andrei Nastase, reported to the Electoral Commission expenses for transport services the amount of only about 400 EUR. The party’s treasurer, Ionela Țurcanu, informed ZdG the money was used to transport goods. As for the local meetings, Țurcanu claims that the party did not organize transport and everyone travels by their own cars, and the volunteers pay for the fuel themselves.

Tudor Deliu, the PLDM candidate (Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova), reported to the Electoral Commission expenses amounted around 2,000 EUR for fuel and a car, which he received free of charge for use from a party member.

“The amount of MDL 20,000 does not refer only to my travels, because the party still has cars in the territorial organizations, which our colleagues use when they go with the mobile groups in the settlements“, said the PLDM’s candidate for presidential elections.

The candidate of Sor Party, Violeta Ivanov, who previously complained that the banks refuse to open an account for the election campaign, reported to the CEC only donations in the form of goods and services. She said that several people made donations in the form of transport services in a total amount of about MDL 17,000.

Another contender for the position of president who reported donations in the form of transport services is Octavian Țîcu. He claims that such services were offered to him between October 12 and 16, and their value would be MDL 5,000. The only electoral contestant who did not report campaign expenses to the CEC is Dorin Chirtoaca. The candidate of the “Unirea” bloc claimed that he managed to open an electoral account at the beginning of the last week of the campaign and that he will submit reports with all expenses incurred in the campaign which, according to him, are “extremely small compared to other candidates”.

Renato Usatii is the candidate who declared to the CEC the highest expenses for fuel, MDL 500,000. At the same time, he indicated in the report 153 car loan contracts in the fourth week of the campaign, and another156 car loan contracts in the fifth week. 

Candidates must declare each good used in the campaign

Cornelia Călin, analyst of the finances of the political parties within Promo-LEX, claims that under the electoral legislation, the candidates must declare each good used in the electoral campaign, because this way they can analyze sources of financing and how they were spent.

“It is important to report both the car used by volunteers, because it is a donation from third parties, and any source of funding and expense”, says Cornelia Calin.

The expert also pointed out that the “Promo-LEX” Association monitors the financial reports submitted to the CEC and estimates the expenses reported by the candidates. In the case of transport services, experts identify the events in which the candidates participated and estimate the amount of fuel and the amount for its procurement.

“The gaps are very large between what is reported and what we estimate, because we estimate at a minimum. There are some contestants who report zero expenses, which surprises us, because it is impossible to campaign without traveling by means of transport, especially when you go to meetings all over the country “, says Cornelia Călin.

According to the Electoral Code, political parties and independent candidates must submit to the CEC, on a weekly basis, a report on the funds accumulated and the expenses incurred in the election campaign. Also, according to the Electoral Code, “all services and actions provided free of charge by individuals and legal entities, as well as all voluntary actions during the period of collecting signatures and during the election campaign in favor of the candidate or competitor shall be evaluated by the initiative group and by the electoral contestant and is obligatorily indicated in the financial report, according to the procedure established by the regulation approved by the CEC.”

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