INVESTIGATION: The Price for a Vote in Breakaway Transnistria

INVESTIGATION: The Price for a Vote in Breakaway Transnistria
19 July 2021 | 13:49

Several voters on the left bank of the Dniester admit that they took money to vote for the Electoral Bloc of Communists and Socialists at the early parliamentary election on Sunday. Some received money before exercising their right to vote, others after returning from the polls and presenting the ballot in which the voted stamp was applied. Several of them even sought the promised money at the election observers.

Special missions that monitored the electoral process found electoral rewards and organized transportation of voters, especially in the polling stations open to citizens of the Transnistrian region.

The scheme is well known. After being included în a list, people were transported to polling stations by private car or taxi. The money was distributed on the way to the polling stations, in cars, or at the exit of the polling stations. Some voters openly admitted that they had sold their vote.

The groups in the messaging applications that include the inhabitants of the left bank of the Dniester say that, in exchange for remuneration, employees of private and public institutions in the Transnistrian region were urged to vote with the Socialists and Communists. Also, they say that there were lists with voters all over the Transnistrian region, organized by the managers of the institutions.

In the early parliamentary elections on Sunday, 28,000 people voted at the 41 polling stations open în the breakaway Transnistria. 62% of them voted for the Electoral Bloc of Communists and Socialists. Many of the voters of Vladimir Voronin and Igor Dodon’s bloc preferred electoral tourism, as they were brought organized to the polling stations. Following the model of the scheme applied to the previous elections, some of the voters on the left bank of the Dniester sold their vote in exchange for 10, 20, or 25 euros.

Voters from the Transnistrian region, who came in the early hours of the morning to vote in the parliamentary elections in Moldova.

“She had a notebook with those that voted last year”

The scheme is well known. As in the previous elections, people were registered in the lists and then transported organized to the polling stations, by private car or taxi. After proving that they voted, the voters received 10 euros each. In some so-called organizational points, however, the money was distributed on the way to the polling stations, in the cars of those who provided transport for voters on the right bank of the Dniester.

Vera, the woman who drew up lists of voters from the left bank of the Dniester, to be brought organized and remunerated for voting for the Electoral Bloc of Communists and Socialists.

Dumitru Iancev, who lives in Tighina, identified on the election day a network of voting fraud at the polling stations for citizens on the left bank of the Dniester. In the video images captured by him in front of a market in Tighina, when asked by a man if “there will be a bus”, one of the organizers of the electoral tourism answers that “it will be only a taxi and only on registrations”. The woman who made the lists, named Vera, says that she called everyone whose phone numbers she had had since the last election: “I called everyone in the list.”

Dumitru Iancev, a former judge at the Tighina and Taraclia Courts, who found out how the scheme works in the 2020 presidential elections, managed, this time, to be registered in the lists, to receive 10 euros and to be transported organized to a polling station.

Dumitru Iancev, former magistrate at the Tighina and Taraclia Court, who uncovered the scheme by which voters on the left bank of the Dniester were transported and remunerated to vote for the Electoral Bloc of Communists and Socialists.

“On Sunday morning I passed through my neighborhood, but no one knew. They also asked me where the money was given. We went to the center, because it’s easier to find there, it’s the market. Coincidentally, I asked a taxi driver where money is given and he told me to go to Hamuteanovca (street in Tighina – n.r.), there is a big store, where people gather. I went there. People were already waiting. A woman named Vera came. I told her to sign me up. Since last year, she had a notebook with those registered in her neighborhood,” says Dumitru Iancev.

“He takes 10 bottles of vodka and decides the future of Moldova”

After his name was listed, the man received 10 euros from the organizers, an invitation with the Electoral Bloc of Communists and Socialists badges, and was put in a car which was to transport him, along with three other people. at a polling station.

“I asked how much money they give and they told me that 10 euros. I waited, then got in a car. We stayed for about 20 minutes, then they took us out and put us in another car. She (Vera – n.r.) got in the car and quickly gave the money. She asked for our names and checked them in the notebook. We asked the driver where he was taking us, but he didn’t tell us. On the way, I understood that we were going to Hagimus because they said that we are not going to Varnița because there are Romanians and the police. For 10 euros you get about 10 bottles of vodka. He takes 10 bottles of vodka and decides the future of Moldova,” says the man. Iancev reported the case to the police, offering as evidence the 10 euros and the invitation of the Electoral Bloc of Communists and Socialists. A criminal case was opened on this case.

Outraged, because they did not receive the promised money

In the Transnistrian region, there were cases in which voters, leaving the polling station, were outraged that they were not offered the promised amount of money. Because she had not received any money in exchange for the vote, a woman came out of the polling station crying.

“I came a second time to vote for Dodon, I thought they would give me 25 US dollars. They told me they give 25 US dollars each. But they are silent and do not give any money,” said the woman, after the vote.

“Money is not everything, but it depends on the sum”

The driver who admitted that he brought organized voters from the left bank of the Dniester to the polling stations.

Compared to the 2019 election, when voters were transported organized by bus, this time, voters reached the polling stations with smaller means of transport or by taxi. Like voters, car drivers were also paid for their service, admitted one of the drivers: ”As in a Russian proverb: Money is not everything, but it depends on the sum,” says the driver.

“They ordered the directors of companies, departments, public education, Sheriff’s stores, hospitals, everyone”

Information about vote-buying and organized transportation of voters in the Transnistrian region began to appear on groups of people living on the left bank of the Dniester in several messaging applications, both before and on the election day. People wrote that, in exchange for remuneration, employees from private and public institutions in the Transnistrian region were urged to “vote for Igor Dodon”. According to the information, those who run these institutions “gave the order” for people to be included in certain lists. The messages consulted by ZdG mention that such lists are drawn up on the entire territory on the left bank of the Dniester and refer to certain institutions, such as the Department of Public Education in Râbnița, Moldavian Metallurgical Plant, the shops of the Sheriff Sports Club, but also all hospitals.

“The Sheriff’s supermarket workers have to vote for Igor Dodon. On the way back you will be offered remuneration. Please give the name, surname, and patronymic of the organizers. They ordered the directors of companies, departments, public education, Sheriff’s stores, hospitals, everyone. The list of Moldovan citizens is collected not only at the Moldavian Metallurgical Plant, but also in the entire Transnistrian region, including state institutions. We strongly recommend voting for Dodon’s party,” it is shown in the messages from the voters’ groups on the left bank of the Dniester.

One of the war veterans who monitored the voting process at the polling stations open to voters on the left bank of the Dniester also talks about the involvement of private companies and the Sheriff holding company in the remuneration of voters on the left bank of the Dniester.

“We know from worthy sources that the Sheriff company pays every voter who comes with 40 euros. Teratex pays each employee who comes to vote 25 US dollars. That’s what we got,” said the indignant veteran.

Asked by phone, the representatives of the Sheriff Sports Club refused to talk to ZdG, urging us not to contact them anymore, because “no one will answer these stupid questions”. Contacted by ZdG, the representatives of the two institutions mentioned in the messages did not answer the phone to comment on the information.

“A pint of beer for a vote.”

Cases of possible bribery of voters have been reported not only in the Transnistrian region but also in several localities on the controlled territory of Moldova. The Promo-LEX Observation Mission reported a case in which the mayor of Speia village in Anenii Noi district would offer as a reward a pint of beer for each vote for a certain electoral contestant.

“Based on the rumors and discussions of the people who were to exercise their right to vote, the mayor of Speia village offers a reward a pint of beer for each vote for a certain electoral contestant. The reward is made at the mayor’s bar. The observatory saw some people take a pint of beer after the vote without paying. There was also a discussion in which a lady told the others that whoever votes with a certain contestant gets a pint of beer for free. That is, the information was confirmed from several sources,” said Nicolae Panfil, Promo-LEX program director.

Vitalie Coteț, the mayor of Speia village, elected in 2019 from the Democratic Party of Moldova, denied the information, insisting that he was not in the locality.

“No, no, it’s practically 10 minutes since I came home. I was not in the village, I was in Chișinău, I was, as a doctor, at a football match between juniors and adults today, on the bank of the Dniester, in the forest. I don’t know what kind of information you have, but I’m sorry. To be clear, it’s not my bar, it’s a location where my mother is the manager. It’s not mine and I cannot give anything that does not belong to me,” said the mayor of Speia village.

Vouchers worth 10 euros for voters at the exit of the polling station

Vouchers offered to voters at the exit of polling stations open to Moldovan citizens of the Russian Federation.

Another eloquent case that shows a possible corruption of voters was registered in the Russian Federation, where an observer of the voting process notified the Central Electoral Commission about voters that were offered vouchers when leaving the polling station.

Three days before the parliamentary elections, the Gift for Moldova company operating round-trip routes from the Russian Federation and Moldova announced that it will offer free vouchers worth 10 euros to those who will present themselves on July 11 at the addresses indicated by the company. Coincidentally or not, but those addresses coincided with the addresses of polling stations open to Moldovans in the Russian Federation. In the presidential election, on its social networking page, the company published messages urging it to vote for “a president who will strengthen Moldovan-Russian relations,” a position shared by Igor Dodon. At the same time, on their social media pages, representatives of the NGO distributed Igor Dodon’s electoral leaflets, Putin’s statement about Dodon, leaflets with fake information about Maia Sandu, the candidate of the Action and Solidarity Party, and published videos and messages supporting the Socialist Party.

Mihail Cornea, the representative of the company Gift for Moldova which offered vouchers to voters in the Russian Federation.

“As I said, on July 11, we will offer these certificates, we will have five addresses, where you can approach and receive these certificates. We have prepared a lot of certificates of this kind, I hope they will be enough for everyone. And we will be glad that you will be with us and receive such a certificate. And in St. Petersburg, we will send such certificates, so that those of our compatriots in the diaspora can use these certificates. Moscow and St. Petersburg, everything for you,” said Mihail Cornea, the company’s representative.

At the same time, in the video in which the company representative announced this initiative, he thanked the people for participating in a concert held a day earlier, organized, as he said, for people to “rest, relax and forget all the bad worries.” The company organized such a concert before the 2020 presidential elections.

Asked by ZdG, Mihail Cornea specified that the idea of distributing vouchers “aimed at waking up the diaspora in the Russian Federation, to go out in large numbers to vote. That was the idea, that was my message, it didn’t have a political tangent, it wasn’t political agitation to vote for a certain party or a certain candidate.”

Nearly 200 complaints about transportation and corruption of voters

Marin Maxian, deputy head of the General Inspectorate of Police, announced at the end of Sunday, July 11, that during the election period the police were notified 562 times with information on electoral violations, of which 236 complaints were submitted on election day. The representatives of the electoral contestants reported to the police in 187 cases, out of which 177 regarding the transportation of voters to the polling stations and the determination of voters to vote for a certain electoral candidate and 13 violations regarding the conduct of electoral agitation.

Voters in Transnistria region.

Promo-LEX expert: “They were speaking of amounts from 10 to 25 euros”

The Promo-LEX Association, which constantly monitors the elections in Moldova, reported to the early parliamentary election 15 cases of rumors, attempts, or even situations of material or monetary rewards offered to voters near the polling station, in order to determine the choice of voters. Promo-LEX observers found the organized transportation of voters in 29 cases: coaches, minibusses, or other transport units that would normally have nothing to look around for.
Nicolae Panfil, program director of Promo-LEX, states that, on election day, the association’s observers found multiple cases of voter transportation, frequently associated with cases of voter corruption. The clearest examples, says the expert, came from the Transnistrian region.

Nicolae Panfil, program director of Promo-LEX.

“This phenomenon erupted in Sunday’s election and everywhere in the news. We had clear indications that this voting scheme was organized mainly in the Transnistrian region and that many of the voters were corrupt. In general, they were speaking of amounts from 10 to 25 euros. I have often heard amounts indicated in rubles. In Chișinău, the observer reported a case in which, from the discussions heard between voters, a contestant offered 75 euros. It is difficult to say what the real amount would be because the police are going to document these cases and see how real they were. What is certain is that many of the cases registered in the Transnistrian region will probably remain undocumented because we do not have access there,” says Panfil.

The expert is of the opinion that the 15 cases in which we can talk about voter corruption, reported by the association, do not have a great impact on the final result of the election, but represent “a painful slap for democracy in Moldova.”

“This phenomenon is contrary to democratic norms, legislation and those who organized this must be identified and punished, regardless of the number of cases that took place,” concluded Nicolae Panfil.

According to the legislation, voter corruption is punishable by a fine ranging from 1,300 euros to 2,000 euros or imprisonment from one to five years, and legal entities can be punished with fines ranging from 10,000 euros to 15,000 euros, with the deprivation of the right to exercise a certain activity or with the liquidation of the legal entity.

AUTHOR MAIL

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