Expert Forum observed the first round of local elections in Moldova, held on the 20th of May 2018 in seven localities. Most voters were concentrated in the municipalities of Chisinau and Balti. EFOR team consisted of four short-term electoral observers who covered polling stations in Chisinau, including the suburbs. More than 20 polling stations from the Chisinau sectors were covered, plus the suburbs Codru, Bacioi, Bucuieci, Stauceni, Durlesti or Cricova.
On the day of the vote, the EFOR mobile teams did not identify serious violations of the law or actions endangering the process of organizing the elections. It is confirmed that the main risks to the integrity and fairness of the vote have occurred in the pre-voting period, during or before the campaign, as shown below. However, there were irregularities noted in several polling stations, the most frequent of which were:
- Voters with aggressive behavior that destroyed ballots or expressed their vote in public
- Members of the electoral bureaus who did not know properly the electoral procedures that had to be fulfilled
- Voters who did not know voting procedures, the most common observation being that they were unaware of the role of electronic voter system operators
- “Family” voting – voters who voiced their election without respecting the secret of voting
- Inappropriately organized polling stations that could have led to violation of the secret of voting by inappropriate placement of voting booths
- Continuation of the electoral campaign through the presence of a significant number of banners, posters, billboards, advertisements on electronic screens that promoted the campaign messages of the candidates. In some places, these materials continued to be displayed a few days after the E-day
On the election day, the low turnout in both Chisinau and the suburbs (35.43%) was noted. In the sections observed, the number of people who voted on additional lists or with the mobile ballot box was very low.
During the Election Observation Mission, EFOR members met with local media, civil society and election experts. Following discussions about legislation and how the electoral campaign took place, we pointed out a number of potential vulnerabilities or actions that may create unequal conditions for competitors:
- Poor monitoring of the media and how it reflected the electoral campaign, either by selectively presenting news, or by promoting data that has the potential of false news.
- Use of fake news directed against an electoral competitor; also denied by the European External Action Service through the East StratCom Task Force / EU campaign versus Disinformation. An article published by Al Jazeera was forged and biased information was added in the sense that the candidate Andrei Nastase agreed to build mosques in Chisinau in exchange for “renting” the city for a period of 50 years to Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi, prepared to invest in the capital. This campaign continues the recurrent theme of immigrants, also used during the election campaign for the presidential election in 2016
- Lack of effective mechanisms for verification of signatures for registration of independent candidates in the electoral competition and the existence of suspicion of illegally in the registration process of the candidate Silvia Radu, based on potentially flawed signatures
- The presence of errors in the electoral lists.
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