How could the organization of the voting process abroad for early parliamentary elections be improved?

11 June 2021

The Institute for European Policies and Reforms (IPRE), with the support of the Hanns Seidel Foundation – Republic of Moldova, in cooperation with the Civic Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (CALC) and the “Adoptă un Vot” community, as well as in media partnership with and, organized on Thursday, June 10, 2021, the sixth online public debate in the format #EUDebatesCafe: “Organization of the voting process in the diaspora for the early parliamentary elections.”

Speakers of the event, which was moderated by Mihai Mogildea, Team Leader, Europeanisation Program, IPRE, spoke about current issues related to the exercise of the right to vote by Moldovan citizens abroad within the early parliamentary elections, the preliminary actions taken by the authorities for the organization of voting in the diaspora, the number and location of polling stations, but also the provision of financial and logistical support for the conduct of the voting process.

Please find below some of the key interventions of the speakers:

Eugen Revenco, Secretary General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration (MFAEI): “Immediately after the publication of the decree for dissolving the Parliament, we had several meetings with CEC’s representatives and discussed the launch of the preparation process for the electoral process abroad. We, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, had to present data about the number of citizens, their location and we also evaluated our possibilities to ensure from a logistical point of view the organization  free and fair elections abroad. After gathering this information, we asked our embassies to consult the diaspora associations and to come up with substantiated proposals on the locations where they would recommend the opening of polling stations. We also took into account the experience from other electoral processes and came with a recommendation to the CEC to double the number of polling stations where we saw a large turnout of voters. I asked and recommended the opening of a larger number of polling stations, in order to reduce the pressure on the polling station, reduce the waiting lines and increase the capacity to process the ballots. I asked the CEC to examine the doubling of the number of polling stations, even where the number of voters reached 3 000. The decision to open 139 sections did not take into account the situation of at least 10 locations. One option would be to diversify the geography, in order to reduce the pressure on some voting polls. The appearance of the subsequent changes taken by the CEC did not allow us to expose ourselves”.

Alexandru Berlinschi, Head of the Election Management Department, Central Electoral Commission (CEC): “On June 8th, a Decision was adopted by which amendments were made to the Decision of June 5th. It was agreed to change both the number of polling stations and the geography. Following the changes, nine polling stations were added and two more were excluded. I want to refer to the participation in first round of the presidential elections in 2020, when there were no problems outside the country related to the number of ballots. Unfortunately, in the second round, at 11 polling stations the maximum limit of 5 000 ballot papers was reached. Thus, in the Decision of June 8th, practically at these polling stations, another section was supplemented, in order to avoid these cases. If we refer to this year’s budget, so far the Government has allocated 70 million lei for the organization of elections, and the CEC will have, until June 20th, to address a request with the exact calculation of how much money will be needed for additional allocations to the 70 million sum. The CEC has approved an estimated expenditure of 125 million lei, of which over 70 million will be paid as allowance for the electoral representatives, which are over 20 thousand”.

Elena Prohnițchi, Secretary of the Civic Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (CALC), Deputy Director, ADEPT: “We expect the CEC to come up with a proposal to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with an estimated number of voting polls. From what we have seen, this process took place behind doors, and the draft decision of 5th of June, which proposed the opening of 160 polling stations, was not made public. In its position published on 7 June, CALC mentioned this lack of transparency in the process of opening polling stations abroad, but also condemned the Commission’s illegal and irresponsible decision to open 139 polling stations abroad. This position of the Coalition was based on several findings. First of all, the Commission did not take into account the 3 criteria provided by the Electoral Code for establishing polling stations abroad. In the motivation of the decision of June 5th, which does not describe very clearly what is the motivation of the CEC to open the 139 polling stations abroad, the CEC practically expresses its disagreement with the lack of accuracy of some criteria provided in the Electoral Code. But this, in our opinion, is not an excuse from the CEC, because the CEC had more than half a year to establish an algorithm that would allow the use of these criteria. The decision of June 8th also does not meet the 3 criteria. So it remains as illegal, in our opinion, as the June 5th decision.”

Pavel Postică, Manager for Development and Evaluation, Promo-Lex: “Unfortunately, public authorities tend to use the mechanism of infringement of legislation and regulations as an excuse when they do not want to take a decision or are influenced by certain circumstances, especially political. All calculations must start with budgeting. What is budgeted is the minimum necessary that was to be set up. 150 polling stations represent the minimum that was morally mandatory for the CEC. The second aspect I want to emphasize is related to those 3 criteria. These criteria were not taken into account. When we have a huge turnout in the second round of the 2020 presidential election, when we see a huge number of pre-election registrations, and the CEC takes copy-paste and opens exactly the same polling stations as in the previous election. My question is to the CEC and all the members of the Commission who voted in favor of this decision, how did it take into account these two criteria, pre-registration and attendance at the last ballot. The answer will be simple> they did not take into account. Unfortunately, we are in a situation where we must recognize one very clear thing: the opening of polling stations abroad is not a matter of legality, provisions, rules, but is a matter of consensus and policy between different entities or actors directly or indirectly involved in the decision-making process. And the last thing I understood from this whole story with the opening of polling stations abroad and in the Transnistrian region is the need for a new mechanism and way to appoint CEC members to their positions, because political influence on purely technical decisions to be taken by public authorities ”.

Dumitru Vicol, Member of the group “Adoptă un vot”, Associate Analyst IPRE: “Initially, many in the diaspora were somehow against pre-registration because there was nothing concrete. For example, there were proposals to introduce a mathematical criteria, let’s say that at 300 prior registrations, in a y-ray, there is a polling station, so that we also know how to motivate people to register. So we were very critical of the pre-registration. Imagine that after a while we were shown that pre-registration somehow works and we thought we should probably give the CEC a reliable dose. At the moment, if someone comes to convince me once again to register in advance and will campaign for it, I refuse as long as it is not a clear criteria to mention that a certain number of registrations, within a radius y, leads to opening a certain number of polling stations. Otherwise this mechanism does not make sense because it is discredited. Secondly, I think it’s purely political. For me, the attitude of the CEC not to open polling stations in certain areas is a political slap. Unfortunately, only a few people who decided this, influenced our negative impression about CEC. In this sense, what relationship does the citizen build with the embassy or with that consular officer? The next time he goes to the embassy, he will say in a way “you are the one who did not want to open polling stations, or the one who did not want to give me the 5005 ballot”. In this case, these people who are politically partisan actually destroy the image of the entire system and the relationship between ordinary citizens and authorities.”

The event was organized within the project “EU DEBATES CAFÉ: Advancing knowledge and expertise on EU institutions and policies in the Republic of Moldova”, implemented by IPRE, in cooperation with the Hanns Seidel Foundation in the Republic of Moldova and with the financial support of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.


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