STATEMENT: PARTIALLY FREE AND PARTIALLY FAIR ELECTIONS in a climate of hate speech, biased reporting, suspicions of political influence on electoral bodies

13 July 2021

Starting from the principles[1] underlying free and fair elections set out in international treaties and conventions on civil and political rights and in the Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters of the Council of Europe's Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), and Pointing out that the elections took place within a legal framework with gaps and problematic provisions, which has not been improved in line with the 2016 and 2020 Constitutional Court addresses and the recommendations of national election observation missions, OSCE/ODIHR and the Venice Commission the Civic Coalition for Free and Fair Elections notes that the early parliamentary elections of 11 July were competitive, voters had a variety of political alternatives from which to choose, there were virtually no obstacles or pressures preventing contestants from freely expressing their choices and presenting their offers to voters, including through the electoral debates; Appreciates the good organisation of Election Day by the Central Electoral Commission and the lower electoral bodies; Notes the positive impact on ensuring equal opportunities for women and men in Parliament of the compliance by electoral contestants with the double gender quota when drawing up lists of candidates; Based on the above principles and starting from the irregularities and deviations noted by the Coalition's member organisations, both during the campaign and on election day, the Civic Coalition for Free and Fair Elections assesses the parliamentary elections of 11 July 2021 as partly free and partly fair, for the following reasons: The Coalition considers that the examination of electoral complaints was carried out in a flawed manner. The failure of the Parliament to adjust the provisions of the Electoral Code on electoral complaints to the provisions of the Administrative Code has led to misunderstandings regarding the competence of the institutions and the applicable procedure. As a result, actors in the electoral process were limited in their right to challenge the actions of their opponents and deprived of the right to an effective remedy. Delays in the examination of electoral disputes, in particular concerning the establishment of polling stations for voters from abroad and from the left bank of the Dniester River, have put at risk the integrity of the electoral process and respect for the principle of legal certainty. The Coalition notes with concern the non-transparent, unpredictable nature and reasonable doubts of political influence of the process of setting up polling stations abroad. Contrary to good practice in previous elections, the CEC did not use any methodology to apply the three criteria set out in Article 31 of the Electoral Code when setting up polling stations abroad. The initial CEC decision of 5 June 2021 ignored the increase in figures for two criteria - turnout in the previous election and pre-registration. The authorities responsible for the process of setting up polling stations abroad showed a lack of inter-institutional communication, which was also found by the courts. The late establishment of polling stations abroad, only 18 days before the vote, contrary to the legal deadline of a minimum of 35 days, did not allow for effective information of voters abroad about the location of the new polling stations. We also note that the process of setting up polling stations for voters on the left bank of the Dniester River lacked transparency, raising concerns about political interference in the work of the CEC. The initial adoption of decisions to open 44 polling stations[2], including 3 polling stations in the perimeter not controlled by the constitutional authorities, ignored the risks to the security and integrity of the voting process. Although the 3 polling stations[3] were subsequently abandoned, the criteria for opening polling stations for voters in the localities on the left bank of the Dniester were arbitrarily instrumentalised by the CEC in the absence of a clear methodology. The lack of access to information and the prohibition of electoral agitation on the left bank of the Dniester by the separatist authorities in Tiraspol did not allow voters to be freely informed about the electoral process and the programmes of the electoral contestants. The parliamentary elections of 11 July 2021 were marked by multiple cases of use of administrative resources (at least 291 cases[4]) by some electoral contestants, thus affecting equal chances in the elections. Most of them concern the involvement of civil servants in the election campaign during working hours and taking credit for works/services carried out with public money. In the absence of a clear legal definition of administrative resources, as well as appropriate sanctions for their use, this issue remains unresolved[5]. Proposals to amend the Electoral Code in this chapter were introduced in draft law No 263 of 19 June 2020, which was approved by Parliament only in first reading. The reporting of election contestants' expenses to the CEC, which is often incomplete or completely missing, remains problematic. According to Promo-LEX estimates, electoral contestants did not report expenses of at least 10,859,900 lei[6]. The Coalition noted with concern the dynamic of the use of hate speech during the election campaign, generated by several electoral contestants against political opponents and President Maia Sandu, which has gained momentum in the run-up to the elections. Promo-LEX observers identified at least 132 cases of hate speech and incitement to discrimination in the public space, in the media and online in Moldova[7]. The authorities have failed to develop legal solutions and relevant mechanisms to prevent, combat and punish this phenomenon, and the Parliament has failed to approve in final reading the draft law no. 301/2016 regulating bias-motivated crimes . The Coalition established that the media, with some exceptions, was biased in its behaviour, gave unbalanced coverage of the electoral contestants and failed to ensure comprehensive information to the public about the electoral process and how to exercise the right to vote. The monitoring of audiovisual media services showed disproportionate presentation of the electoral contestants, in particular between the Communist and Socialist Electoral Bloc and the other contestants. BECS was the most visible electoral contestant, being heavily promoted by two TV stations (NTV Moldova and Primul in Moldova) out of the 10 monitored by CALC, and favoured by three others (Moldova 1, Prime TV and Publika TV) through the time allocated to their interventions. Three channels had an editorial policy unbalanced in favour of PP ȘOR, and TV6, RTR Moldova and Prime TV allocated more space to the party's exponents. Three other channels (Pro TV, TV8 and Jurnal TV) covered the election campaign in a relatively balanced way, except for the last week of the campaign when the BECS bias was noted. The Audiovisual Council, the audiovisual regulator, did not exercise its supervisory and control powers with the utmost diligence and good faith and did not take prompt decisions to ensure fair and equitable coverage of the candidates by all audiovisual media service providers. The CA launched only one monitoring report in the election campaign, which found deviations from the law by several broadcasters, but intervened with sanctions in only one case, the other TV stations were left unattended. The lack of promptness and efficiency of this institution did not contribute to ensuring free and fair elections. In the online media, the biased, selective and unbalanced coverage of the election campaign was even more pronounced. The results of the monitoring of ten news portals show that BECS was the electoral contestant most often placed in a positive context and PAS was most often placed in a negative context. Only two of the monitored portals ( and had, overall, a balanced editorial policy in relation to political actors. The portals and showed obvious political bias in favour of BECS, and - in favour of AUR. These online publications totally disregarded the rules of journalistic deontology, publishing tendentious articles discrediting politicians and electoral contestants, speculations and insinuations without presenting the reply of those targeted. Four portals (,,, had an editorial policy that favoured, to a greater or lesser extent, the electoral contestant BECS, and favoured PAS. In the case of some portals, the publication of articles with a hidden, i.e. not properly marked, advertising character was found. The large number and diversity of electoral incidents observed on election day is a particular concern in this election. Up to 22.30, Promo-LEX observers reported 459 incidents[8], including: rumours, attempts or even situations of material or monetary rewards offered to voters (15 cases), violation of the secrecy of the vote (89 cases), electoral agitation or black PR in the polling station premises (28 cases), deficiencies in the voter lists but also in the functioning of the SIAS Elections (57 cases), etc. Although it is an old problem for the electoral process in the Republic of Moldova, organised transportation of voters has not been regulated by the Parliament so far. During the election period, CALC submitted two applications to the CEC requesting the adoption of a decision preventing the organised transport of voters on voting day for the parliamentary elections of 11 July 2021[9]. Contrary to previously established good practice, the CEC did not adopt this decision. As a result, Promo-LEX observers reported 29 cases of organised transportation of voters. According to the observers' reports, but also from media sources actively covering Election Day, there is a clear link between the cases of voter transportation and allegations of vote buying. The Coalition notes continued discrimination against people with special needs, who continue to face physical and information accessibility barriers. Over 70% of polling stations were inaccessible to people with locomotor disabilities, with less than 1% of polling stations accessible. With the exception of two electoral contestants who published election platforms in Braille, the other electoral contestants did not develop and disseminate materials in accessible formats for people with disabilities. Only the CEC and the CICDE have developed and broadcast video spots with mime-gesture language translation. - The Civic Coalition for Free and Fair Elections is a permanent, voluntary entity made up of 36 public organizations in the Republic of Moldova with the aim of contributing to the development of democracy in the Republic of Moldova by promoting and conducting free and fair elections in accordance with the standards of the ODIHR (OSCE), the Council of Europe and its affiliated specialized institutions. 13 July 2021 [1] Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the OSCE Conference on the Human Dimension of 29 June 1990, to which the Republic of Moldova acceded on 10 December 1991. [2] [3] [4] See cumulative data in the reports No 2-5 of the Promo-LEX Mission to observe the early parliamentary elections of 11 July 2021. [5] Draft Law No 263 of 19 June 2020 was passed by the Parliament only in the first reading [6] Reference is made to the electoral period until 2 July 2021. [7] Between 11 May and 5 July 2021. [8] The number of incidents on the day of the parliamentary elections was slightly down compared to the autumn 2020 presidential election (Round I with (-22) and Round II with (-40) incidents) [9] Similar to CEC Decision No 4390 of 20 October 2020 on some issues related to the organised transport of voters to polling stations on the day of the presidential elections of 1 November 2020