Pressure for NGOs during electoral period
Promo-LEX finds unfounded the accusations of the Democratic Party of Moldova against the Promo-LEX Observation Mission. Link: https://t.co/8Sh70Sm1Qm— Promo-LEX (@promolex) December 30, 2018
Parliamentary elections will be held in Moldova on 24th February 2019. Within this context, during the last few months, independent civil society organisations in Moldova have ringed the alarm about the pressures they are facing from different political actors. For example, Promo-LEX Association, an organisation working to promote democratic values, has been subjected to pressure from political actors after publishing reports documenting irregularities surrounding the electoral campaign. The organisation had published four reports where they highlighted several irregularities, including, the rapid approval of the consultative referendum without public consultation, the abusive use of administrative resources by some political parties, the lack of proper implementation of the electoral legal framework, and differences about voters data.
As a result of these activities, the organisation has been subject to denigrating attacks. For example, the Democratic Party of Moldova, claimed the results of the report as “untrue, unverified” information. In addition, the party stated that the report reached "unreasonable conclusions..., based solely on the views of the authors of the reports, as well as a set of conclusions that go beyond the monitoring mission". Harsh accusations against Promo-LEX were also made by the leaders of the Shor Political Party.
Promo-LEX responded to the accusations by saying:
"Promo-LEX Observation Mission is not a political opponent of the competitors involved in the electoral process, it is not an investigative body and does not assume the express obligation to prove the observed findings. However, observers’ reports are, as far as possible, accompanied by official information and other evidence, including photo and video recordings, which may only be made available to law enforcement authorities on the basis of appropriate requests and, in no case, shall it be provided to electoral competitors."
The Coalition for Free and Fair Elections also published a declaration to support the organisation and stated that "during several electoral campaigns at different levels, which they have monitored in the country and abroad, the experts of the observation mission have demonstrated that they have the necessary qualifications in the field of election monitoring".
On 7th February 2019, the organisation published its fourth report, during which they reported that acts of intimidation against members of the organisation continue to occur.
On 20th December 2018, a protest took place in Bălți, a city in the North of the Republic of Moldova. Hundreds of people, including many state employees and students gathered to express dissatisfaction with local authorities. Protesters gathered in front of the City Hall during the debate of the city's budget for 2019. On his Facebook page, mayor Nicolae Grigorişin accused members of the Democratic Party of Moldova of organising the demonstration. The party's spokesperson Vitalie Gamurari denied the accusation.
On 11th February 2019, several representatives and supporters of the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM) organised a protest in front of the headquarters of the Central Electoral Commission. Party supporters accuse government authorities of attempting to remove the party from the competition for parliamentary elections.
On 29th January 2019, Promo-LEX Association called on electoral candidates and politicians to avoid speeches that promote hatred and intolerance in society. The organisation stated that their experience of monitoring previous electoral campaigns has shown that "discourse based on various forms of intolerance becomes a tool that is increasingly used in electoral processes in Moldova". The organisation remarked that even though they believe freedom of expression is a fundamental pillar for any democratic state:
"Promoting a balanced, non-violent and respect-based language will not only enhance the quality of political discourse in the electoral campaign but will offer voters the opportunity to focus their attention on issues in society rather than on hate or discrimination messages."
Similarly, media organisations issued a statement condemning harmful speech against journalists. For example, it was reported that PLDM MP Maria Ciobanu, wrote a Facebook post about the opinions of journalist Victor Nichitus, staying: ‘I feel like smashing his head in.’