Civil society mobilises to protest electoral changes pushed through the Moldovan Parliament

Peaceful Assembly

On 7th May 2017, several civil society organisations - some under the banner of the group NuPlaha-FreeMoldova - mobilised over 200 people in front of the parliament building in protest over a draft law that would make significant changes to the electoral system. The proposed legislation would create a mixed system, with half of the 101 deputies being elected according to party lists and the other half in a uninominal voting system. Civil society is concerned over how quickly the draft law was pushed through parliament without obtaining the mandatory opinions and analysis from relevant parliamentary committees. There is also concern that the new electoral system could be used to further consolidate the ruling parties' power, as Vladislav Gribincea, Director of the NGO - Centrul de Resurse Juridice din Moldova - (Legal Resources Centre), stated: "This bill will create preconditions for maintaining two parties in power, thus undermining democracy and preventing the appearance of new parties". Civil society has planned more protests for 14th May to call on the government to withdraw the proposed legislation. 

Eight years have passed since mass protests erupted over allegations of electoral fraud, leading to repeat elections and a complete change in government as the former ruling Communist Party was unseated by a pro-European coalition of three parties. To this day, however, some investigations into police violence during the protests have yet to reach a conclusion and hold all responsible persons to account.  

Following the 2009 protests, the General Prosecutor's Office initiated more than 150 cases against protesters and police officers. And 71 criminal cases were filed on charges of torture and excessive force; 28 of those went to court and the remaining cases were suspended because police officers’ identities could not be confirmed. To date, 14 police officers have been acquitted, while in two cases criminal prosecution was suspended. Eleven people were imprisoned and six criminal cases are still pending.

Ion Perju, a police officer convicted of the death of young protester, Valeriu Boboc, was sentenced to ten years in prison but fled the country before he could be put in prison. The former Minister of Interior and the former head of the Chisinau police were acquitted by the Supreme Court of Justice. Civil society has called for more thorough and transparent investigations of the cases of police force used during the protests. 

Expression

On 4th May 2017, Moldpresa, a public distribution service for print publications in Moldova, failed to distribute that day's copies of the  newspaper Ziarul de Gardă to subscribers and Moldpresa kiosks, where newspapers and magazines are sold.

Ziarul de Gardă is an independent publication, specialising in investigative reports on corruption. After looking into the incident, the newspaper's editorial board referred to Moldpresa's actions as an act of sabotage. Moldpresa’s manager has not provided any explanation as to why the newspaper was not delivered.

Investigative journalists have been reporting on various corruption cases, many involving top politicians and government officials. Viewing the media as a threat to their power, the Moldovan authorities in turn have taken action to restrict press freedom and access to information.

Association

From 20th January to 20th February 2017, the State Chancellery conducted a public competition to select members of the National Council for Participation (CNP), a newly re-instated platform for dialogue between government and civil society. In total, 26 civil society representatives have been nominally selected to hold seats in the CNP from 2017-2019. 

Originally established in January 2010, the CNP has been inoperative for nearly two years, during which time many discussions have taken place over how to most efficiently restructure it. The commitment to establishing a national-level mechanism for institutionalised civil society participation in decision-making processes is part of the country's National Action Plan to fulfill the provisions within the Association Agreement between the Republic of Moldova and the European Union.