Moldovans protest in large numbers against cancellation of Chisinau mayoral election result

Peaceful Assembly

Over the course of several days in June 2018, thousands took to the streets to protest against a court judgment which invalidated a victory by opposition leader Andrei Năstase in Chisinau's mayoral elections. Protests took place in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, and elsewhere across the world. Large numbers took part in daily protests following the court ruling on 19th June which overturned Năstase's electoral win. According to Radio Free Europe, the court cancelled the results of the election because "both candidates had used social media to call on voters to turn out on election day, which [the court] ruled was illegal campaigning".

Protests were also held in the early hours of 26th June in front of the Chisinau City Hall, when the Supreme Court upheld the lower Court's decision to invalidate Nastase's win. Road traffic on Stefan cel Mare street was blocked by police in a move seen by Maia Sandu, chair of the opposition political party PAS, as an attempt to block the protestors' access to the center of the capital. Năstase himself described the action as a "new provocation by the regime" and a tactic to blame the protests for inaccessibility to the city.

Protests against the move to cancel the election results continued into July, with hundreds of opposition activists gathering on 19th July in front of the parliament to demand new mayoral elections. As things stand, the post is to be filled by an acting mayor until the next election in 2019.

Expression

Civil society advocates for media freedom

On 20th July 2018, Moldovan civil society organisations released a statement in which they expressed concerns about threats against journalists made by politician Ilan Şor. In a Facebook video post, Şor, who is mayor of the small town of Orhei in eastern Moldova, promised to introduce a "lustration" law which would be aimed at targetting a certain category of journalists which, as he put it, are "paid to write misery about people". Şor made the statement on 20th July following a protest by some of his supporters.

Lustration laws have been used in the past by countries to identify collaborators with past regimes. In the Washington Post's words, lustration "seeks to cleanse a new regime from the remnants of the past".

In their statement, Moldovan media and civil society organisations urged politicians to display calm, common sense and not resort to threats. They also reminded those with complaints against the media to refer them to the Press Council and to legal channels such as court action.

Civil society organisations were joined by the Ombudsman's office and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in their condemnation of Şor's inflammatory language.

In a separate development, in May 2018, NGOs in the media sector condemned the confiscation of an issue of the independent regional weekly newspaper Cuvântul (Word). In a press statement, the NGOs protested the seizure of the circulation of the paper as well as procedural irregularities in the arrest and investigation by police on 10th May of Rezina Print House employee, Ion Panfilii, who was carrying copies of Cuvântul newspaper to the post office in the city. After being detained for three and a half hours, police charged Panfilii with the offence of "Acquisition, Preservation, Transportation and Trafficking of Material Values", allegedly because he transported the newspapers in a private car without a permit. Signatories to the statement believe that this incident amounted to intimidation of journalists. Cuvântul had previously published several investigations about the property and personal interests of senior officials in the administration of Rezina district in the north-east of Moldova.

Association

In June 2018, Moldovan NGO the Legal Resource Center released a report analysing the implementation of the "2% mechanism" in Moldova during 2017. The mechanism allows individuals in Moldova to designate 2% of their income tax to nongovernmental organisations. The law was adopted in 2016 and became increasingly popular among Moldovans after publicity by different Moldovan CSOs on the importance of the associative sector for the countries social life. The aim of the research was to analyse how well the mechanism was implemented in 2017 and how important actors in the process fulfilled their duties.

The report reveals that 484 "non-commercial" organisations managed to register in the list of 2% beneficiaries. On the other hand, 40 organisations were denied registration because they did not meet the eligibility criteria. The authors reported that, of the 484 registered beneficiary organisations in 2017, 302 (or 62%) received funds through the scheme. Notably, 21,204 taxpayers - or 11% of all taxpayers who filed their income tax declarations in time - decided to exercise their right to make a percentage designation in 2017.

The authors conclude that the percentage mechanism is not sufficient to ensure the financial stability of non-commercial organisations. However, benefits brought about by the scheme to-date include the increased communication of NGOs with the public.