Strasbourg, 14 November 2002

CG/Bur (9) 59

Report on the regional elections in Gagauzia, Moldova (6 and 22 October 2002)

Rapporteurs: Mr Yavuz MILDON (Turkey), Mrs Noreen RYAN (Ireland)

Document adopted by the Bureau of the Congress on 13 November 2002

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Introduction

1. In accordance with CLRAE Recommendation 110, the Moldovan Government has created a working group to improve the situation on local government including laws, which have been partly rejected by the Constitutional Court. With regard to the creation and the functioning of this working, some concerns were raised by the Rapporteur on Moldova, Mr Mildon during his last fact-finding mission to Moldova in August 2002.1

2. A draft Agreement between Moldova and Transnistria has been drafted by OSCE, Ukraine and Russia. Although this agreement was meant to put an end to the longstanding political conflict within Moldova, this agreement had not been accepted so far and there also emerged worrying trends from the side of Gagauz authorities – as to if a balance could found between their autonomous status and, in the view of the draft agreement, an eventual federal status of Transnistria.

3. With regard to the political situation in Gauges, the situation has been quite alarming since a referendum was held in February 2002 to depose of the governor, Mr Croitor. This referendum was considered illegal by the CLRAE, but accepted as legal by the Constitutional Court of Moldova. Serious concerns have been raised lately by the CLRAE concerning the separation of legislative and executive powers of the Gagauz political system.

4. The new regional elections for the post of Governor of Gagauzia, organised on 6 October 2002, were supposed to put an end to the ongoing political divergence and to stabilise the democratic process in the region concerned.

5. The CLRAE received an official invitation both from the President of the Popular Assembly of Gagauzia and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Moldova. Therefore, a Delegation was created to observe the elections organised on 6 October 2002. This Delegation was composed of Mr Yazuv MILDON (Turkey), Vice-President of the CLRAE, Mr Dan P MEDREA (Romania), expert, Mr Riccardo PRIORE and Ms Marta TURI (CLRAE Secretariat). As the elections held on 6 October 2002 were considered invalid, a new delegation was created for the same purpose, which was composed of Mrs Noreen RYAN (Ireland), President of the Committee of Culture and Education Committee of the Chamber of Regions of the CLRAE, Mr Dan P MEDREA (Romania), expert and Ms Marta TURI (CLRAE Secretariat).

1. Background information on the regional elections in Gagauzia

6. There is a Central Electoral Code of Moldova, modified in 1999, which is applicable to elections organised in Moldova. However, as Gagauzia is an autonomous region, it has its own Regional Law on Elections for the post of Governor, which was adopted in 1998.2 Consequently, this was the legal basis of the elections held on 6 and 20 October 2002. The last regional election for the post of governor (baskhan) of Gagauzia was organised in August 1998 for a mandate of 4 years. Mr Croitor occupied this post during this term.

7. In accordance with the legislation, the regional elections are considered valid if 50 percent +1 of the electors have participated in the elections. In order to get elected in the first round, a qualified majority of the votes is required. This means 50 percent +1 of the total votes should be given to a candidate. If it is not the case, a second round has to be organised within two weeks. However, in the second round, only the first two candidates who have obtained most of the votes in the first round, are nominated and a relative majority of the votes is sufficient to get elected. In case of parity of votes between the two candidates, the votes given in the first round are also taken into consideration.

8. With regard to the candidates, there were initially seven candidates for the post of governor. Mr Croitor's registration was rejected by the Regional Electoral Committee (REC) for two reasons. First of all, according to the legislation on regional elections, his candidacy should have been presented by the regional party and not by the central one – as it was the case of Mr Croitor. Secondly, he did not manage to collect the 5000 signatures required by the legislation as a pre-condition for registration as an official candidate at the regional elections.3 Apart from that, another candidate, Mr Burgundji withdrew his candidature before 6 October because he was facing judicial proceedings. Therefore, there were five remaining candidates running in the first round of elections scheduled on 6 October 2002.

9. 1. Mr Tabunshyk: the first governor (baskhan) of Gagauzia. He was the primary communist candidate with significant support from the central authorities. He is a member of the Parliament.

2. Mr Stamat: Chief of the Department of International Relations of the Executive Committee of Gagauzia.

3. Mr Formuzal: mayor of Ceadir-Lunga.

4. Mr Taushanjee: mayor of Comrat.

5. Mr Topal: First President of Gagauzia between 1989-1994 (not recognized as an independent State)

10. The Regional Electoral Committee, based in Comrat, was the body responsible for regional elections in Gagauzia. It is composed of 9 members: 3 members of the Popular Assembly of Gagauzia, 3 members of the Executive Committee and 3 judges. The Central Electoral Committee, based in Chisinau, has only a consultative and co-ordinative role in this matter.

2. The regional elections in Gagauzia for the post of governor organised on 6 October 2002

11. The number of polling stations has not been modified significantly since the last elections (the number decreased from 62 to 61). However, the addresses of these polling stations have been changed and the new addresses were not communicated in due time by the media. Polling stations were opened from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. The campaign-break started at midnight on 6 October and lasted until midnight 7 October 2002.

12. Eighty nine thousand, three hundred and twenty six voters have been registered on the voter's list. There was a concern raised by OSCE that this number is relatively high and does not reflect the effective population of Gagauzia: since many of the electorate have left Gagauzia as migrant workers. This could be one of the reasons why there was such a low rate of participation. In the meantime, the voter's list was communicated only on 4 October, two days before the elections. In accordance with the legislation, it should have been done three weeks prior to the elections.

13. With regard to international observers: OSCE-ODHIR, French Embassy, US Embassy, Turkish Embassy, Council of Europe participated. OSCE-ODIHR has decided not to issue an election monitoring report but rather an elections assessment. There was a significant number of domestic observers, mainly NGOs and representatives of candidates.

14. The CLRAE Delegation held a press conference and issued a press release on the observation of elections (see appendix 1). Among the recommendations two main concerns have been raised: firstly, there was significant support provided by the central authorities during the election campaign towards one specific candidate. This was the candidate that the central authorities could 'work with' in order to avoid divisions, which was previously the case. In this respect, the Delegation underlined the importance of the impartial role of the central authorities during the entire election process.

15. Secondly, the secret character of the vote was violated. This fact has been observed in all the polling stations visited. The problem was that after one has given his/her vote in the cabin, the ballott paper had to be presented to a member of the Commission of the Polling Station concerned for stamping. The fact that the ballot paper was not put in a closed envelope, (or closed in any other way) allowed the officer to observe the result of the vote given. Afterwards, the ballot paper was put into the ballot box. For future reference, an interaction between the vote and its deposit in the ballott box should be avoided.

16. According to other technical observations and the information gathered:

- The population was not properly informed about the election procedure and the official documents related to the election process were not prepared by the competent authorities in the delay established by law. Lack of official information on the election procedure in polling stations and replacement of the above-mentioned information by non-official posters often contained mistakes;

- Presence of police forces and non-authorized persons inside of certain polling stations;

- People (mainly elder) were authorized to vote without having identification documents in certain polling stations;

- Family voting in certain polling stations.

17. To sum up, we can conclude that apart from the two mains concerns mentioned above, the elections were generally organised, in a calm and peaceful atmosphere without any major incidents on the polling day.

18. Regarding the electoral climate and the nature of the campaign, the Delegation received information from the local population on the spot that they had little confidence in the forthcoming elections. The population seemed to be quite frustrated with the ongoing political conflict and the lack of dialogue among the authorities. This might be the reason why they showed such a low interest in taking part of the elections. According to the results, these elections were considered invalid due to low rate of participation (41%).4 (With regard to the votes given: Mr Tabusnshyk received 31%, Mr Formuzal 21%, Mr Stamat 17%, Mr Topal 4%, Mr Taushanjee 2%.) Therefore, a new round was organised within two weeks, scheduled on 20 October 2002.

3. Repeated regional elections in Gagauzia for the post of governor organised on 20 October 2002

19. With regard to the five candidates running for the post of governor in the first round of elections, there have been some changes since 6 October. Mr Total resigned in favour of Mr Formusal. In the meantime, Mr Stamat's name - the second communist candidate who obtained 17 percent of the total votes in the first round - was removed from the list of candidates at the last minute by a decision of the Court of Appeal of Moldova, rendered on 18 October.

20. As regards the case of Mr Stamat, an allegation made by Mr Tabunshyk has started the procedure. According to the legislation on regional elections, 5000 signatures had to be collected in order to get registered as an official candidate for the post of governor of Gagauzia. Mr Tabunshyk made an allegation on 17 September 2002 that some of the signatures collected by Mr Stamat had been falsificated. He made another allegation on 3 October 2002.

21. It is important to note that during a meeting held with the CLRAE Delegation on 6 October 2002, Mr Petrov, the President of the REC made no reference to such a complaint.

22. The REC did not follow-up on the allegations at that stage but acted only two weeks later, after the results of the first round of elections. Without any serious examination, Mr Petrov, the President of the REC took the decision on 15 October 2002 to remove Mr Stamat's name from the list and exclude him from the repeated regional elections scheduled on 20 October. The examination was based upon, according to the wording of the President, 'visual examination' of the signatures. At that stage, Mr Stamat had 6200 signatures in total far more than necessary as 1261 had already been considered invalid by the REC (out of the 7500 signatures presented).

23. Mr Stamat launched an appeal against this decision at the Municipal Court in Comrat, which held a 6-hour session on this case and pronounced a judgement on 17 October 2000, giving satisfaction to the appeal of Mr Stamat. The Court has found the decision of the REC without any legal basis. The legal findings were based upon four facts:

The allegation made by Mr Tabunshyk was not registered officially in the Journal of Incoming Mails of the REC, therefore it cannot be considered as a valid document.

The decision made by Mr Petrov, President of the REC to exclude Mr Stamat as a candidate from the regional elections, was not an official decision but rather a personal indication. The reason is that no official meeting was held with the members of the Committee, in accordance with the legislation, to discuss such an important matter.

With regard to the declaration of 30 citizens that stated in a written form that some signatures had been falsificated, the Municipal Court of Comrat stated that a written declaration without oral confirmation at the Court was not admitted. Furthermore, this declaration could not be considered as a valid document because there were no date, signatures or addresses indicated on them. As a consequence, these people could not be questioned at the Court.

The evidence brought by the REC that somebody - allegedly associated to Mr Stamat - has taken a list of citizens, which contained personal data details from the Regional Police Sector of Gagauzia, was considered invalid by the Court. The Court found that there was no link proved between the event and the alleged falsification.

24. With regard to the judicial procedure, one raises some concerns about the functioning of the Rule of Law in Moldova. The judgement of the first instance was pronounced orally on 17 October and distributed in written at 16:00 on 18 October in Comrat. It is quite surprising that the appeal of the REC had already been drafted by that time and the appeal proceedings in Chisinau started at 17:30 on the same day and lasted only 15 minutes. The Secretariat is not in a position to comment upon the judgement on the appeal but would like to underline, that apart from this proceeding, that while there were 6 pages of legal reasoning by the Municipal Court, the Appeal Court in Chisinau found it sufficient to reason its findings, on such an important matter, in four sentences.

25. In the meantime, the Delegation was informed by the President and Vice-President of the REC in Comrat, that the ballet papers had started to be printed, in accordance with the legislation, once the appeal judgement was pronounced. One raises the question how it was possible to print out 90.000 ballot papers from Friday to Saturday as the appeal judgement was delivered at 17.45 on Friday, 18 October. After having visited 8 polling stations, all the presidents of the polling stations confirmed,5 that they had  received the necessary ballet papers before 12 o'clock on Saturday, 19 October. It seems quite obvious that the ballot papers had been printed prior to the delivery of the judgement on the appeal. It is noteworthy to point out only the names of the three remaining candidates appeared on them: Mr Tabunshyk, Mr Farmezal and Mr Taushanjee – the name of Mr Stamat was not mentioned at all. It is quite clear that the decision on that issue should have been made beforehand. (According to a hypothesis raised by OSCE, the reason behind was to avoid invalid votes in the repeated elections. If Mr Stamat's name had appeared on the ballot papers, as being excluded from the elections, it would have caused invalid votes but would not have affected the participation rate, meaning the validity of the elections.)

26. The reason behind the exclusion of Mr Stamat from the repeated elections might be, that the intention was, to ensure the election of Mr Tabunshyk, with a qualified majority in the repeated elections. The exclusion of Mr Stamat ensured Mr Tabunshyk all the communist votes. This avoided splitting the votes between himself and the eventual participation of Mr Stamat. (Mr Stamat received 17 % of the votes on 6 October, and Mr Tabunchyk got 31 %). According to the results of the repeated elections, this intention has succeeded. Mr Tabunshyk has been elected by qualified majority (50,99% of the votes).

27. The Delegation received information, both from local observers and from OSCE, on the media coverage during the elections campaign. Basically, Mr Tabunshyk received a huge media support from the central authorities and a private TV channel, which promoted Mr Stamat closed down 'for two weeks holidays' just before the repeated elections. According the information provided, no equality was ensured among the candidates by the media, and Mr Tabunshyk was largely promoted by the publicly owned TV channel.

28. Some of the technical irregularities remarked by the former Congress delegation during the elections on 6 October have not been corrected. They refer in particular to the lack of official information on the election procedure, presence of the police inside the polling stations, people voting without having identification documents and family voting. The Delegation has issued a press release (see appendix) but did not hold a press conference.

29.The results of the Gagauz election have been contested by the candidate, Mr. Formuzal and by a group of electors at the Municipal Court in Comrat. They accused the REC of Gagauzia of irregularities in organising the elections and they made reference to the observations made by the Congress and OSCE. The Court found this request ungrounded by a decision rendered on 2 November. Therefore, the Court has validated the elections organised on 20 October. The case is still pending on the appeal.

4. Recommendation

30. With regard to the overall conclusions of the elections observation missions, the Delegations would like to point out the following recommendation: the principle of equal opportunities among the candidates has been violated during both elections organised on 6 and 20 October 2002. One specific candidate, notably the one elected, was considerably supported in different ways by the central authorities, during the elections campaign and by means of means coverage by the publicly owned media. Therefore, the central authorities did not remain impartial during the elections process.

31. The other major concern of the Delegation has been the exclusion of Mr Stamat by a judicial decision from the repeated regional elections scheduled on 20 October. The Delegation is, once again, not in a position to comment upon the judgement on appeal, but would like to underline that the judicial proceeding applied in this case on one hand, and the printing out of the ballet papers without Mr Stamat's name prior to the delivery of the judgement on appeal on the other, have raised serious concerns with regard to the Rule of Law system and more particularly the validity of the elections concerned.

APPENDIX 1

6 October 2002
PRESS RELEASE

On 6 October 2002, a Delegation of the Council of Europe's Congress of Local and Regional Authorities (CLRAE) observed the elections related to the Governor (Bashkan) of the autonomous region of Gagauzia, Republic of Moldova.

This observation mission was organised further to the official invitations addressed to the CLRAE authorities by both the Moldovan and Gagauzian authorities.

The Delegation was composed of Mr Yavuz MILDON (Turkey), Vice-President of the CLRAE, Mr Dan P MEDREA (Romania), expert, Mr Riccardo PRIORE and Ms Marta TURI (Secretariat General of the Council of Europe).

On the day of the elections, the Delegation has observed the voting in 28 out of the 61 polling stations. Further to the elections, the Delegation has formulated the following preliminary remarks:

The elections were organised in accordance with law and, from this point of view, they can be considered as fully legitimate.

With regard to the pre-election period, the Delegation noted that certain candidates were supported not only by the political parties concerned but also by the central authorities of the country. In this respect, the Delegation would like to underline the importance of the impartial role of the central authorities during the entire election process.

According to the information gathered, the population was not properly informed about the election procedure and the official documents related to the election process were not prepared by the competent authorities in the delay established by law.

On the day of the elections, the polling took place, in general, in a calm and peaceful atmosphere. However, important technical irregularities were observed in a number of polling stations:

Non-respect of the secret character of the vote expressed by the electors on the ballot papers;

Lack of official information on the election procedure in the polling stations and replacement of the above-mentioned information by non-official posters often containing mistakes;

Presence of police forces and non-authorized persons inside of the polling stations;

People (mainly elder) were authorized to vote without having identification documents;

Family voting.

4. With regard to the result of the elections, the Delegation noted the low participation rate of the population. Taking into account the legal provisions in force, this could lead to the repetition of the elections. The Delegation considers that recent political tensions concerning regional authorities of Gagauzia could have contributed to a certain lack of interest of the population in the democratic process within the region.

A complete report on the election observation mission will be prepared in the coming days and discussed by the competent authorities of the CLRAE.

APPENDIX 2

Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe

Press release

Regional elections in Gagauzia conducted in a calm atmosphere

but some concerns about last moment changes in the list of candidates

On 20 October 2002, a delegation of the Council of Europe's Congress of Local and Regional Authorities (CLRAE) observed the repeated regional elections to the Governor of the autonomous region of Gagauzia, Republic of Moldova.

During the election day, the Delegation observed the start of the poll, the casting of votes and the vote counting in 11 polling stations. The voting process has been conducted in a relatively calm atmosphere and participation was sufficient to meet the required threshold.

However, some irregularities have been observed, in particular:

1. A number of allegations indicate that the candidates have not been granted equal opportunities during the election campaign and that State authorities did not remain neutral during this period.

2. Serious concerns are to be expressed with regard to the changes made at the last moment in the list of candidates and the democratic character of the procedures leading to deprivation of the right to stand for election of one candidate. The Delegation considers this to be extremely important and will submit its findings to the competent authorities.

3. There is clear evidence that the ballot papers have not been printed strictly within the time specified by the law.

4. The number of local observers at each polling station has decreased.

5. Some of the technical irregularities remarked by the former Congress delegation during the elections on 6 October have not been corrected. They refer in particular to the lack of official information on the election procedure, presence of the police inside the polling stations, people voting without having identification documents and family voting.

The CLRAE's observers will prepare a detailed report on this mission.

-:-:-:-:-

The Delegation was composed of Mrs Noreen RYAN (Ireland, member of the Congress), Head of the Delegation, Mr Dan P. MEDREA (expert) and Ms Marta TURI (CLRAE Secretariat).

1 Moldova, Fact-Finding Mission (12-14 September 2002), Report submitted by Congress Rapporteur Yavuz MILDON, CG/Bur (9) 29 Rev, Strasbourg 19 September 2002. 2 Apart from that, there is a Regional Law on the Elections for the Popular Assembly of Gaugazia. 3 Mr Croitor did not challenge this decision at the court. A sort of compromise has been found between him and the central authorities: he recently got appointed as Ambassador of Moldova to Switzerland. This appointment was withdrawn but later on re-confirmed by the President of Moldova, Mr Voronin. 4 According to the legislation, 50+1% of the votes are necessary for the elections to be valid. 5 Polling Stations No. 2, 3, 14, 27, 28, 36, 43, 61.

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