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19 October 2019
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Interviews

Gheorghe Russu

Vice-director, The Center for Combating Economic Crimes and Corruption

Parties-Phantoms, Parties - State Institutions, Parties - State Enterprises

Ion PREAŞCĂ

20 parties have registered in the current election campaign. Many people say it is a too big number for such a small country as Moldova. At the same time, much more parties could take part in the election campaign.

Last week illustrated
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Activists launch Moldova’s first ‘Space Camp’ © Susan Coughtrie

The Republic of Moldova - polygon for testing "dirty" electoral techniques

The Republic of Moldova, a small, poor, ex-Soviet country, with a young democracy, which many times is not functional, is a perfect polygon for testing „dirty” electoral techniques. There has always been a suspicion that such techniques have been used for all 18 years of country’s independence, but in 2009 it has become stronger then ever. It was the year of 2009, when the day of April, 5 witnessed parliamentary elections, which, surprisingly, were won by Communists.
Lilia GUREZ, Igor VOLNIŢCHI, 21 July 2009, 14:50

 The latter have been in power since 2001; however, their approval rating has kept falling in the latest years. Thus, following the elections, the Party of Communists received 60 seats in Parliament out of 101, i.e. four seats less then they did in 2005, when they enjoyed greater popularity. The communists came out on top even in districts where in their most „glorious” times they were less popular. An example can serve the case of Chisinau, Moldovan capital, where in spite of their titanic efforts they have never won the mayoral seat. Deriving from this situation, the opposition parties accused the governing party of massive electoral fraud, use of dirty electoral techniques, providing data to prove it. The Communists kept repudiating these claims. Given these circumstances, we decided to launch an investigation to find out whether electoral fraud was committed or not.


Some 800 thousand constituents appeared overnight

It is weird that several weeks before the April parliamentary elections, the Ministry of Informational Development provided a list of 3, 054 million citizens eligible to vote. The public was taken aback by this figure, as there were about 800 thousand people more than in the previous parliamentary elections. This difference and its significance for such a small country like Moldova are colossal. In 2005, for instance, 700 thousand constituents voted for the Party of Communists, which allowed them to win the parliamentary elections. There is no real reason for such a substantial rise in figures.

„I took part in several elections. In 2005, for instance, there were 2.27 thousand constituents. Even in the years with the highest rate of natural increase in Moldova, the birth rate was lower then the death one by 15-18 thousand individuals each year. Hence, there is no way we could have had such a huge rise in the number of constituents”, says Nicolae Raileanu, the representative of the political party „Our Moldova” Alliance (AMN) in the Central Electoral Commission (CEC).

Obviously, the opposition parties asked for explanations. They requested to be provided the number of constituents born since March 6, 1987 till April 5, 1991 (namely the individuals born in this time span could have influenced the increase in the number of constituents since 2005 till 2009) and the number of citizens who had died since March 6, 2005 (date of the previous parliamentary elections) till 2009. Neither after the elections, none of the three Members of Parliament, who asked for this information - Mihai Ghimpu, Corina Fusu and Gheorghe Brega, representing the Liberal Party of Moldova, received it. They requested MID and CEC to provide them the registry of citizens of the Republic of Moldova who are eligible to vote, the registry of individuals who died since January 1, 1990 till June 1, 2009 and the list of individuals born in the years of 1990 and 1991. The answer that followed from MID was a formal and evasive one: „We inform you that the requested data can be provided by CEC, provided that the legislation is observed”. In the end of the day, the enquirers did not manage to obtain this information even if the three of them are Members of Parliament.

It should be specified that the reaction of the opposition parties made MID change this figure essentially. Therefore, in the course of just a couple of days it went down to about 2.6 million constituents; over 400 thousand constituents miraculously disappeared!

„We‘ve been told that a mistake was made when calculating the number of constituents the first time, but I think that they understood that they had crossed the line and therefore provided data according to which there are 2.6 million constituents. This time, the difference was of about 400 thousand”, says Nicolae Raileanu.

MID behaviour raises doubts, as it is the local governments that must provide the rolls of constituents, and not the Ministry. After the scandal around these rolls, CEC claimed that those data had been provided by MID to local governments for information only; consequently the latter had to develop their own rolls. Moreover, the Party of Communists retorted that the opposition parties were holding the lead in many districts and could have checked those rolls. On its turn, the opposition replied that even if their representatives were in power in many localities, the Communists and their partners had an overall majority in the local electoral bureaus, and thus could have easily committed fraud. Some of the opposition leaders checked the rolls in the districts controlled by them and the ensuing results were not in favour of MID.

22 thousand constituents disappeared out of a sudden

The territorial –administrative unit Gagauz-Yeri is an autonomous region located in the South of the Republic of Moldova, where the Gagauz people lives. This region was always considered an area where the Communists held a strong position. However everything has changed in the latest years, when Mihail Formuzal, a representative of the opposition, has been elected its governor, while in the legislative body the share of Democrats has been slightly bigger then that of the communists. The MID data left the governor Mihail Formuzal speechless, as he knew well that in the region he is governing the citizens eligible to vote do not reach 128 thousand, as alleged by the Ministry.

„We received the rolls with 128 thousand constituents from CEC before the April elections, but we know that there are only 89-92 thousand constituents in Gagauzia. Let’s assume it is 94 thousand at most, which is the highest number we had in the last five years. That is why we requested the mayors to check the rolls very carefully. Within the timeframe set by legislation we managed to reduce them from 128 to 106 thousand. They will be checked again now and I think that the number of constituents will turn out to be 94-95 thousand”, affirms Mihail Formuzal.

The governor does not understand why they received such long rolls from Chisinau, as the law prescribes that the local governments should draw them up.

Why were the additional constituents needed?

At this stage, many were asking themselves: why did the Communists need to include so many additional constituents in the listing? There was widespread speculation over this matter, but one scenario deserves particular attention. Before the elections, MID issued hundreds of thousands of „one-day” identity cards, that could be used by certain individuals to vote in different places.

The information about these 200 thousand additionally issued identity cards was provided by a civil servant from the Ministry. „We know that a group of specialists came from Moscow to produce identity cards on the second floor of the building. But we have no proofs, because, as you may know, we do not have access there”, says the civil servant on condition of anonymity (by the way, the audio recording of this statement is available).

Some evidence, however, was found. The investigation revealed, for instance, tens of individuals who appeared on the electoral rolls with the same IDs. Here are three cases of this kind. The citizen Mihail Filipov, born in 1929, residing in Vasile Alecsandri Street in Chisinau town, participated in the elections with the identity card with the same number as the citizen Dumitru Spinu, born in 1953, residing in Academy Street - A01010597. After checking the series (category) and number of this ID in MID database we found out that this ID was valid. Obviously, only one individual could own an ID with this number and series. We managed to contact Mr. Filipov, who confirmed that this was his ID and who was very astonished to hear that somebody else used its number and series to vote. However, that somebody else could not be found.

We also checked the ID with the series and number A01021324. Again, two citizens Alexandru Taran, born in 1981, residing in Ismail Street and Ursu Nicolae, born in 1968, residing in Sciusev Street used an ID with this number and series to vote. In this case the investigation had a shocking result - the ID was NOT VALID. Although, initially Mr. Nicolae was willing to discuss with us, later he could not be found. The second individual who voted with an ID with the same series and number could not be found at all, while the apartment where he allegedly resided did not exist!

The third case is centered around the ID with the number A01091093, which was used in the suffrage by the citizen Iuliana Marian, born in 1990, residing in Ismail Street, in Chisinau town and the citizen Oleg Bondari from Branesti village, in Orhei district, born in 1987. Iuliana Marian said that she did not know that somebody else used her ID number and series to vote.

We tried to find out the phone numbers of the people mentioned above (by means of the paid public service 1189) to have some meetings with them, and it was weird that only one individual from each „pair” had a telephone at home. It might be just a coincidence, but it is too suspicious.

The strange things do not end here. Another fraud was voting with the same identification code, which was entered on the electoral roll instead of the ID series and number. Here is the case of Mrs. Alexandra Maftiuc, a retiree born in 1918, who voted on April 5 in Volintiri village, in Stefan Voda district. Right next to her name on the electoral roll, one could see the identification code 2002034074934. We checked this identification code in the MID database and found out that it belonged to... Mararita Constantin Victor. The ensuing question is logical: whose identity was stolen and by whom, or it would be more appropriate to ask who is guilty of the fact that two individuals turned out to have the same identification code?

During the investigation we found on the electoral rolls tens of individuals who voted several times with the same document. For instance, Victor Tacianov, born in 1949, residing in N.Costin Street, in Chisinau town, whose ID series and number is A01001427 appeared on all the three additional electoral rolls. His wife, Nadejda Tacianov, said that they were together on April 5. „I am sure that my husband’s ID couldn’t have been handed over to some other individuals. In fact it seemed strange to me that, although we have been living at this address since 1981, my husband could not be found on the basic roll and had to be included in the additional one”, she says.

At some point we thought that the MID database had certain deficiencies and that all the IDs were „problematic”. So, we decided to make an experiment and we introduced the ID series and number of one of us and, surprisingly, we were informed that the ID could not be found. However, when we introduced the identification number, the MID system provided the correct information about the owner of the ID. Therefore, there was a problem with just some of the IDs, not all of them.

Who stole the votes of the Moldovans living abroad?

The next step was to check the information that somebody voted for the Moldovans living abroad, thus „stealing” their option. The issue of Moldovans living abroad is very poignant for Moldova. According to the data made public by the Border Guard Service not long before the April elections, 600 thousand Moldovans were abroad at that moment, although the unofficial figure is about one million. During the electoral campaign, the opposition parties requested repeatedly that the authorities should open additional polling sections abroad, particularly in the countries where Moldova does not have diplomatic missions. These requests remained unanswered.

During the investigation we tracked down tens of cases when somebody else voted for the Moldovans living abroad. For example, in Saieti village in Causeni district somebody else voted for the following citizens: Babin Vasile, Babin Serghei, Duminica Alexandru, Mustata Doina, Nimerenco Serghei, Nimerenco Nelea, Purice Olga, Turcan Iulia, Sumleanschi Mihail, who have left the country long time ago. To have an additional proof that these individuals live abroad and that somebody else signed instead of them on the electoral roll, we asked for an official confirmation from the local government. „...are residents of Saieti village, but at the moment are not in the village and were not in the village on the elections day,” – reads the official confirmation issued by the local government, signed by the mayor V. Musteata.

The Saieti example is just one of the myriad of cases tracked down. For instance, this is the case of Belousov Fiodor Ion, Gonta Victor Ion, Borta Ion Vasile, Grigorita Vladimir Fiodor, Mereacre Constantin Ion who although have left the country long time ago, appear to have voted at the section no.14 in Costesti village, in Ialoveni district; or Bicu Mihail Mihail, Cojocaru Irina Sergiu who also appear to have voted in Hincesti at the polling section no.18 and Bucos Lidia Vasile, Dobrovolschi Silvia Grigore, Dobrovolschi Veaceslav Grigore, Spinu Igor Nicolae - at section no.17. It is also the case of Cerlina Elena, Cretu Ivan, Florea Andrei who appear to have voted in the Negrea village, in Hincesti district and Bumbu Nina, Chiperi Marina, Chiperi Grigore, Rosca Mariana, Rosca Victoria, Rotaru Mihail who also appear to have voted at the polling section no.69 in Voinescu village, in Hincesti district etc.

We managed to contact these people and their relatives. First we have to say that when investigating these frauds, we felt that our interlocutors feared potential prosecution following their statements for the media. For instance, we found out that one of the constituents registered at section no.4 in Calarasi, Ghenadie Bolboceanu, has been living in France for several years. We managed to speak to his father, Isidor, who confirmed that his son does not live in Moldova and that he was not in Moldova on the elections day. „Nobody could vote instead of him. How could somebody else vote instead of him, when he wasn’t here?”, he asked. At the end of the discussion Mr. Isidor told us that he understood that we, the journalists, were doing our job, but he wouldn’t like his son or himself to appear in media, however adding that it was up to us what to do. At the same time, he did not explain what he was afraid of.

A similar case happened with Vasile Untila from Discova village, in Orhei. He studies in Romania and on April 5 he voted at the polling section opened there. Nevertheless, somebody managed to vote for him and for his sister, Victoria Untila, who is in Italy, in their home village in Moldova as well. We contacted Vasile Untila and we were surprised to find out that somebody from his village was first to contact him and inform him that mistakenly a neighbour signed for him. The young man was also assured that the neighbour only signed, but did not cast the vote for him. However the „mistaken” signature wasn’t wiped out from the roll. From our discussion with Mr. Vasile, we understood that he was not willing to make a judgment on this issue and that he was quite satisfied with the doubtful explanation with the neighbour’s „mistaken” signature. We realized that he was just afraid for himself and his relatives when we asked for his sister’s contacts to see if any neighbour „mistakenly” voted for her as well. At the beginning the young man told us that we could not find his sister, as she was on her way to Moldova (as if mobile phones didn’t exist), then he refused politely to give us the phone number at their parents’ place where his sister was to arrive, and in the end he told us straightforwardly that he could answer our questions, but he wouldn’t have liked his sister to be bothered.

Here is the case of Valentina Danu, who „cast her vote” at the section no.2 in Calarasi. According to the data provided by the opposition, the woman has been living in Italy for a long time. We managed to find Mrs. Danu in Calarasi. She confirmed partially the information provided by the opposition. It turned out that she really goes sometimes to Italy, where she has a married daughter, whom she helps whenever necessary, but on the elections day she was in Moldova. The point here is that Mrs. Danu did not have the possibility to vote that day, and somebody, probably assuming that she was in Italy, cast the vote for her.

The case of the governor of Causeni district, Ion Ciontoloi, is also interesting. Having arrived at the voting section, he was astonished to note that somebody cast the vote for his daughter. „I was astounded as my daughter is in Bucharest and there was no way she could vote here. Even the position I am holding did not help me to find out the truth”, says Ion Ciontoloi.

There was a case when the information provided by the opposition turned out to be wrong. Mr. Alexandru Movila from Hincesti was in the country on the elections day and cast his vote at the section no.18 in his town, whilst the opposition parties claimed that he had been out of the country for long time and his vote was „stolen”. This information was confirmed by Mariana, his daughter.

Dead individuals on electoral rolls

One of the mostly discussed possible electoral frauds was putting names of dead voters on the rolls, technique that was used by the Communists in the elections, as claimed by the opposition parties. The Communists, on their turn, deny it. However, Marian Lupu, ex-speaker of Parliament, who has left the Party of Communists not long time ago and who was one of its leaders prior to the April elections, has recently made a statement which leaves room for a series of questions.

At a meeting with Moldovan bloggers when somebody asked whether dead people voted on April 5 or not, he said: “Yes!”, adding “We all know that there have been some problems with the electoral rolls. This problem was identified at the 2009 elections, but it was also specific to the 2005 elections. For the rest, I would like to see evidence which would prove that fraud has been committed”, said Lupu.

Nicolae Raileanu, AMN representative in CEC, claims that AMN identified about 800 names of dead individuals put on the electoral rolls.

As this is quite a subtle issue with a strong moral side, we selected at random two names of those provided by the opposition and started the investigations. One of these names belongs to Mrs. Pelagheia Codreanu from Carpineni village, in Hincesti district. At the April elections she was number 524 on the electoral roll at section no.17. We found her contacts, but came across Nadia Macari, who was living at that address. She confirmed that Mrs. Pelagheia had died long time ago and that this was the only information she could provide as she was renting the house.

This was not the only dead person on the roll at that polling section. There were, for example, Ciuguleanu Maria, Butnaru Dumitru, Leanca Grigore, Secrieru Stefan, Tubca Gheorghe.

The second name that we checked was Nadejda Buruiana from Ciuciuleni village, in Hincesti district. This case turned out to be very confusing. A woman picked up the phone and we asked her if Nadejda Buruiana, who was dead, had previously lived there. Our unconsidered question triggered the following reaction: „Dead? When did it happen?”. Without realizing it, we became part of a real drama. Our interlocutor turned out to be Maria Buruiana, who was married to the ex-husband of Nadeja Buruiana. She said that Nadeja Buruiana suffered from a serious mental disease and they had to take her to the psychiatric hospital in Badiceni village, in Soroca district. „Both my husband and I are lame and we haven’t visited her for about 2 years, but we asked the medical staff to let us know when she dies so that we can bury her in this village”, says the woman. Although, as it turned out, the villagers thought that Nadejda Buruiana was dead, because nobody knew that she was staying at a boarding house in the North of the country, her name was put on the electoral rolls. In this alleged case of fraud, the relevant bodies should have their say: on which of the electoral rolls should Nadejda Buruiana appear – is it in Badiceni or Ciuciuleni? And in general, is this woman, who, as said by Maria Buruiana, suffers from a serious mental disease, eligible to vote?

Double voting and false signatures

During our investigation we came across a strange situation. The same constituents appeared on the basic roll at a certain voting section, and on additional rolls at another section. Obviously, we could not overlook this situation and selected one case proceeding to its investigation. It is the case of 28 individuals that appeared both on the basic roll in the Tigheci village and the additional roll in Cuporani village. Both villages are under the jurisdiction of Tigheci local government and are located in Leova district.

We paid some visits to these villages, which are located at about one hundred km from the capital, Chisinau. Having arrived in Tigheci we started asking the passers-by where the 28 individuals who appear on two different rolls lived. Although in Tigheci their names were put on the basic roll, the villagers told us that all of these 28 were from Cuporani. In Cuporani, the first man we came across was one of the individuals we were looking for – Veronica Fanaru. When we told her the aim of our visit, she put a grave expression on her face. Later we understood the reason: she was one of the electoral staff members in Cuporani, delegated by the Party of Communists. Mrs. Veronica told us that she cast her vote only in Cuporani, but before the elections she went to Tigheci, where she was registered and where she was given a special card to be able to vote in the village where she lived.

Both Ioana Blanari and Mr. Ivan Bucurov who also appeared on two electoral rolls told us the same thing. We asked all our interlocutors how come that their signatures were on both rolls, as if they cast their vote twice. The two women said they did not know, but assumed that the second signature was put as a confirmation for taking the card which allowed them to vote in Cuporani. On his turn, Ivan Bucurov said that he did not know anything about the second signature, as he did not sign anything in Tigheci. At the same time, all our interlocutors considered that the ones who used their identity to vote should be held liable for this.

We figured out that there was nothing new we could find out in Cuporani on the issue we were interested in and decided to look for explanations in Tigheci. We headed for the house of the mayor Ivan Para and he seemed neither surprised to see us, to our astonishment, nor enchanted. We realized that somebody had already informed the mayor that two journalists were ferreting things out in his village to find out the truth about some potential electoral frauds. The mayor invited to the discussion Aliona Gutol, who was deputy chair at the voting section no.38 in Tigheci. What she told us, many times in a sharp and clearly hostile tone of voice, confined to the following: we acted pursuant to the instructions given during the training seminars organized for the electoral staff; those 28 individuals voted in Cuporani. The signatures on the electoral rolls in Tigheci were put just to confirm the receipt of voting cards; no breach of legislation occurred.

The two of them almost convinced us that in Tigheci and Cuporani no fraud was committed. However in Chisinau the story took another twist. Nicolae Raileanu explained that if the signatures put on the roll in Tigheci were meant to confirm the receipt of voting cards, in this case there should have been a mention of it next to them in the column designed for that purpose. We checked and in most cases there were no notes. Therefore the signatures seemed to confirm that these individuals received ballots.

But that’s not the end of the story. We got a terrible shock later when, out of curiosity, we decided to compare the signatures of the same person on both rolls and it turned out that they differed totally from each other and even for a layman it was quite obvious that the signatures belonged to different people. We have the relevant evidences for all the statements and conclusions made in this investigation and we are ready to put them at the disposal of anyone willing it. So the conclusion in this case is: electoral fraud was committed in Thigheci and Cuporani! By the way, here is an interesting fact: the mayor Ivan Para informed us that he changed completely the composition of the village electoral body. Why would he do that, if everything was ok at the previous elections, as he pretended it to be?

Who „stole” the option of the mentally ill patients?

The suffrage in different Moldovan institutions, where mental patients are treated, was also accompanied by serious violations. We identified, for instance, on the electoral roll at the vocational school in Orhei town over 200 mental patients, who were not even able to sign for receiving the ballots. Some other tens of patients put on the electoral rolls conventional signatures, like crosses, zigzags etc.

The investigation revealed a similar case at the Boarding School in Badiceni, Soroca. Andrei Palamari, who was appointed observer on behalf of a political party at that institution at the April elections and was present at the suffrage told us that was far from a democratic suffrage. „The nurses were entering with the children in the voting booth and I noticed that they were casting the votes for them for the Party of Communists. As far as I know the director of the boarding school is a supporter of the Party of Communists and the nurses were told beforehand to vote for this party”, he said. The observer claims that following his and other observers’ interventions a compromise was reached: nobody would enter with the patients into the voting booth; the children would come one by one and tell their option, and somebody would introduce it in the ballot for them. The observer says that even if the secrecy of voting was not ensured, that was the only solution, as „many patients did not know what was going on with them, were applying incorrectly the stamp”. „Some of them did not know the names of the parties; when asked for whom they wanted to vote, they were saying what they had been told in the corridor before entering the room: the hammer and sickle”, said Andrei Palamari. According to him, over one hundred of patients voted this way.

Voting without IDs and by individuals ineligible to vote

During the investigation we detected hundreds of cases when the ID number and series had not been entered on the rolls, which is a violation of the Electoral Code. That is, for instance, the case of over 70 names put on the electoral rolls at the section no.10, in Ungheni town. These are: Babiuc Maria, Poliscaia Maria, Ciobanu Silvia, Alcaz Tatiana, Melinte Aurelia, Siscanu Alexandru, Sirbu Raisa etc. Many of them were even given ballots and cast their votes.

Mrs. Abrahamyan Heghush, born on 11.05.1976, that is not a citizen of the Republic of Moldova, but resides in Durlesti town in Cartusa Street voted with the staying permit with the series and number CR7801137. Although she was not eligible to vote, she was given a ballot by the electoral staff.

In Glodeni under-aged individuals had been put on the electoral rolls. This is the case of Gavaza Andries and Gavaza Sergiu who voted this way at section no.4. The former was born in 1991, while the latter in 1993 and they were number 801 and respectively 804 on the electoral rolls.

„Vanished” minutes

Amidst other strange things and deviations from the democratic rules is the disappearance of a number of minutes at certain polling sections. Nicolae Raileanu claims that, for example, no minutes were found in any of the polling boxes in all 69 polling sections opened in Hincesti. „When the voting section is closed, the electoral staff draws up the minutes and throws it into the voting box along with the ballots. The minutes can be useful when checking if the number of constituents who received ballots and the number of ballots in the box coincide. In Hincesti, none of the boxes had minutes in it. Here comes the question: could the voting boxes have been substituted with others?” he asks. This question is not meaningless, given that the opposition parties found among the materials submitted to CEC from districts electoral rolls dating back to March 5, 2005, day of the previous parliamentary elections in Moldova. Such an electoral roll came from the voting section no.17 and was put at our disposal as well.

Why didn’t the observers react?

The representative of a certain political party confessed, on condition of anonymity, that some of the observers were „paid” by other parties. „Some of them received from one thousand to one thousand and half lei, being told that somebody, who was wishing to vote but forgot the ID, was going to come to the suffrage”. The observers did not know who was that person who was going to come and when more than one person were coming to vote this way they could do nothing with that. By taking the money they were forced into keeping their mouths shut. They witnessed how certain individuals were receiving three ballots at once, but they had to keep silent. Some of them were fuddled by alcohol”, he confessed.

Fraud proportions

The opposition parties claim that about ten kinds of massive frauds were committed in the elections. Some of them, according to Oleg Bodrug, the Liberal Party representative, are the following: non-coincidence between the number of voters who received ballots and number of signatures on the electoral rolls; voting without legally required IDs; putting dead people on the electoral rolls and casting the votes for them; voting for other people; identical signatures for different people; multiple voting; voting by a single person with different IDs, voting by different people with the same ID etc.

Although it is difficult to estimate at the moment what was the size of the fraud and to what extent it influenced the outcomes of the elections, certain conclusions can be made. Nicolae Raileanu says that AMN checked about 27% of the electoral rolls and detected over 6500 major frauds. „The minor ones have not been considered. 15% of the votes we checked were fraudulent”, he says. Oleg Bodrug says that PL (Liberal Party) checked about 20% of the electoral rolls, and 10-15% of votes turned out to be fraudulent. Similar data were also provided by PLDM (Liberal Democrat Party of Moldova).

Sergiu Sirbu told us that the Party of Communists, which he represents in CEC, investigated some of the „so-called frauds”. „None of the alleged cases of multiple voting or voting for dead individuals did not prove out”, specified Sirbu.

Why did the Constitutional Court ignore the evidence provided by the opposition?

The opposition parties submitted all the evidence to support the allegations of electoral fraud to the Constitutional Court. However, contrary to expectations, the judges did not even examine them and validated the results of the elections by five votes to one. The judge Victor Puscas confessed why he voted against.
„ The fact that I voted against has nothing to do with my view on whether the validation of MP mandates was correct or not. I drew the attention to the procedures that the CC must apply. Although the CC provided a written note reading that the contestations did not influence the results of the elections, no contestation regarding the electoral frauds was examined. It is hard to believe that several hours from 10 am when those contestations were submitted till 2 pm were enough to examine them– it was just a formal approach. I said that somebody in this country should answer all these questions. Either CEC, or courts, or CC should have done it. These three institutions are responsible for elections, although each of them has its own functions. The questions remained unanswered. That’s why I voted against”, he said.

The judge claims that „the signals” regarding the correctness of elections „were very serious”, „if compared to 2001 and 2005 when I was also a member of the commission for validating the elections. That is why these cases required further elucidation. By the way, CC had the right to use for that purpose ten days more, as CEC submitted a new report on the results of the elections. All the cases contested should have been examined” concludes Victor Puscas.

The chairman of the Constitutional Court, Dumitru Pulbere, agreed to discuss with us on this delicate issue. He did not keep it secret that CC did not look through the evidence provided by the opposition parties, but said that this could be explained by the legal norm in force. According to him, „what the opposition parties submitted to the Court is waste paper, not evidence”. Dumitru Pulbere said that „it is not the Court members who should go to villages to check the electoral rolls” and that the opposition parties were the ones to document each case of alleged fraud during the electoral campaign, to refer to the electoral bureaus, CEC, courts, write down the frauds in the minutes, obtain the court decisions on the alleged frauds. „If they had submitted such decisions, minutes etc. to the CC, these would have been considered documented evidence and we would have examined them. The papers they submitted to us cannot be regarded as evidence”, he said.

Were certain individuals rewarded for their „contribution” in elections or not?

During the investigation we noticed some curious and quite interesting things. For example, immediately after the elections, the Minister of Informational Development, Pavel Buceatchi, was awarded by the President Vladimir Voronin the medal „Labour Glory”. There are widespread rumors that he was „rewarded” for MID „input” to the elections, although the official reason sounds differently, of course.

Mark Tkaciuk, head of the electoral staff of the Party of Communists, was awarded the „Order of Honor” after the elections.

The Communist Member of Parliament Anatolie Gorodenco, whom the PCRM (The Party of Communists of Moldova) appointed to be responsible for Hincesti district (where our investigation revealed a number of frauds that we have mentioned above), was appointed chairman of the parliamentary legal commission for appointments and immunities.

According to the data provided by the opposition parties, the president Vladimir Voronin presented some of the communist mayors, CEC members and the CC judges with very expensive Swiss watches (according to some data they cost about 3 thousand Euro each, according to others 400 Euro). Dumitru Pulbere confirmed that the CC judges received watches from the president and, disregarding the evidence submitted by the opposition parties, appeared to be very indignant that these presents were seen as a reward for the validation of the election results.

„It is a violation of any ethical and moral norm! Yes, we were given watches. But this was a solemn moment; it doesn’t matter who is the president, he is still a president, who wanted to say good bye to all the state bodies and should we be so low-minded to say that CC favors a certain political party if the president makes a small present, an album, book, watch? Are we children in kindergarten or what? Could this be a reason for giving presents? And it happened when the elections had already been pronounced valid. Do you think the president told us: if you don’t validate the elections, I will not give you watches? Let’s be serious!”, said the CC chairman.

Victor Puscas, judge at the Constitutional Court, confessed that when he was invited by the president Vladimir Voronin, he ”felt that the meeting was about something else” and just did not go. ”Later, the watch was brought to me at work. I tried to estimate the value of this watch. It is important because according to the legislation the judge may not accept presents, souvenirs more expensive then the minimal salary. If presents more expensive than prescribed by law are given in relation to the job, they must be handed over to the management. When I found out that the value of this present was 400 Euro I gave it to my managers. They refused to take it, although they knew very well that the judge, particularly the constitutional one, has no right to take presents”, he said.
Even if the statements of the opposition parties, the governing communist party and the representatives of different state bodies are contradictory, it is clear that there were serious violations in the April elections, which cannot be overlooked. If they are not dealt with properly, Moldova risks to strengthen the image of a state with a stumbling democracy, where various „dirty” electoral techniques are being tested.

This investigation has been conducted with the support of the Danish Association of Investigative Journalism

 



Readers' comments
Recent comments:
iannn, 7 September 2009, 12:42
Its now September; the progress in 6 months is a testimount to faith and courage of Moldovian citizens. Despite all that stood against them; as documented; change is taking place.
Moldova is proving that it is not a testing ground for democracy; more; a shining light of human faith and courage that can never be extinquished,
The credit is with the people of Moldova; who as the constitution states; are the power in the land.
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