Unionists Will Be Left without Romanian Flags. What Else Socialists Want to Change in Election Laws

Home / News / Unionists Will Be Left without Romanian Flags. What Else Socialists Want to Change in Election Laws
MPs from the Socialist Party proposed amendments to the electoral law. NM examined the draft amendments and found that, among other things, socialists are proposing to reduce the voting time by two hours, revoke licenses from television channels for violating the principle of equidistance during election campaigns, and prohibit the use of flags and symbols of other states during the election race. Spoiler - the latter can hit the unionists, who cannot do without the Romanian flags in the elections. The bill The explanatory note to the bill says that its main goal is to improve the electoral procedures. The authors of the project refer to the recommendations of the Constitutional Court, which he sent to parliament after the 2016 presidential election. The CC then emphasized that electoral legislation should be consistent with the constitutional principles for organizing democratic, fair and transparent elections. The explanatory note says that some of the shortcomings pointed out by the Constitutional Court have already been eliminated: they increased the number of ballots from 3 thousand to 5 thousand for polling stations abroad, allowed the diaspora to vote on expired passports, and also introduced “additional criteria for determining the number of polling stations abroad. " Another part of the recommendations of the Constitutional Court and international observers, as noted in the explanatory note, is presented in this bill in the form of legislative norms. It has already been considered at a meeting of the parliamentary legal commission. Hate speech, flags, administrative resource According to the bill, electoral competitors and their proxies will be banned from using hate speech and calls for discrimination during the election campaign. Also, candidates will be banned from using administrative resources, including participating in the launch of infrastructure projects paid from the state budget, using public equipment, funds and property of their campaign to collect signatures or provide voters with free services, as well as use “communication resources for an election campaign or collecting signatures ". The authorities, state institutions and subordinate structures will not be able to transfer or provide public property and services to electoral competitors, with the exception of services on a contract basis. In pre-election advertising it will not be possible to use the image of state institutions of other countries, representatives of foreign authorities or international organizations. It is also forbidden to use combinations of colors or sounds associated with national symbols of other states or international organizations, to use photo, video or other materials in which politicians, officials of other states or members of international organizations appear. The same prohibitions apply to promotional videos and “audiovisual programs” about electoral competitors or referendum participants. The NM interlocutor in the parliament, commenting on the PSRM proposal, noted that if the bill is passed in this form, in fact, the unionist parties using the Romanian tricolor and anthem during the election campaign could suffer from this situation. According to the bill, the EU flag cannot be used either. Short vote According to the current legislation, polling stations are open from 7 a.m. to 21 p.m. Socialists propose reducing the working hours of polling stations by two hours and holding a vote from 08.00 to 20.00. The explanatory note to the bill does not say what this initiative is associated with. State language According to the current legislation, polling stations operate from 7 to 21 hours. Socialists propose reducing the work of polling stations by two hours and holding a vote from 08.00 to 20.00. The explanatory note to the bill does not say what this initiative is associated with. State language Now, according to the Electoral Code, ballots in accordance with the law “On the functioning of languages ​​in the Republic of Moldova” are printed in two languages ​​- Russian and Romanian. Socialists propose to print ballots in the state language and "by decision of the CEC in another language." Independent expert in the field of human rights, Veaceslav Balan, in a commentary for NM noted that the authorities should ensure information and language accessibility of all elections-related information, especially voting ballots, to make that clear to all citizens of the country, including those who speak minority languages. “Given the realities of Moldova, ballots should be printed in the state language, in Russian (for the entire territory of the country), as well as in a limited edition in Gagauz, Bulgarian, Ukrainian and Romani (for the areas of compact residence of these ethnic-language groups). I what way authorities shall guarantee this: by fixing it in the Constitution, the Election Code, another law or in the mandatory rules of the CEC - remains at the authorities' discretion. The main thing is that this should be guaranteed and secured. This issue cannot remain “at the discretion” of anyone or depend on budgetary opportunities,” the expert emphasized. Complaints The current legislation provides that voters and electoral competitors have the right to appeal against actions / inaction and decisions of election councils and bureaus, and actions / inaction of electoral candidates. Complaints can be submitted not only to election councils and the CEC, but also to the court. Socialists propose changing this provision of the law so that such complaints are considered by the electoral authorities, and a detailed appeal procedure is prescribed in the CEC regulations. They also propose that complaints about inadequate coverage of the election campaign by the print media should be considered not by the courts, as before, but by the CEC. TV channels and Broadcasting Council The Code of Audiovisual Media Services, in 17 paragraphs, refers to penalties for media service providers for violating the law. PSRM deputies propose adding two more subparagraphs to this list. They propose to supplement the part that concerns the suspension of a broadcast license or permission to relay. Now you can suspend the license if the service provider repeatedly violated the provisions of the Code during the year. PSRM proposes to revoke the right to disseminate or publish information on elections and referenda for seven days, if the media clearly prefers some kind of electoral competitor or political party, giving them advantages in the election race. They propose introducing the same punishment for those who, while covering the election process, do not comply with the principles of justice, responsibility, balance and impartiality. If violations continue, the authors of the project propose that the media be revoked of their licenses until the end of the election process. Media that cover the election campaign without receiving authorization, or that do not comply with the sanctions imposed, will be punished by suspending the broadcast license. For what period the license will be suspended, the bill does not indicate. Petru Macovei, Executive Director of the Independent Press Association (API), in a commentary for NM noted that this approach "leaves room for abuse in the conditions of Moldova." “Our Broadcasting Council (STR) is not an independent structure. If the STR made decisions based on the letter of the law, without giving preference to a particular political movement, this might be acceptable. But even in this case, such sanctions seem excessive to me. And in our reality, this opens up even more opportunities for abuse. This composition of the STR is distinguished by the selective application of sanctions: they do not notice media violations of one political orientation and punish media outlets of a different political orientation for the same misconduct,” Macovei said. He recalled that during the election campaign in the local elections last fall, the STR rarely provided media coverage of the campaign. And the final report was considered much later than the end of the election. “Then they made a strange decision: they did not begin to punish anyone for violations during the coverage of the election campaign. If I am a conscientious broadcaster, I believe that I was discriminated against because I respected all the rules, and my competitors did not, but they were not punished. I understand that the socialists have the majority in current STR. But the party of power shouldn't make such decisions, it doesn’t make them look good,” Macovei says. Better than it was, but there are questions Promo-LEX Program Director Pavel Postica, commenting on this bill for NM, suggested to start by paying attention to how transparency principles are not followed during its consideration. “We, [civil society], ourselves, so to speak, have imposed themselves on the CEC to show us this bill, held two rounds of discussions, and made our proposals. We wanted the same cooperation with the jurisdiction of the parliament, we asked them to invite us to consider this project, but this did not happen. And this, as a result, may affect the quality of the law,” Postica said. He also noted that neither the CEC website nor the parliament website published a bill incorporating proposals from civil society. In particular, Postica said, civil society representatives suggested that "the definition of the language of hatred be clearly articulated, leaving no room for discrepancies." But this proposal, like the others, was not taken into account, according to Postica, “Unfortunately, our proposals were not taken into account. It’s good that they introduced punishments, but it’s not very clear from the project what the language of hostility is,” Postica said. The bill’s provisions regarding election observers also raise questions, he said. Current legislation allows observers to be registered before the start of the election campaign, while they can continue to work after its completion. For example, monitor how complaints are handled. Socialists proposed registering voters only after the start of the election campaign. “Another issue relates to the accreditation of international observers. Thus, the bill provides that diplomatic missions can offer only international observers for registration. But Moldovan citizens who were previously registered as national observers work at the embassies. Now it is not clear how this will be interpreted. The rights and obligations of national and international observers are almost the same, but national observers have the right to make and file complaints about the actions of the electoral body,” Postica explained. He also said that representatives of civil society proposed changing the formula for appointing members of the CEC so that they are delegated by three branches of government, and not just parliament and the president. “We also talked about the fact that all members of the commission, and not just the management, should work on a permanent basis at the CEC. We considered that even with the permanent work of nine members of the CEC, the commission’s expenses will not be higher than the current ones, and if you reduce the number of commissioners to seven, then you can even reduce the costs,” Postica said. He explained that only the CEC leadership works on an ongoing basis, and other members of the commission only participate in meetings and work during election campaigns. At the same time, according to Postica, civil society did not object to reducing the voting time by two hours, as the employees of polling stations are very tired, they work almost a day and make mistakes because of this. “This is acceptable, but there is a registered initiative to vote for two days. Given the pandemic context, we advocate for two days of voting,” the expert said. He believes that the bill proposed by the socialists is "better than what is now, but worse than what civil society has proposed, especially regarding complaints". The proposals of civil society, according to the expert, "were more accurate, closer to reality and more accessible to the understanding of a simple voter."