Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process
The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.
Recent Elections: According to the OSCE election observer mission, the Council of Europe, and other international observers, parliamentary elections on February 24 were competitive and generally respected fundamental rights. Local and international observers raised concerns, however, about allegations of vote buying and misuse of administrative resources.
According to the European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations, two rounds of local elections held on October 20 and November 3 were conducted in an overall efficient manner and largely in line with international standards, although monitors reported irregularities such as illegal transportation of voters, presence of unknown persons inside polling stations, cases of corruption of voters, electoral campaigning near polling stations, and several incidents of infringement of ballot secrecy.
Two rounds of presidential elections in 2016 resulted in the election of PSRM candidate Igor Dodon. According to the OSCE, both rounds were competitive and respected fundamental freedoms, although observers noted biased media coverage, hostile campaign rhetoric, nontransparent campaign financing, and abuse of administrative resources. An unspecified number of citizens abroad or from Transnistria were unable to vote due to an insufficient allocation of ballots to their polling stations.
Political Parties and Political Participation: Opposition parties reported intimidation and harassment of their members by local authorities, including threats of loss of employment. On March 20, the head of the opposition Dignity and Truth Party (part of the ACUM bloc) branch in Ungheni, Gheorghe Petic, was sentenced to three years and six months imprisonment on charges of rape after harshly criticizing the ruling party’s leadership and the country’s Border Police for allegedly covering up illegal smuggling activities. Petic denied the charges, claiming they were politically motivated. On July 19, after the PDM conceded power, Petic was released from detention and his case was sent for reconsideration to the district court.
Following resolution of the country’s constitutional crisis and the formation of a governing coalition on June 8, the former PDM chairman, Vladimir Plahotniuc, and the chairman of the left-wing “Shor” Party, Ilan Shor, fled the country, alleging threats against them and their family members. On October 29 the National Anticorruption Center announced the filing of an international arrest warrant for Plahotniuc on charges of large-scale money laundering. On October 30, the Prosecutor General’s Office seized up to 54.6 million lei ($3.1 million) in assets that allegedly were in the possession of the former PDM chairman.
After the change of government, parliament lifted the immunity of five members of PDM and the Shor party. They were under investigation on various corruption charges. The spouse of a PDM member of parliament was detained on charges of cigarette smuggling. The members of parliament have denied the charges and claimed they were politically motivated.
Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit the ability of women and members of minorities to participate in the political process, and they did participate. The law provides that either gender must have a minimum of 40 percent of candidates on the party lists of candidates for parliamentary and local elections. The electoral code provides for a 10 percent financial supplement from the state budget for political parties to promote female candidates. The law provides for sanctions against political parties that publicly promote discriminatory messages or stereotypes, use discriminatory language in mass media, or fail to meet the required gender quotas. Civil society contacts reported this law was not enforced.
During the February parliamentary elections, there were 41.8 percent of women on party lists for the national constituency but 21 percent in single mandate districts. Twenty-six women were elected to the 101-seat parliament. Almost 22 percent of mayors elected in the local elections were women. Gender equality NGOs said that around 40 percent of female candidates and 49 percent of female activists were subjected to various forms of intimidation and violence during the parliamentary electoral campaign. According to a December report by the Gender Equality Platform on the legislative and local elections, 52 percent of female candidates were victims of violence during the electoral campaign, but only 15 percent filed a report. Female journalists were also subject to sexism and intimidation.