How Inclusive Are the General Local Elections of 20 October 2019? Final Monitoring Report

The Report has been developed under the auspice of the Civic Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, under the Project „Civil Society Advocacy for Inclusive and Fair Elections in the Republic of Moldova, in Line with the EU and OSCE/ODIHR Recommendations, and Human Rights Commitments”, implemented by East-European Foundation, in partnership with the Partnership for Development Center, Piligrim Demo and Tarna Rom, in collaboration with INFONET Alliance. The Project is financed by the European Union, and co-financed by Sweden.
Main findings of the monitoring reports:
Level of empowerment and representation of persons of Roma ethnicity:
The Mission can state a low information level of persons of Roma ethnicity about the voting procedures and electoral opponents. A good part of the voters of Roma ethnicity encountered difficulties in identifying the electoral opponents and understanding the voting procedures. On Election Day, this fact generated situations when Roma persons requested support from the members of Precinct Electoral Bureaus of Polling Stations to understand the information included in the ballot paper. 
The Monitoring Mission highlights a limited transparency of the lists of candidates and of the information about candidates’ positioning in the lists. The observers identified situations in which the candidates of Roma ethnicity didn’t know their registration number in the list of candidates. The electoral bodies and opponents made insufficient efforts to bring to the knowledge of voters and interested persons the information about the positioning on the lists and the profile of candidates.
Roma people are not represented in the District Councils or in Mayor’s Offices. No candidate of Roma ethnicity was elected as Local Councilor of Level II or Mayor. As a result, the degree of political representation of Roma people at these levels has remained unchanged, i.e. similar to the previous general local elections.
Persons of Roma ethnicity are under-represented in Local Councils. In 8 localities densely populated by Roma people there were elected 12 persons of Roma ethnicity as Local Councilors of Level I (2 Municipal Councilors, 4 Town Councilors, 3 Commune Councilors, and 3 Village Councilors). The profile of the latter is as follows: 10 candidates are delegated by 4 electoral opponents; 2 persons are elected as Independent Councilors; 6 are women, and 6 are men, respectively.
The geographic area of political representation of localities densely populated by Roma people has remained asymmetrical. All the persons of Roma ethnicity who were elected as Local Councilors of Level I are located in the North and Center of the Republic of Moldova. No case of electing a Local Councilor of Level I (person of Roma ethnicity) has been documented in the Southern part of the Republic of Moldova so far.
We call upon the political parties to facilitate the participation of Roma people in both the decision making structures and as candidates to eligible positions. We request from the elected/delegated representatives of electoral opponents within the local public authorities of levels I and II to do the following in the post-electoral period: (a) to address the current problems faced by Roma population in a planned manner, (b) evaluate the degree of social and economic marginalization of this vulnerable group, (c) identify the causes generating these problems, and (d) develop strategic interventions and include on the Agenda of Mayor’s offices and Local Councils of Level I and Level II. Last but not least, we recommend the electoral bodies and opponents to insure access to information about the list and profile of candidates for Local Councils. 
Inclusion of the Electoral Process for Disabled Persons:
Disabled persons remain one of the most marginalized social groups in the electoral process and political sphere. Although, compared to other elections, the problematic issues of disabled persons were present to a larger extent on the electoral platforms of opponents and in mass media, the approach had a general character, without taking into account the specific barriers that are encountered by disabled persons. 
The Mission can state an extremely low representation of disabled persons in local elective bodies. Only 20 disabled persons registered as candidates in the General Local Elections of 20 October 2019. As a result of elections, only 9 of them have become Local Councilors, including: 7 women and 2 men, 2 persons - wheelchair users, 1 person elected as independent candidate, and 8 persons elected on party lists, and 1 public dignity person resigned. 
The Observation Mission identified tendencies of marginalizing the candidates – disabled persons by positioning them on non-eligible places. In Ceadîr-Lunga, a disabled person was initially placed by the SPRM in an eligible position. Afterwards, the electoral opponent changed the initial list, moving the respective candidate beyond position 20 on the list. In Glodeni Town, a disabled person withdrew from the electoral campaign after being placed in the last position on ACUM’s list. 
Disabled persons continue facing accessibility barriers to information and infrastructure. Although some progress has been achieved in terms of insuring access to electoral information for persons with sensory disabilities, the access remains limited.
The headquarters of political parties and their representative offices in territories, and the polling stations to a large extent remain inaccessible for persons with intellectual disabilities. Electoral information was inaccessible for persons with intellectual disabilities. The analysis of opponents’ electoral programs in terms of reflecting the problems faced by disabled persons shows that this group does not represent a priority for electoral opponents and is covered/treated in a general manner in most of the cases.
The monitoring effort revealed a systemic breach characterized by the lack of information in real time regarding the electoral opponents included in the lists, their initial positioning and subsequent changes, as well as the problem of limited access information about the profile of candidates, which is an essential precondition for unfolding free and fair elections.      
With regard to disabled persons, the political parties should take into account the fact that this community, which represents 5% of the society, has no chance to be promoted and their interests protected in the local public administration bodies if their representatives are not proposed on candidate lists of parties, on eligible positions. We recommend each political party to take into account at least one candidate from among disabled persons, preferably from among activists of this community – those with experience and expertise in public policies in support of and for promoting these persons. At the same time, electoral opponents should adjust their campaign to insure the accessibility of information and full participation of disabled persons. 
Electoral bodies and public authorities should make amplified efforts to insure effective access of disabled persons to information and infrastructure. It is recommended to evaluate the accessibility of all polling stations based on a common evaluation instrument and to immediately implement/insure accessibility conditions. It is necessary to train the electoral officers, LPA representatives, political parties, and mass media on special needs and how to correctly support disabled persons during the electoral period, including on Election Day. 
At society level, it is necessary to change the paradigm regarding the perception of disabled persons:  moving from the medical approach based on pity and charity to a human rights based approach, in which disabled persons enjoy equal rights and conditions with the rest of the people, while the authorities exercise their obligations accordingly. 
This document is developed by the East-European Foundation and Tarna Rom. The elections monitoring effort is made under the Project “Civil Society Advocacy for Inclusive and Fair Elections in the Republic of Moldova, in Line with the EU and OSCE/ODIHR Recommendations, and Human Rights Commitments”, implemented during January 2018 – June 2020 by East-European Foundation, in partnership with the CPD, Piligrim Demo, Tarna Rom, and INFONET Alliance, and financed by the European Union and co-financed by the Swedish Government