Thursday, April 30, 2009

An Opportunity, not a Crisis

The reality of what is going on in Moldova appears to be finally dawning on the EU. After years of propping up the Communists and believing their fairy-tales about wanting to integrate in the EU, the totalitarian nature of the PCRM regime is now well understood.

The question for Europe is how to respond. The tradition EU approach is to try to 'manage' crises by using diplomacy and other forms of soft power. The problem is that soft power doesn't work on totalitarians. They will simply ignore EU pressure, ECHR rulings & ICJ indictments, all the while entrenching their rotten regime and making the lives of ordinary Moldovans even more miserable.

A 'crisis management' approach will also be a disaster in geopolitical terms. Without strong action from the EU, the Russians will notch up yet another victory in their undeclared war against western interests and influence (after Georgia, Manas airbase, the missile shield). This will embolden them to continue, with the next project being the reorientation (or possibly destruction) of Ukraine.

Europe needs to think a lot more creatively. More than 70% of Moldovans favour integration into the European Union, and, contrary to Western European fears, they will make good Europeans. They are not free-loaders and are prepared to work hard to get ahead. The EU should offer Moldova candidate status (alongside the western Balkan group) in return for a truly fair political settlement in the country (new elections run under EU auspices to ensure democratic norms are met, including editorial independence for the state media). To make this offer sweet enough for the communists to accept, amnesty from prosecution could be offered in return for confessions to crimes committed (a la South Africa's Truth & Justice Commission)

If this offer is not accepted by the regime, tougher measures will need to be taken. ICJ indictments for human rights abuses, asset freezes, travel bans. Even the military option should remain on the table, being justified on humanitarian grounds and on the grounds that constitutional order has broken down.

The EU should also take this opportunity to lance the festering boil of Transnistria. Transnistria needs to be either reintegrated into Moldova or given to the Ukraine in return for former Moldovan territories in the Bugeac on the Black Sea. The continuing presence of the Russian 14th Army in the territory is a threat not just to Moldova but to the entire CEE region. If candidate country status is extended to Moldova, the EU will have more freedom to act in settling the Transnistrian conflict, as this will now be situated on its future territory. Once again here, there are a series of measure that could be used to resolve the conflict. Once again, the military option needs to be left on the table as a last resort.

These are tough proposals that will send shivers down the spine of some of Western Europe's weaker-kneed governments. The alternative, however, is worse - continuing concessions in the face of Russian expansionism, to the point where Germany and Italy once again become Russia's "near-abroad".

Russia v Romania

I thought it would be interesting to have a look at the role of the two main international protagonists in the events currently unfolding in Chisinau. Let's try to restrict ourselves to facts rather than allegations

ROMANIA

1. No proof of any sort has been offered which connects Romania to the violence of April 7.

2. While Romania has streamlined citizenship application processes for Moldovans who lost their citizenship due to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, this is a right which already existed. No new citizenship rights have been created.

3. Romania has criticised the Moldovan government for its unjustified expulsion of the Romanian ambassador and for its refusal to accept a new ambassador.

4. Romania has also criticised the Moldovan government for its severe human rights abuses following the April 5th election. These abuses have been confirmed by the UN, the OSCE, the COE and the EU.

RUSSIA

1. Russia continues to undermine Moldova's statehood through its occupation of Transnistria and support for the regime there.

2. Transnistrian security forces participated in the human rights abuses that followed the election.

3. Russia explicitly intervened in Moldova's electoral process by having Medvedev and Lavrov appear alongside the communist leadership in the lead-up to the polls. No such publicity was extended to the opposition.

4. Russia continues to blame Romania for instigating the crisis, in the complete absence of any proof.

5. Russia has failed completely to recognise human rights abuses by the Moldovan authorities.

6. Russian television channels retransmitted in Moldova have been highly supportive of the communists and highly critical of the opposition.

7. Despite criticising the use of a foreign national symbol (the Romanian flag), the Russian embassy is to distribute in Moldova 30,000 'St. George' ribbons, symbols of Russia's military might.

CONCLUSION

Romania has taken a very disciplined approach to the events in Moldova, seeking the best outcome for the Moldovan people. Russia has sought to pervert Moldovan democracy at every step and re-russify the country.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Time for a peace dividend

In this post I want to present some new thinking with respect to Transnistria. With right-bank Moldova in crisis, it may seem an odd time to be raising this subject.

Actually not. The events in Chisinau are inextricably linked to the issues of identity that stand at the heart of the Transnistrian dispute. Furthermore, all parties to the dispute (including Russia) are staring into the abyss of economic collapse. A good settlement would bring a considerable economic dividend in the form of reduced military spending and increased foreign investment.

Any settlement must consider the interests and 'red-lines' of each party. In the case of Moldova, the red-lines are that Transnistria must remain attached to Moldova under international law, that the 'Moldovan' identity of the state be preserved, that the rights of Moldovans living on the left bank be respected, that Russian forces should withdraw and that Transnistria shouldn't have undue influence in Moldova's democratic processes. For the Transnistrians the red lines are the 'Russian' identity of their region, international recognition of their political entity, security from attack by Moldova and continuation of their self-government. Russia is of course interested in maintaining Transnistria as a forward military base in Europe, but is also interested in improving its image and in reducing military spending.

The starting point for my proposed settlement are the channel islands, which lie off the coast of Normandy, France. These have never formally been part of the United Kingdom, although they are possessions of the British crown. They have their own constitutions and governments, are not represented in the British parliament and are not even part of the European Union. They do, however, rely on the United Kingdom in their relationships with the outside world. Note also that Hong Kong and mainland China have a very similar relationship.

Transnistria could enjoy a similar status, being a 'possession' of the Republic of Moldova rather than being part of it. It could be entirely self-governing, having its own basic law & political systems and managing its own borders. Its citizens would be free to enter Moldova proper, and Moldovans would be free to enter Transnistria. A neutrality provision would be written into the basic law, requiring the withdrawal of all foreign forces. Transnistria, could, however maintain its own self-defence forces under a treaty with Moldova governing force levels.

The President of Moldova would be Transnistria's nominal head of state, although Transnistrians would not participate in the right-bank's political processes. Moldova would represent Transnistria diplomatically and in all forms of relationship with the outside world, under instruction from the Transnistrian authorities.

A council made of of representatives from both entities would meet regularly to communicate and overcome difficulties, as well as seeking ways to deepen cooperation to mutual benefit. Both entities would commit to observing the provisions of the Copenhagen convention on minority rights.

The buffer zone between Moldova & Transnistria would be disestablished as would the Joint Control Commission. The border would be tidied up to make incidents less likely - Moldovan villages on the left bank would be transferred to Transnistria in return for the municipality of Tighina (Bender). The Nistru would become the border.

People on both banks would carry Moldovan passports, although there would be different classes of citizenship for each entity, which could be considered differentially by foreign states.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Courting Disaster

The Constitutional Court ("CC") has pronounced the election result valid. The basis for this decision was Article 62 of the constitution, which requires the CC to validate the election on the basis of the Central Election Commission's (CEC) proposal, unless there have been breaches of electoral law.

Unfortunately that means we now have to take a look at the electoral code in all of it's 248-page glory. Buckle up, here we go!

We run into our first problem fairly early on, at Art 2 (1): "The citizen of the republic of Moldova participates in the elections through a universal, equal, direct, secret and freely-expressed vote." The elections were actually too universal, with the right to vote being extended to the dead and the unborn. They were not equal - citizens with multiple 'fise de insotire' were allowed to vote multiple times, for example. They were not freely-expressed, due to the intimidation of voters by local functionaries. They were not direct - citizens of a certain mental health institution had votes entered for them.

Art 3 says that citizens can be elected without distinction by, among other things, nationality. This would appear to conflict with the law recently introduced by the government outlawing the retention of dual citizenship by elected officials.

The next problem is in Art 22(g) - this requires the CEC to work with the Ministry of Information Development to ensure the accuracy of the electoral rolls. This did not happen - even as of election day the two bodies had very different views on the number of eligible voters.

Art 46(1) This requires all candidates and parties to have equal access to the media. Study after study however showed that the state media and several other channels were heavily favouring the ruling party and its allies.

Art 92 is interesting - this requires the CC to declare the elections null if there have been breaches of the election code sufficient in scope to affect the distribution of mandates. Note that the 20,000 false votes dug up by the liberals after reviewing 25% of electoral lists in 10 regions would see two mandates changing hands. Note also that thousands of private citizens have recorded falsified votes.

Art 93 requires repeated elections in the case of a null vote, with the guilty party being excluded.

It seems to me that there was a more than sufficient case to declare the elections null, find the PCRM guilty of fraud and run repeated elections without their participation.

Unfortunately the Constitutional Court decided to abrogate its duty to defend Moldovan democracy and instead chose the easy course of rubber-stamping the Communist's election win and participating in Moldova's downward slide towards dictatorship. It could have been their finest hour. Shame.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Europe's Shame

I can just about forgive the disinterest of the US in the events in Moldova. Jaded with the responsibility of being the world's policemen and beset with its own problems, it understandably sees the troubles in Chisinau as something to be delegated to its allies in the European Union. It's on their continent, after all.

Europe's reaction (to date) has, however been so tepid it makes dishwater look appetising. From those who are in the pay of the Russians to those who are simply afraid of them, it is a litany of shame.

Shame on the OSCE for 'positively' appraising the election results even when a full description of the fraud can be found buried deep within their own monitoring report.

Shame on the EU's external relations commissioner, Benito Ferrero-Waldner, for relying on the OSCE's work and also issuing a 'positive' assessment, without investigating the facts for herself.

Shame on Kalman Miszei, the EU's representative in Moldova, for claiming that 'national reconciliation' could only come about if the opposition accepted the April 5th results, and allowed the Communists to continue their reign of terror for another four years.

Shame on Russian President Dimitry Medvedev, who is more interested in a flag than in the suffering of hundreds of young people locked up 18-to-a-cell in Moldova's jails.

Shame on Ukrainian President Victor Iusenko, for extraditing Gabriel Stati back to Moldova to face trumped up charges.

Shame on the leaders of EU member states for maintaining an unforgivable silence in the face of the beatings, sexual abuse and killings of Moldova's young people by their government and police force.

Shame on the European Union for inviting the Moldovan communists, hands stained with blood, to the Eastern partnership launch.

The Citizenship Thing

In his recent speech to the Romanian parliament, the president of Romania, Traian Basescu, stated that procedures for Moldovans to acquire Romanian citizenship. This has led to some criticism by Western European media and politicians, who fear that a 'wave of 1m Moldovans' will sweep over their labour markets.

Let's separate the fact from the fiction.

Fact no. 1: They're already there. Hundreds of thousands of Moldovans work in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece and other European countries, sending money back home to their families. They are a hard-working lot and generally keep themselves out of trouble.

Fact no. 2: What Romania is doing is very different to what Russia is doing. Russia has been handing out passports to all and sundry in Transnistria, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The recipients typically have no ancestral or historic link with Russia, and the purpose of the exercise is simple to make life more difficult for the Moldovan and Georgian governments respectively. Romania, on the other hand, is recognising the citizenship of those ethnic Romanians who lost it by force when Soviet tanks rolled into Chisinau at the end of World War II.

Fact no. 3: What Romania is doing is very similar to what the UK government did in 2003. In this year, the UK for the first time recognised as citizens those born to UK mothers (having always recognised those born to UK fathers). In doing so it righted a historic wrong - sexism - and in the process created millions of new British citizens around the world. Romania is also righting a historic wrong, in this case the loss of citizenship due to occupation by a foreign power.

Fact no. 4: Moldovans who can prove loss of Romanian citizenship already have the right to reaquire it. All that Basescu is doing is speeding up the process so that it takes months instead of years.

Fact no. 5: The world owes a huge debt to the Moldovan people, who during the last Millenium have been overrun by Tatars, Ottoman Turks, Russian imperialists, Romanian fascists, German Nazis and Soviet Communists. EU citizenship is an appropriate humanitarian gesture to this much abused people.

Actually, Basescu's move is a master-stroke both politically and as an instrument of foreign policy. Politically it creates a feel-good factor among Romanians, who see their country acting in the defence of their brothers across the Prut while the rest of the World fiddles. It also creates a whole new section of the electorate likely to vote for Basescu in the upcoming presidential elections.

From a foreign policy standpoint it also makes sense. Without the offer of citizenship, the EU would be inclined to ignore Moldova and hope it goes away. Due to the offer of citizenship, however, the EU now has a direct interest in fixing Moldova's problems, restoring its democracy and improving its economic conditions (so that the Moldovans stay at home...)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Color Wars

A response to Cristina Batag's article in 'Foreign Policy' (http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=4871)

"the ruling Communist party helped consolidate democracy". This is nonsense. While it is true that the communist party's rule coincided with a period of economic stability, the country has been sliding backwards with respect to political pluralism, press freedom and human rights. Media outlets which do not toe the party line have had their licences revoked or have been forced into the ownership by parties close to the authorities. The main state-owned channels have become propaganda outlets as in Soviet times. Torture has returned as a standard practice of the Moldovan police. Cities and towns with opposition mayors and councils have been starved of funds. etc. etc.

"the instigators of the current fracas seek to integrate with Europe by rejoining Romania". Video and photographic evidence (e.g. policemen breaking up rocks for the protesters to throw, instigators speaking on their mobiles in Russian) has proved that the instigators of the current fracas were the communist party itself, acting together with the police, secret services and with its allies from the Christian Democratic party. In the morning of the 7th of April, 30,000 students peacefully took to Chisinau's central square to denounce the rigged elections and demand the end of communist government. It wasn't about unification Romania - that ethnic, almost racist, dimension was overlaid by the Moldovan and Russian governments later in the day when the infamous 'boy in yellow' (now shown to be on the SIS payroll), planted a Romanian flag on the roof of the parliament and presidency buildings, with police assistance.

"the vast majority of the country continues to trust the communists". More nonsense. The most recent opinion poll taken prior to the election gave the communists 36% support. Given the climate of fear that exists in the country the true support is likely to be lower by between 5-10%, as it was at the 2005 election. Since when did 30% constitute a 'vast majority'?

"the failure of Moldova's liberal parties to govern the country successfully". Ms Batog claims that liberal parties were in power from independence in 1991 through to 2001. It is true that Moldova's first post-independence government, led by Mircea Snegur, was truly liberal, and won plaudits the world over for its economic and political reforms (many of which are still in place today). Unfortunately this government was confronted with the twin disasters of (1) post-soviet economic collapse, and (2) the Russian-sponsored secession of Transnistria, severely limiting the results it was able to achieve. This liberal administration was replaced in 1996 (with communist support) by the 'agrarians' of Petru Lucinskii. This was a self-serving group of former soviet apparatchiks who presided over a period of truly dire government. To describe this group as 'liberal' in any way is scandalous. The three liberal parties contesting the 2009 election come out of the tradition of the Snegur government rather than the Lucinskii one.

"The Communist Party received 49.48 percent of the vote, due to its excellent grass-roots campaign and strong organization". Yet more nonsense. As mentioned above, the Communist's received 36% support in the most recent opinion poll. Estimates of their true level of support in the recent election (adjusted to remove the effect of rigging) also come in at about this level. Even the 36% level is artificial, being achieved on the back of the party's almost total dominance of the media and on the back of unsustainable election promises to increase pensions. It should also be noted that for the first time in its history, the Communist party faced a seriously well-organised rival in the form of Vlad Filat's liberal democrat party and their simple but effective 'green for Moldova' message.

"there is no strong, united political force leading the Moldovan protests". As stated above, the violent part of the protests was orchestrated by the communists themselves. The protest on April 7th was more or less spontaneous, organised by pro-democracy NGOs. The protest on April 12th was organised by the three main opposition parties, who have been acting in concert ever since the announcement of the election results.

"the opposition should accept that it lost the elections fairly". For starters, the opposition didn't lose. After eliminating the dead-souls, unborn voters and multiple voting by communist acolytes, the three main opposition parties combined actually won 43-44% of the vote compared to the communists' 36%. Why should the people of Moldova have to put up with another four years of totalitarian rule when in fact they voted for change? Who in the US would accept such a situation?

I agree with the author that a colour revolution is not in order. The thing is, this wasn't a revolution until the communists tried to frame it as one. It was simply 30,000 young people protesting against the theft of their votes and the theft of their future.

What actually needs to happen now is the installation of wither a national unity government or an EU-protectorate (a la Bosnia). This would facilitate the re-running of elections in a truly free and fair environment, one in which the communist's stranglehold over the media is broken and their use of state resources in campaigning is outlawed.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

(Almost) Perfect

It was the perfect plan.

Internal polling revealed that the party would lose heavily at the upcoming parliamentary elections. At best the opposition would have a simple majority, enough to rewrite electoral law and free the state-controlled media. At worst they would have sufficient seats in Parliament to elect the President unopposed and modify the constition. Either of these outcomes would effectively mean the end of the Moldovan Communist Party as the sins committed over the last eight years would be brought out into the open for all to see.

The election had to be falsified and the false result defended from the anger of the people. Obviously Moldova's friends in the west could not be counted upon to actively participate in such a scheme, although under certain conditions they might be persuaded to turn a blind eye. Instead, the PCRM turned to the East for help, enlisting Russia and the Transnistrians in their plan, and promising a submissive Moldova in return for assistance.

The plan contained the following steps

1. Inflate the electoral rolls in the lead-up to the election. Dead people would be left on the in-country rolls, as would those now living overseas (and enrolled through a Moldovan diplomatic post). In some cases fictional voters would be created and squeezed into existing families.

2. Issue multiple paper ID documents to trusted party acolytes. This would enable them to vote several times on the day of the election.

3. Invite in OSCE election observers, but make sure the scope of their work was limited to observing the voting process and the count. Also make sure that the Russians would use their veto power with the OSCE to prevent any unwanted findings emerging.

4. Have the Russians ensure EU and US acquiescence in the rigged results through a mix of carrots and sticks (cooperation in Iran, Afghanistan, gas supply threats). The EU and US should accept the results of the election rapidly, on the basis of the (Russian-managed) findings of the OSCE team.

5. Falsify the exit-poll results in order to make the election result more believable. The communist share in the exit poll should be about half-way between the showing in opinion polls (36%) and the percentage needed to secure 61 seats (around 50%)

6. Handle the expected post-election demonstration by several hundred opposition supporters using standard KGB methods. Insert 'agents provocateurs' to induce violent acts against state institutions. Have them wave Romanian flags so the demonstration can be construed as an attempt by a foreign power to violently overthrow the government, thus discrediting the opposition.

7. Use the violent demonstration as an excuse to introduce elements of a police state. These should be sufficiently threatening to keep citizens in line, whilst at the same time not being of sufficient concern to warrant the implication of foreign rights watchdogs.

8. Use the 61-seat majority obtained to elect the next president and modify the constitution to introduce Russian as an official language (effectively killing the Romanian identity of the country). Continue the economic plunder of the country by leading Communists.

The plan was put into motion and ran very smoothly up to step 6. Here something unexpected happened. Moldova's young people overcame their fear and showed up 30,000 strong for a demonstration in the central square. The protest was largely spontaneous, organised by SMS and social networking.

These changes weren't seen as a big problem by the interior minister Papuc, however and the provocation was set in train anyway. News video shot around the world showing young people crashing their way into Parliament and the Presidency, and hoisting Romanian flags on both buildings.

So far, so good. One small problem began to emerge however. Being 2009, everyone had a mobile phone, and it wasn't long before a wave of video and photographic documentation of the protest was posted on internet blogs and on YouTube. Analysis of this documentation began to reveal the true nature of the demonstration. Video was posted of a policeman breaking rocks for the protesters to throw. In a now-famous photo, two policemen were spotted supporting the flag-raisers on the roof of the Parliament (a roof to which only three communists have a key). Video footage also showed how easily the police surrendered the two buildings to an unarmed group of protesters. Some of the instigators were revealed to be prisoners recently amnestied by Voronin, while others were PPCD activists (the communist's political allies). The main flag-raiser (the infamous 'boy in yellow') was revealed to have been active during the election campaign smearing opposition parties. And so on and so forth. This integrity problem could be managed, however, so long as the communists had exclusive control over Teleradio Moldova and could spin the story appropriately to the rural population.

Then the overwhelming evidence of vote-rigging began emerging. Thousands of people came forward to opposition parties and independent media, presenting proof of vote rigging in their local area. It became clear that in Moldova's democracy even the dead and the unborn got to vote, and that communists were allowed multiple votes. In one case a village mayor is reported to have entered ballot papers for all of the electors who failed to show up on election day. This evidence severely embarrassed the OSCE observer mission (and by transmission, the EU and the US). Over the next few days, information began to leak out of the OSCE observer team that, contrary to the official line, the poll had in fact been deeply flawed.

A further issue was the handling of point 7. Frightened by the size of the student's demonstration, Papuc called in reinforcements, in the form of the Transnistrian security services (with whom Moldova is theoretically at war!). He also gave his police free reign with respect to 'interrogation techniques' and the length of time they could hold prisoners without charge. The result was the worst civil rights abuse in the country's twenty-year history. Hundreds were arrested or kidnapped. Many were beaten & some sexually assaulted. At the time of writing police beatings have claimed the lives of four young men. This violent abrogation of constitutional rights will, I believe, prove to be the undoing of the PCRM.

Europe and the US were prepared to turn a blind eye to the rigged election, for the sake of 'stability' and to avoid further complicating their relationship with Russia. The rights issue, however, was twittered and blogged to the world's media and decision-makers by an army of Moldovan and Romanian internauts. As awareness began to grow of the horrors unfolding in Moldova, the US and Europe were forced to abandon their hands-off policy and take a more active interest in events in Moldova. At time of writing there is talk of a resolution of the European parliament demanding repeat elections. Let's hope that the Russians don't buy or scare off too many MEPs and this resolution becomes a reality.

The communists even managed to mess up step 8 a little bit. The central election commission counted around 99% of vote on election night and conveniently discovered that the communists had 61 seats, exactly the number required to elect the next President. What they forgot is that the last 1% of the vote came from the diplomatic posts overseas, and that this vote overwhelmingly supported the opposition parties, and that it was independently verifiable. When the overseas vote was added in, the Communists only had 60 seats, and the opposition had the 'golden mandate' required to elect the President. It should be relatively simple for the Communists to buy or scare off a single opposition deputy, however.

In summary, the early stages of the plan went very well, although now cracks are emerging due to (1) the strength of opposition by the young people, (2) the bestiality of the Moldovan police, (3) the mass of evidence relating to the voting fraud, and (4) the unmasking of the violence as an act of provocation by the Communists themselves.

It is only to be hoped that western involvement in investigating the election and the rights abuses will now continue to its rightful end, and that the earlier agreement by the EU and the US to sell Moldova to the Russians will now be trashed.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Cataloguing the Fraud

Moldova's parliamentary election has come and gone, with the highly unpopular Communist Party winning an impossibly high number of votes and seats in Parliament (61 - exactly the number they need to elect a new President unopposed). Here's how they did it; note that while most of what follows is hard fact, some items are anecdotal and need to be investigated further. It should also be noted that the comments below are not exhaustive.

PRE-ELECTION

Media

The information space outside of Chisinau was secured by shutting down independent and Romanian-language television channels, leaving the state television channel and Russia's main channel as the only sources of information. The state television channel acts as a propaganda machine for the Communists, always praising and never criticising them. Opposition politicians are largely ignored or covered in a negative light.

Opposition newspapers (such as Accente, Journal de Chisinau and Timpul) have been repeatedly harassed. This has taken the form of aggressive tax inspections, spurious legal actions and occasional physical abuse of journalists.

In Chisinau a degree of media pluralism was allowed to persist (possibly to impress western donors), however Chisinau represents only 700,000 of right-bank Moldova's 3.5m people.

Justice

The Communists have ensured that the judicial system is under their control, rather than being separate as required by the constitution. Judges deliver rulings on the basis of directives from the party rather than on the basis of law. This is evidenced by the extremely high number of successful challenges to Moldovan court rulings obtained through the ECHR.

The government has used their control over the judiciary to instigate largely spurious charges against the opposition in order to scare them and distract their focus. As examples of this we have the corruption charges against S Urechanu (the 'ambulance case'), V Passat (the 'Mig' case) and E Musuc.

Electoral Law

The communist government has re-written electoral law in its favour. Having observed that the opposition was fragmented into a number of small parties, they lifted the threshold for a party to enter Parliament, thus ensuring that more Moldovans who vote for opposition parties will be disenfranchised. They also outlawed the creation of electoral blocs designed to overcome the threshold.

Moldova has a highly competent department of Information Technology, with many services to citizens available on-line. The Communists have declined to use this competence in the electoral process, failing to establish either an internet voting system or a postal voting system and requiring citizens to vote at the nearest Moldovan embassy. This effectively disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of Moldovans living and working in other countries, as Moldova's diplomatic network abroad is very weak.

DURING THE CAMPAIGN

Mis-use of Position

The governing party made ample use of the resources of government in executing its campaign. The prime-minister, Zenaida Grecianei, explicitly acknowledged that she had used administrative resources for campaign activity. Her defence was that electoral law (written by the communists!) did not explicitly forbid this. Apparently morality and democratic values have nothing to do with it.

Also, under electoral law, any government official or functionary is required to temporarily recuse himself or herself from their official position during the period of the campaign. A leading opposition figure, Dorin Chirtoaca, who is also the Mayor of Chisinau, complied with the law and stepped aside temporarily in favour of his deputy. None of the senior communist politicians - President Voronin, Speaker Lupu, PM Grecianei - complied with the law; all continued in their functions.

Intimidation

An ominous sign at the start of the campaign was the re-appointment of Gheoghe Papuc as Internal Affairs Minister (in charge of the police). Mr Papuc is well know from former times due to his use of repressive policing techniques.

During the campaign plain clothes policemen were in evidence at many opposition campaign events, infiltrating the crowds and provoking them. Police were frequently used to try to sew dissent between opposition parties, e.g. by daubing the members of one party in paint of the colour of another.

Mis-information

Due to their media domination, the Communists were able to send false messages to that part of the electorate that was indifferent or undecided. The major one of these was a message typically delivered in person to the elderly - "If the opposition come to power, you will lose your pension". In the week prior to the election the Communist government had the temerity to announce increases in pensions. This move would be unaffordable even in good economic times.

Media

The communists continued to use their control of the media to their advantage. One example of this was the smear campaigns against opposition politicians conducted by EU TV, a channel run by the Communist party's political allies, the Christian democrats. Starved of access to the media, the smeared politicians were unable to defend themselves adequately.

A further example of abuse of media power was the debate schedule established by the state television channel. In a normal country, the four major parties would have been given the opportunity to seriously debate the issues of the day. Unfortunately the debate schedule gave equal time to the minor fringe parties, in a further attempt to dilute the opposition vote and confuse voters. It also pitted parties of similar persuasions against each other (rather than against the Communists), in an attempt to get the opposition to undermine itself. Unfortunately the people were given very few opportunities to see the policies of the Communist government seriously challenged live on television.

Electoral rolls

In the lead-up to the election, major discrepancies were discovered in the databases essential to its conduct. These are the identification number database of the Ministry of Information Technology and the electoral roll managed by the Electoral Commission. the first database is important because voters were require to present ID documentation at polling stations. The second actually governs who can vote.

The first discrepancy uncovered was a difference of 300,000 entries between the two databases (more than 10% of the 2.5m voters thought to be eligible).

It was also discovered that the ID database had not been updated since November 2008, meaning that 4 months' worth of dead souls were still active in the system.

The electoral roll was in even worse shape, with some instances reported of people who had died as long ago as 2001 still appearing on the roll.

THE VOTING PROCESS

Publicity

Electoral propaganda is prohibited by law on the day of the election and on the day preceding it. Nonetheless, on Saturday, EU TV was shamelessly promoting its leader (and the Communist's ally), Iurie Rosca. In some communist controlled localities, pictures of President Voronin were seen hanging on the wall.

Vote-rigging methods

Vote rigging methods used on the day of the poll and in the count afterwards appear to have been many and varied. Here are some of the issues reported:

1. Vote buying. Communist Party representatives standing outside polling stations and / or going door to door offering monetary incentives or bottles of vodca to people who promised to vote Communist

2. The un-born. Many voters were surprised to find that, according to the electoral rolls, they had gained new family members who were living in their apartment but whom they had never met.

3. The dead. See comments above.

4. The lazy. In one case the Mayor of a village just outside Chisinau is reported to have voted communist on behalf of 3,000 of his citizens who failed to exercise their right to vote by the end of polling on Sunday.

5. Electoral tourism. An amendment to electoral law brought in during the week prior to the election allowed multiple forms of identity to be used to gain access to ballot papers (rather than the single ID document previously prescribed). This not surprisingly resulted in people registering multiple votes

6. Abuse of power. There are reports of patients at psychiatric institutions, prison inmates etc. being rounded up and ordered to vote Communist.

7. Process failure. This is another form of electoral tourism in which people can vote multiple times because local officials failed to place a 'voted' stamp on the ID document.

CONCLUSION

As mentioned earlier, some of these abuses are anecdotal and need further investigation. Others, however, are hard fact, and in themselves render the election result false and determine the illegitimacy of the Communist government.

It is to the EU and the OSCE's shame that both organisations issued statements describing the election as 'largely free and fair' or 'positive' without first investigating the alleged abuses outlined above. I would recommend that both organisations conduct internal investigations into why and how these statements, which have done enormous damage to Moldovan democracy, came to be released so early in the vote counting process.