“The parliamentary opposition and a part of the extraparliamentary opposition negatively reacted to the CEC’s request to exclude the candidate of Șor Party from the electoral competition. It should be noted that when expressing its position, the opposition avoided referring to the CEC’s evidence and arguments on which the request was based…”
There are no two ways about it!
The request to annul the registration of the candidate of Șor Party (PȘ) for the mayoralty of the municipality of Bălți Marina Tauber, made by the Central Election Commission (CEC), generated various interpretations and speculations. The opponents and critics of the government of the Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) invoked an alleged political order from the government to the CEC, which fulfilled this by making the aforementioned request. These critics avoid referring to the essence of the problem and only mention particular circumstances, such as the formulation of the request to annul the registration after Marina Tauber reached the runoffs, ahead of the vote set for December 5, 2021.
To politicize the case and divert public attention from the CEC’s argumentation, they invoke the elimination of Patria Party from the parliamentary elections of November 30, 2014 and the invalidation by the Moldovan judiciary of the victory of the leader of the Party “Dignity and Truth Platform” (PPDA) Andrei Năstase in the mayoral elections held in the municipality of Chisinau on June 3, 2018. The mentioned parallels are aimed at stigmatizing the PAS government and President Maia Sandu as continuators of the methods used by the ex-executive coordinator Vald Plahotniuc, who captured the state institutions. Such a procedure is acceptable in the political struggle. That’s why the wheat should be separated from the chaff and the CEC’s actions and arguments in favor of the adopted decision should be reviewed.
First of all, in accordance with the electoral legislation the CEC had the obligation to verity the financial reports of electoral contenders, including following complaints from the Bălți Police Inspectorate and the challengers of Marina Tauber about the violation of the legal provisions concerning election campaign funding. Secondly, given the previous experience in solving similar cases, the CEC ordered to set up an inter-institutional working group consisting of representatives of the CEC, the General Police Inspectorate, the State Tax Service and the Financial Inspectorate for analyzing the invoked violations and formulating recommendations for preventing them. The working group determined that:
- representatives of PȘ paid for the food served to supporters of candidate Marina Tauber, which weren’t indicated in financial reports and the undeclared sums exceeded the highest limit set for election campaign funding;
- during the election campaign, PȘ was warned about the committed irregularities. Moreover, representatives of PȘ ignored the CEC’s request to provide the requested information so as to check the correctness of the election campaign funding;
- PȘ demonstrated incorrigibility, continuing systematically to commit financial frauds, which was repeatedly confirmed: a) at the presidential elections of 2016, when the PȘ’s candidate Inna Popenco was excluded from the electoral race for using the discount card of the social store [financial violation]; b) at the snap local elections of 2018, when the PȘ’s candidate Reghina Apostolova was removed from the election campaign for financial violations; c) at the snap parliamentary elections of March 2020 in Hîncești constituency, where the PȘ’s candidate Vitalie Balinschi was excluded from the electoral competition for using undeclared financial funds and nonfinancial resources.
So as not to leave the strictly electoral context, CEC avoided mentioning other cases when PȘ used obscure financial resources. For example, the daily transportation, during a week, of so-called supporters involved in the guarding of public institutions during June 8-14, 2019, by providing them with food and paying for the services in cash and the duality of the state power. This way, the mentioned examples were enough for substantiating the CEC’s request, taking also into account the case law of the Constitutional Court, which decided that the penalties imposed during the electoral process should be prompt and immediate so as to impose financial transparency on election campaign funding.
Friends in need...
The parliamentary opposition and a part of the extraparliamentary opposition negatively reacted to the CEC’s request to exclude the candidate of Șor Party from the electoral competition. It should be noted that when expressing its position, the opposition avoided referring to the CEC’s evidence and arguments on which the request was based. It’s clear why it acted so. PAS gained overall power and secured solid public budget financing for the next years. In such circumstances, the government shows its determination not to allow the financing of its political opponents with money from doubtful sources. Such a perspective is disturbing for the parliamentary opposition of the Bloc of Communists and Socialists (BCS) that consists of the Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova and the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM).
PSRM admits that PȘ is not its opponent on the political left and has reasons to benefit from the weakening of PȘ’s positions. But there are a series of circumstances that make the PSRM be on the PȘ’s side and to ignore the legal provisions concerning the financing of election campaigns. The point is PSRM is waiting for an eventual resumption of the investigation into the financing of the party from offshore areas (Bahamas case). The investigation into the financing of PSRM by GAZPROM and oligarch Plahotniuc can also be resumed. The human dimension of the special relations between the leaders of PSRM and PȘ should also not be neglected. It should be noted here that Igor Dodon attended the wedding party of Ilan Șor, appreciating the atmosphere there, the dishes, primarily the stuffed cabbage rolls, and the songs sung by Jasmin. The leader of PCRM Vladimir Voronin also attended Ilan Șor’s wedding party and it is therefore not surprising that PCRM condemned the CEC’s request to eliminate the PȘ’s candidate from the runoff vote.
Despite the aforementioned, there were cases when the friends Dodon and Șor leveled criticism at each other. The latter had reasons to accuse the first of betrayal: ''Dear Igor Nikolayevich, we celebrated together my wedding and my anniversaries. Moreover, you asked me for support and I offered it. As far as I remember, it happened during the local elections of 2011”. Ilan Șor expressed his anger after Igor Dodon publicly said that: "Ilan Shor believes that attendance at his wedding party and the personal relations of 2010-2011 can justify silence about the billion thefts and the wrongdoings he committed in the banking system”. How sincere they were both! But this sincerity shows that the leader of PSRM started to use undeclared money when he entered the campaign prior to the 2011 Chisinau mayoral elections.
The CEC’s request to exclude the PȘ’s candidate Marina Tauber from the competition for the post of mayor of the municipality of Bălți had been documented and is well-founded, being based on the norms of the Electoral Code and the existing case law, including the constitutional one. CEC, in its new composition, had the right to apply the legal provisions so as to diminish the scope of the obscure relations between politicians and businessmen during the electoral process.
The accusations made against the CEC, primarily by the guests who attended Ilan Șor’s wedding, that it is a political order from the government, are speculative and are not based on facts. The PAS government does not have any interest to do gratis favors to PSRM by strengthening its positions in Bălți using PȘ. It is well-known that the municipality of Bălți has practically always been a Communist-Socialist fiefdom that had been conquered by the leader of Our Party Renato Usatîi only recently and now allows to be re-conquered by the promises of Marina Tauber.
An alleged political involvement in the exclusion of Marina Tauber from the electoral race would have required time for achieving the planned result, especially because an eventual victory of Marina Tauber in the elections in Bălți wouldn’t have surprised anyone. The thesis about the existence of generous thieves who steal, but give to the poor too came true at the elections in Orhei and in other localities and was likely to come true at the elections in Bălți as well. In this regard, opinion polls presented Tauber as a winner. That’s why not her score of 48% of the ballot in the first round of voting made the CEC ask for the exclusion of the candidate, but the conclusions of the inter-institutional group concerning financial frauds.
The involvement of the SIS, to which reference was made in the CEC’s meeting, seems to be opportune when it goes to the election campaign of the party whose leader hides form justice after being sentenced by the ordinary court for stealing US$1 billion from the banking system of the Republic of Moldova. The activity of organized groups that can use a part of the stolen money to corrupt the voters through social stores, offering of all kinds of electoral presents to the poor people in breach of the law is related to national security. The CEC determined this in the cases of Popenco, Apostolova, Balinschi and now of Tauber.
Parallels between the annulment of the registration of Marina Tauber and the removal from the electoral race of Renato Usatîi’s party in November 2014 cannot be drawn. In the case of Usatîi, the General Police Inspectorate asked the CEC to eliminate Patria Party from the electoral competition because its election campaign was financed with foreign funds and due to the events witnessed half a year before the election day. Later, none of the accusations made against Usatâi could be proven by courts. It is also inappropriate to invoke the annulment of the PPDA leader’s victory in the mayoral elections held in the municipality of Chisinau in June 2018. Then, namely PSRM challenged the results of the elections for the reason that the winner campaigned on the election day, which is an administrative violation and is not stipulated by the law as a reason for excluding a candidate from the electoral race. In the case of Marina Tauber, Article 75 of the Electoral Code allows for exclusion from the electoral competition.
In the created situation, the CEC’s intention to eliminate illegal election campaign funding practices, with undeclared funds and with money coming from doubtful sources, was very important. It is important that the new composition of the CEC should resist the wave of unfounded and ill-intentioned criticism on the part of Ilan Șor’s company. To avoid such situations in the future, the electoral legislation should be amended so that the CEC’s requests to the responsible institutions of the state to promptly examine circumstances that can negatively influence the electoral processes are mandatory. It is as important to impose proportional penalties on the electoral contenders for not respecting the CEC’s requests.