The second round of elections for the head (bashkan) of the Gagauz autonomy of Moldova will be held on Sunday against the backdrop of a new round of tension in the region, here the day before, the police detained representatives of the election headquarters of one of the candidates, and a group of civil activists picketed the building of the local Central Election Commission.
According to the results of the first round of elections for the head of the autonomy, which took place on April 30, the majority of votes were cast for Evgeniy Hutsula representative of the Shor party, as well as for Grigory Uzunsupported by the Socialist Party. Both political forces are opposition in the country, and in relation to their leaders – Ilana Shora, Marina Tauberex-president of the country Igor Dodon and other political figures – the central authorities opened a number of criminal cases.
On Saturday, employees of the National Anti-Corruption Center (NAC) of Moldova conducted searches in Gagauzia at the heads of the campaign headquarters of the candidate from the Shor party. According to the press secretary of the department Angela Starinskythe events were held as part of the case of bribery of voters.
The political force itself called the actions of the security forces “unreasonable and absurd.” Party leader Ilan Shor accused the country’s leadership of persecuting the opposition and trying to put pressure on the candidate and the political force.
On Friday, in Comrat, the main administrative center of Gagauzia, a group of civil activists picketed the Central Election Commission of the autonomy, demanding that the central authorities not put pressure on the election commission, and also not interfere in the elections. According to local media, representatives of the NAC, the Information and Security Service, and members of the central office of the Central Election Commission of Moldova came to the CEC with a check.
On the eve of the CEC of Moldova and the General Inspectorate of Police of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic drew attention to possible violations in the election campaign in Gagauzia, demanding from the local election commission to provide clarifications due to the fact that in the financial reports of candidates for the post of bashkan, one-time cash donations of more than 11.5 thousand were indicated. lei ($645), which, according to Chisinau, violates the republican electoral code. The CEC of Gagauzia called these claims unfounded, as it is guided by the local electoral code, which does not provide for a limit of 11.5 thousand lei for cash donations to a candidate.
Head of the Republic Maya Sandu also believes that the first round of elections of the Bashkan of the Gagauz autonomy was held with numerous violations. In an interview with local media, she stated that Chisinau had a number of questions to the local CEC, but did not specify the essence of these claims, did not provide any evidence of violations, but noted that from 2024 the CEC of Moldova will play a major role in holding elections in Gagauzia.
The President said that then “everything will be different – right.” Sandu also accused the inhabitants of the autonomy of not knowing the Romanian language, and regarded the results of the vote in the first round as the influence of “Russian propaganda” in the region.
Political analysts in Moldova do not rule out that the central authorities may annul all the results of the current elections in Gagauzia. The day before, the vice-chairman of the Shor party, Tauber, was once again detained and placed under house arrest for 20 days, and the Constitutional Court is considering the government’s request for the legality of the political force.
Former Moldovan President Dodon believes that the current authorities are not interested in these elections being held. According to him, if they are canceled, then the current head of the autonomy Irina Vlakh can remain in office for another six months. Dodon did not rule out that the current leadership of Gagauzia and the Moldovan authorities may have common interests. The Bashkan, as well as the ruling party, will try to hold repeated elections for the head of the autonomy in the fall, along with local elections.
Since 2021, the country’s central authorities have extended the state of emergency every six months, first due to the energy and economic crises, and then because of the situation in Ukraine. Therefore, the authorities in Gagauzia feared that Chisinau would postpone the elections to another period. These worries are not groundless, since Chisinau always has the opportunity to interfere in the electoral process. All power structures, the police, the prosecutor’s office, the courts, the information and security service are controlled by the pro-European PDS.
The second round will be monitored by 75 international observers from more than 10 countries, as well as 81 national observers from the public organization MIRAD and the Promo-LEX association, from which 57 and 24 people are accredited, respectively. In total, 65 precinct electoral bureaus have been opened in the autonomy in 26 settlements.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, 121,700 people live in the Gagauz autonomy (data for 2021). 92,516 people were included in the electoral lists for the elections.
The CEC of the autonomy reported that 93,572 ballots were printed for the second round (including a reserve of 1%), of which 3,617 were written in the Gagauz language, 3,230 in the state language, and 86,725 in Russian.