Thursday, July 30, 2009

Preliminary Results

Moldova's CEC has released the following preliminary results:

Moldova704876 (45.07%)29812 (1.91%)115288 (7.37%)224527 (14.36%)256570 (16.4%)197206 (12.61%)29322 (1.87%)6440 (0.41%)

The PCRM received 49.5% of the vote in the April election, falling off about 5% (or 55,263 votes). Perhaps the most striking difference is the drop in wasted votes. Around 15.2% of all votes cast were allocated to parties that did not pass the threshold in April, compared to 4.2% yesterday. Wasted votes magnified the PCRM's seat acquisition in April.

While the lower threshold in yesterday's election may have influenced the behavior of voters and parties, the number of contestants and distribution of votes tightened rather than increased. Indeed, institutional changes are less likely to have influenced the number of competitive parties than the unusual circumstances of this election and the consequences of the April protests.

If the preliminary results are certified, opposition parties should have 53 seats (and the PCRM 48). This would allow the opposition - if it could work as a cohesive group - to elect a speaker. The PCRM's opponents have a history of discord and strife, however. In my recent book, I sketched a portrait of the Moldovan opposition, noting that it behaved like its kin in many post-Soviet countries. While the opposition is united by a desire to challenge the party-of-power, it is divided on strategy and tactics. This disunity is manifested in a proliferation of parties, often headed by strong personalities, who cannot coordinate long-term cooperation. In cases where the opposition successfully ousts an entrenched government, as in Ukraine, the opposition quickly dissolves into warring factions.

With these results in place, Moldova's opposition coalition would fall well short of the 61 votes needed to select the president. While another early election cannot be held for a year, it is likely that partisan rancor rather than reconciliation is ahead. Victory celebrations may be held in Chisinau today, but the (metaphorical) knives are likely to come out soon as each opposition group tries to carve out its share of the spoils.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Voting Underway in Moldova

Moldova's re-do of its April parliamentary election is underway. Pre-election polling suggests that the PCRM will not obtain the 60 seats it desires, and that more opposition parties could enter parliament.

The CEC has reported 30% turnout at 12:45 p.m., about 5% higher than turnout was at the same point in the previous election. See Moldpress, Moldova Azi, and Imedia for coverage of election day activities.

Update (7/29 at 10:30 and 4:00): Thanks again to my colleagues at imedia, here is a breakdown of turnout by reporting periods:

April 2009: 6.6% (0945); 27.1% (1245); 43.0% (1545); 52.1% (1845); 59.1 (2145)
July 2009: 10.7% (0945); 30.0% (1245); 40.0% (1545); 49.3% (1845); 58.8 (2145)

Imedia is live-blogging the results in Moldovan and English. Preliminary results give the PCRM the lead. Votes for four other parties currently exceed the 5% threshold.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Kyrgyzstan Presidential "Election" Update

Preliminary results indicate that incumbent President Kurmanbek Bakiyev received 89% of the vote, allowing him to claim an easy victory in the presidential election when the voting is certified. Citing fraud, Almazbek Atambayev (the leading opposition candidate) withdrew from competition on election day along with another minor contestant. Two members of parliament associated with his party were arrested, sparking a protest that was repressed by the use of substantial force. Officials have annulled the results of at least one precinct, noting problems with vote administration. The usual suspects declared that the election met international standards (CIS, SCO), while the OSCE criticized the quality of the campaign and the process of casting and counting ballots.

The Central Electoral Commission website is currently non-responsive. I have encountered problems with this site in the past; it is possible that the relatively high volume of traffic has temporarily shut it down. If data become available, I will post additional observations.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Polling in Moldova

A recent poll, conducted by the Association of Moldovan Sociologists and Demographers and assessed by imedia, suggests that the upcoming election could once again yield a PCRM plurality, but not a majority. According to the poll, respondents indicated the following preferences:

PCRM: 29.7%
Liberal Party: 13.3%
Liberal Democratic Party: 12.8%
Our Moldova: 7.9%
Democratic Party: 7.1%
Other parties: under 3%
Remaining respondents were undecided.

As imedia notes, polls prior to the previous election also yielded a high proportion of undecided respondents. Comparing polling results to the election outcomes, it appears that the PCRM disproportionately attracted undecided voters.

With the possible entry of four opposition parties to parliament, Moldova may be headed toward an ongoing governance crisis like its neighbor, Ukraine, or toward some kind of grand compromise. Acting President Vladimir Voronin's rhetoric points to both possibilities. While he has called the opposition "radical right-wing parties," Voronin has also claimed that the opposition's "ideology" has been changing to promote Moldova's interests and that a coalition could be possible. The overall tone of the campaign, and events in the spring, suggest that ongoing crisis is more likely than compromise, however.

Thanks again to imedia for extensive information on Moldova.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Bad Omens

As late July elections in Kyrgyzstan and Moldova approach, disturbing developments have surfaced in several post-Soviet states.
  • In Azerbaijan, two young pro-democracy activists were beaten and detained. Harassment of the opposition is not unprecedented, but this attack occurred publicly in a popular restaurant. The official version of events has changed, while the attackers have been released and the activists were tried and convicted on the charge of hooliganism. Several youth movements have used the Internet to challenge - and poke fun at - the government. Open challenges to government authority have been met with repression in the past, but expressions of dissent seem to be tolerated to a greater extent than in several other post-Soviet societies.

    This provocation raises the possibility that opposition to authority will be met with harsher responses. A direct link to events in Iran is unlikely, but the capacity of the opposition to mobilize protesters in Azerbaijan's southern neighbor may have raised alarms in Baku and encouraged authorities to send a strong message to potential opponents.

  • While Kyrgyzstan's incumbent president Kurmanbek Bakiyev faces a legitimate challenger in the Social Democratic Party's Almaz Altanbayev, he is nevertheless expected to win. Opposition editors (1, 2) and journalists (1, 2) have been targeted in attacks that may be politically motivated. In addition, while Bakiyev has been courting religious voters, but some have allegedly been targeted as dissenters.

  • My imedia contact in Moldova has identified many important developments as the snap parliamentary election approaches. First, the election law has been modified, lowering the threshold from 6% to 5%, and lowering the turnout requirement from 50% (+1) to 33%. Second, the election is scheduled to take place on a work day (Wednesday, July 29). Moldovan elections are typically held on Sundays. Third, no more than nine parties (and no independents running) will contest. Actiunea Europeana just withdrew, and other parties could also drop out. None of this is disturbing news, and some of it - such as the reduction in the threshold - could be beneficial to pluralism.

    However, the campaign atmosphere has been stacked against the opposition, with state TV supporting the PCRM. My contact notes that the"...narrative is that [the opposition] tried to stage a coup with Romanian support and that if people don't vote for the Party of Communists, Moldova as a country will disappear." The opposition has failed to coordinate its challenge to the PCRM once again, rendering it at least partially culpable in its likely defeat. Some polling is due to be released, and I will comment more on Moldova's election as information becomes available.