The study was developed as part of the project “Watchdog.MD: Whistle-blowers in Energy and Public Policies in Moldova”, implemented with the financial support of the European Endowment for Democracy (EED). The content does not necessarily represent the official opinion of the EED. Responsibility for information and expressed views belongs entirely to the authors.
This analysis is devoted to discern some irregularities within the 24th February Moldova Parliamentary elections. Some of these problems are evident but most are hidden.
Tricks with activity.
1.”Left” and “Right” electorate demonstrate symmetrical turnout behavior, hence proving social roots of electoral activity. There has never been any ethnicity -related turnout shift in Chișinău during the period under case study.
- At the same time, DPM electorate is increasing its electoral activity since 2018, making it unbelievably high in 2019. It’s apparent that “DPM electorate” in this case is just a fake; however, there are no doubts that this fake was exactly what helped DPM gain 11% in Chișinău during 2019 elections.
- Below we’ll try to identify what this “DPM electorate” can be and what it cannot be. We’ll make first quantitative conclusion: roughly half of votes for DPM are falsified, so their actual share is less than 6%.
Tricks with deviation.
- The values of the indicators are almost identical for “left” and “right” parties so there are no irregularities. However, for DPM and Șor party irregularities increase these values approximately twofold in agreement with regression model from the previous chapter. So at least half of votes both for DPM and Șor party violate the statistical model, which is unavoidable in this case.
- Then, we’ll study question “how does this happen?”. Now we’ll rather focus on question “why does this happen?”. The reason is irregularities occurs only in certain rather than all polling stations thus increasing dispersion of votes for this party. This part of dispersion cannot be explained otherwise; it’s part of a random factor or unspecified fluctuations that can be revealed only after a thorough analysis.
Therefore, these deviations occur without any connection with electoral pattern, which have been existing for 30 years since first free elections in Moldova.
DPM electorate “mysteries”.
- Indicator value for DPM shows that there’s no “third” electorate array of more than 10% in Chișinău. It’s either randomly formed each time (but in this case it should decrease correlation of results for “left” and “right” parties) or it’s apparent result of influence peddling and fraud.
- Correlation of DPM electorate to DPM electorate in previous years is very small even to be purely formal. Why? Less than year ago Silvia Radu has a significant 16.7% of votes. All this connections and possibilities have remained and have been used by the ruling party. In such a situation any correlation less than 0.3 isn’t just weak – it’s nearly absent.
Strangely different constituencies.
- It’s apparent that there was/is DPM’s own small electorate in Chișinău and our calculations prove that too. However, it’s very small (it doesn’t exceed 3-4%) and, what’s more important, very unstable. Every time it’s a whole new, which brings “electoral collapses” such as in 2015 elections. When there had been a perception that “DPM isn’t in charge here” it resulted in severe and immediate decrease of its electorate.
- That’s why most prosperous constituencies (26, 29 and, to a lesser extent, 27) give the lowest correlation of DPM results in 2019 with their results during the previous periods, as people who have voted DPM in 2019 and in 2014 are almost non-overlapping groups.
- Indeed, small amount of successful Moldovans votes for DPM. However, they support as well any other power that exists at the moment of elections and that presents some kind of guarantee for them. In the same way, they could earlier have been supporting LP and LDPM or even PCRM. There’s no generally accepted norm (and never was) and this type of electorate doesn’t have any ideology other than sense of interest.
- In the “wealthiest” constituencies there may be a bit more than 5% of such voters. In all other, there are not more than 1-2%. That’s why correlations with Acum and PSRM are both negative and that’s why there’s almost no correlation with the previous period.
Very different fraud.
- Ballot stuffing in controlled polling stations always takes place but there have never been so much of it as in 2019. The data is already sufficient to make an estimation of ballot stuffing as 1.5-2%, approximately two thirds of which are connected with DPM and the rest with Șor party.
- It’s necessary to understand clearly that ballot stuffing doesn’t always distort the statistics in the constituency where they occur. It depends of amount of irregular parts in a certain constituency. For example, the statistics of Șor party in constituency c23 is completely irregular while statistics of DPM in constituency c25 (where the maximum amount of irregularities has been detected) is borderline between just bad and obviously irregular.
- Electoral carousel are very common and not only in Moldova. They’ve taken place in our case too. However, it’s clear that amount of carousels is strictly limited. The maximum possible number for Chișinău can be estimated to be 1.5% – it’s at the average 20 votes in every polling station. Usually there are even fewer, no more than 12-15 votes, which corresponds to approximately 4000 votes in the city as a whole.
Furthermore, carousel is easy to detect, ballot replacement could be seen on a CCTV record, so some preparations are required to avoid suspicion. Therefore, carousels are still being used but “owners of the administrative influence” haven’t pay special attention to them. The amount of carousels in the recent elections can be estimated to be significantly lower than 1%, and not more than 2000-2500 votes.
Often the owners of such “electoral know-hows” are the most interested themselves in carousels to earn some easy money during elections. Although, this doesn’t exclude that in the proper place and at the right time carousels can become important tool for electoral fraud.
Obvious advantages of carousels include the following:
-High reliability, i.e. it’s almost impossible to detect the “owner”. In the worst case, an intruder will be caught with one completed ballot.
-Very high efficiency. As all the ballots are checked by the “owner” of the know-how, probability of “group member” of voting wrong is very small. It’s important advantage of carousels compared to nets (which we’ll discuss below)._
-Last but not the least carousels don’t distort statistics. Very thorough analysis of electoral databases can be used to detect traces of carousels, especially if their use has been systematic. However, it’s hard to do and cannot yield unquestionable proof as such small fluctuations can occur spontaneously.
- Nets also can avoid distortion of statistics, being currently the most “promising” and most commonly used kind of electoral falsifications in those cases when the falsification technology is “mature and mass-replicated”. Indeed, in the “nets” the same people vote at the same polling stations. Change in turnout usually is a question with not a simple answer. If it doesn’t have a positive correlation with results of some certain party (as it has happened in our case) it’s quite difficult to mathematically proof existence of this kind of falsifications.
During the recent elections, nets have been widely used in Moldova for the first time but its use was rather specific.
15.1. “Nets” are often nixed with another kind of falsifications – “voter impersonation”, which had yielded higher effect in the specific background of Moldova. Generally, these two kinds of falsifications are somewhat similar, although having clear differences
15.2. Absence of total control by “group leader” and reliance on an ordinary member are important features of nets. In Moldova and Ukraine, experience has shown that if real rating of nets beneficiary is less than 15-20%, nets can fail, because many participants get their fees but vote for another party.
15.3. The specific nature of Chișinău political landscape has turned out to be even more important than it seemed. It’s obvious that there are no DPM ordinary activists in Chișinău, so participants were mostly right-flank activists or just young people with developed communicative skills. Ultimately, many of them voted for Acum, despite Acum had nothing to do with this. That’s one of the reasons of enough high correlation coefficient between DPM and Acum results.
It’s wrong to assume that circumstances described above had made use of nets useless for DPM. In Chișinău, basically, yes, but in Moldova, as a whole, the situation was completely different. There, nets and voter impersonation played a crucial role in many cases.
It’s easy to see the volume of nets and voter impersonation by analyzing excess of electoral activity over the normal distribution in the hours before noon.
In Chișinău, nets cover 4-5% of all votes, but not all of its participants voted for DPM and Șor party, and it’s evident in the constituency 31 where everything had been prepared for nets use. In the country, as a whole, the situation is drastically different as described below.
- Voter impersonation is not unique invention of, but it had turned out to be very effective “here and now”.
The technology is based (as always) on large-scale and strong administrative influence and widespread manipulations with citizens register. Added to this is the specific nature of situation in Moldova – at least 20-25% of population is not present in the country, DPM fully controls the mayors of rural communities, hence fully controlling electoral commissions. The result was “old technology” enhanced with new ideas specific to Moldova.
At some moments, especially from the statistical point of view it’s hard to separate nets and voter impersonation. In Chișinău voter impersonation almost didn’t influence “internal statistics” (however, nets did) but made a large impact of “external” one (i.e. connected with electoral activity). Actually, this is voter impersonation, that helped DPM to increase its result by approximately 4-5% in Chișinău (and much more in Moldova as a whole) with little effort.
Brief summary. DPM was prepared for falsifications in Chișinău, and
their preparations were versatile and systematic. Approximately 10% of total votes in the city are irregular, and DPM got about 75% of them (that is 5-6 percent point of DPM totals by approximation). However, DPM had managed to realize only part of its plans, because of negative attitude towards DPM of most of the city residents (in cities other than Chișinău the situation is mostly the same) and… because of insufficient administrative influence. DPM had to face that many of people engaged to take part in the falsifications actually took no action or even opposed them.
In the countryside, however, situation had turned out to be much more favorable for DPM.
- All four parties that have obtained places in the parliament tend to small transitions from one system to another. Most of these shifts are caused not even by the system change but presence of the “fifth force”, i.e. Dorin Chirtoaca (ex-mayor of Chișinău) in constituency c32 and “Our party” candidates in the constituencies c9 and c10.
- Main rule precisely describes the situation. “Our party” and Chirtoaca get votes in a SMC (single-member constituency) while their parties lose votes in the proportional system. Chirtoaca takes votes from Acum and “Our party” takes them from PSRM.
- PSRM gains votes in constituency c32 (where it has 2nd place) while losing votes in constituency c33 (where it has only 3rd place).
- Several important exceptions. Without apparent reason in the part of constituency с9 (which is located in Falesti district) DPM has got extra 2.6% of total votes. We stress this fact because the DPM candidate has only the 4th place – even not the 3rd one. I.e. actually, he hadn’t struggle for leadership and the voters (including those ones living in close rural/suburban area) had known that. In such circumstances this votes’ swing should imply existence of irregularities. In comparison, in the constituency c10 (where rural part is bigger) things described above did not happen.
- Therefore, in the constituencies c9, c10, c32 and c33 irregularities were relatively small, statistics was almost proper and there are no reasons to assume irregularities to influence election results in SMC. No reasons except one very important.
- The geography of two constituencies in Bălți (i.e. c9 and c10) has directly influenced the election results. It’s easy to see that if the election had been held only in the urban area, “Our party” candidates could easily win. Therefore, addition of parts of Falesti and Singerei districts had changed circumstances of the election in these constituencies in many ways.
One should also mention that the constituencies in Bălți are higher by number at 10-15%, than in Chișinău and higher than average around the country. So merge of parts of Falesti and Singerei districts to Bălți was a biased decision which could (or even was meant to) change conditions of electoral struggle in the constituencies involved.
Such actions obviously are responsible for some part of irregularities in election. These irregularities are created before the election with an apparent purpose of changing election results.
Tricks with number.
- The approach to the constituencies demarcation described above is apparently biased and unacceptable in terms of voters’ equal rights. International observers should certainly had capture these violations at the very moment of their creation, i.e. long before the election.
- The violation of quantitative equality of constituencies’ is inherently connected to the electoral geography of this constituencies and districts. There was more bias with the number in the constituencies, where Acum and PSRM had been favorites.
Tricks with boundaries.
- In the 2019 Moldova election all kinds of gerrymandering whether one could use at all in such a small country has been applied, such as quantitative gerrymandering, biased demarcation of the constituencies, and the preventive elimination of constituencies potentially “hostile” to DPM.
- DPM contributed for party success in constituencies c5 (Glodeni with Rîşcani as an increment, the losing side was PSRM), c6 (Drochia with Soroca and Dondușeni as an increment, the losing side was PSRM), c15(Călăraşi with Ungheni as an increment, the losing side was Acum), c16(Ungheni, the losing side was Acum or PSRM), c42(Cantemir with Cahul as an increment, the losing side was PSRM), c43(Cahul, the losing side was PSRM or Acum) simply by demarcation of the boundaries.
It’s 6 constituencies out of 30 formed, i.e. 20% only as a result of tricks with geography.
- In the urbanized constituencies DPM has encountered some difficulties. For example, in the most tossup constituency in areas (c16) PSRM and Acum got almost equal amount of votes thus leading to DPM victory with great difficulty. In the constituency c43, influence peddling in favor to the quasi-independent head of the district had been quite enough.
- In addition, other 1.5 constituencies have been taken from PSRM by eliminating (as a separate election units) districts with a large number of PSRM voters in the north of country, and 0.5 from Șor Party due to division of Orhei district into 4 parts.
- In two other constituencies c3 (Edineţ) and c40 (Cimișlia and Basarabeasca) DPM has won because of direct influence peddling instead of gerrymandering.
Partition of c40 is not absolutely clear, but may be possible.
- Simply by the apparent irregularities DPM has contributed 10 (out of 30 formed in all the areas) extra mandates in the SMC. It leads us to the conclusion about irregular character of the election in general.
- Everything described above is just the part of the irregularities, which had been “preset” at the stage of constituencies demarcation. Another part, which is connected directly to the voting process, needs to be studied separately. It will be subject of the next chapter.
Irregularities in the area districts.
- DPM has maximal growth of support only in the two main categories – predominantly ethnic Moldovan villages and ethnic mixed villages. Nevertheless, DPM is not agrarians, not “party of village”. Moreover, there are no any comprehensive parts in the DPM program, which would be devoted to the agricultural or agro-industrial breakthrough. It would be just impossible, regarding to the social-economic situation in Moldovan rural zone.
- Such alignment is strictly impossible by the viewpoint of electoral campaign sociology and electoral process at whole. All campaigns in the area are going through the center of district, through any urban agglomerations, where are located the main district media, live political activists and local counsellors, who are the base of local branches of political parties and “smart groups”. So any growth of votes at villages has to be repeated in the district centers (not obviously the same but substantial), but in our study case it isn’t.
- At least. It must be the substantial growth both in the villages with predominantly ethnic moldovan and predominantly ethnic non-moldovan component, if it would be the message from any “agrarian” party, but also it wasn’t. Therefore, we see irregular alignment, where all DPM “growth” takes place out of the main statistical, sociological and political patterns.
- We just begin from the centers of districts trying to explain. Turnout in the centers was the most exaggerated one and evidently irregular. These indexes show that the centers of districts predominantly were and the “centers of falsifications” in the most of area constituencies. At the same time very small “growth” of DPM support in the district capitals shows that the ratings of DPM even in small towns were such low, that it was impossible for DPM to “make huge fraud”. At first the reason was, that in the towns there was more confident monitoring over the process of voting, other parties’ activists prevented DPM from the more numerous falsifications. Therefore, lot of forgers had to refuse from their mission because they met active counteraction from their rivals and were not able to continue fraud attempts.
- However, it was the mostly different situation in the ethnic moldovan and mixed villages. We must remember the 2015-2016th situation (local elections, then the DPM government formation). Before Vladimir Filat arrest, the power control in districts was shared between LDPM and DPM. After Filat’s arrest LDPM have collapsed very quickly and all this “power control” was immediately captured by DPM together with the presidents of the districts and with the mayors of communities who were forced to enter DPM. PAS of Maia Sandu that took some part of “LDPM politic heritage” didn’t take any “power control” in the districts, PSRM had not such possibilities at whole. Therefore, the DPM falsifications in the villages mostly were not stopped, because there were not enough “counteractivists” from other parties, mayor were the part of DPM and mainly took part in the fraud.
- In the villages with non-moldovan ethnic component the situation is rather different. There are enough activists and it was enough control from the part of PSRM. All polling stations were created with the participation of PSRM local branches and mostly it was enough to escape fraud. Therefore, the size of falsifications was the minimal one and did not influenced at the main indexes in this category.
- The main. The character of fraud, uneven and spoiled statistics, sometimes quite normal, sometimes impossible, tells us that fraud was prepared in depth. Sometimes normal statistics is the result of adjustment of voting protocols to the needful totals, the results of some “preliminary job” with totals, which “called” some hours of disconnected server during the process of vote’s calculation.
DPM was not able to switch the totals in their favor more significantly, but they gained just good totals, which are based on fraud and mass falsifications.
Tricks in districts and constituencies.
- Therefore, we proved that 15% at areas were falsified by DPM and this swing was the part of the fraud. It took place in most districts and SMC. Sometimes DPM couldn’t provide the “target swing” (may be power control wasn’t so absolute), sometimes even 15% wasn’t enough (suddenly, especially in the towns, gaps were larger than DPM has anticipated).
- This 15% of “fraud swings” in areas could be “seen” immediately after elections. Predominantly those preliminary calculations were fair. 16-17% means the 105-110 thousand of votes.
- We have to add 7-8% – 25 thousands in Chisinau with suburbs. Totally, there are 140 thousands of irregular votes in Moldova. As the result– 23.5% instead of 15% and five extra MP places for DPM by proportional.
- DPM won 7 from 18 (totally won) SMC due to falsifications on the election day (c43 formally won the independent). There are c3, c5, c6, c16, c40, c41, c42.
- Most three SMC DPM won only by power control and pressure on the counter candidates.
- Gerrymandering (which was comprehensively studied at the previous chapter) and Election Day fraud were applied simultaneously to achieve the common effect. It is difficult to “split” the share of “each kind of fraud”.
- 1-2 SMC DPM won purely by tricks with geography and by tricks with the different number of voters in SMC.
- All kinds of fraud were prepared carefully, in detail and in depth. Some statistical irregularities were “hidden” under the specially corrected indexes. It is impossible to hide everything and mathematical and statistical analysis help us to discern most cases of irregularities and falsifications. Sometimes DPM couldn’t provide as it “was planned”. Especially it took place at cities and in the centers of districts. DPM had power control at some of those places, but social activists prevented some of this fraud.
- The final calculation demonstrates that DPM had captured extra 15-18 MP places from 31fornally obtained. Therefore, from the DPM part elections were falsified more than twice.