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Moldova: OSCE Monitor Previews Upcoming Local Polls

The OSCE election-monitoring station in Chisinau (OSCE) June 1, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Moldovan voters go to the polls in local elections on June 3. Some 2.5 million voters are eligible to elect some 900 mayors and 12,000 local councilors.

As in previous elections, voting will not take place in Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniester, which de facto has not been under the control of the Moldovan authorities since 1992. The vote is a midterm electoral test for the ruling Communists, who won the general election in 2005. The big prize in the poll is the capital, Chisinau, where the Communist candidate is seen as a favorite to win the post of mayor for the first time, although not from the first round. A runoff will take place on June 17 in constituencies where no candidate has obtained an absolute majority on Sunday.

RFE/RL correspondent Eugen Tomiuc interviewed Ambassador Dieter Boden, the head of the monitoring mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

RFE/RL: It looks like there is a high level of interest on the side of the OSCE and its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) toward Moldova's local elections. To what extent is the OSCE/ODIHR involved in the monitoring process?

Dieter Boden: This is a major effort that is being undertaken by ODIHR and OSCE. We are fielding at this moment 185 observers over the whole country for the election day. We have a core-team mission of another 15 that has been working here for five weeks here in Chisinau, so altogether there will be a staff of almost 200. In it you also have representatives of embassies and international organizations that have asked to put at our disposal a couple of observers, mostly here, from embassies and organizations in Chisinau, but also from [Romania's capital] Bucharest, for example. So I would say it's a major effort.

RFE/RL: What is the main role of the OSCE monitoring mission in the election?

Boden: It is many-fold. Of course, we tried as much as possible to follow up on the pre-election campaign, so for that purpose we have fielded 12 people as of the beginning of May in six different regions of Moldova, plus 14 here in Chisinau, because for us the election operation is not a one-day operation. It is a process that goes from the election campaign over election day, and also the counting and publication of results, the tabulation, and so on. So we try to follow up on all of this in order to have real, substantive, and solid assessment afterward.

RFE/RL: Have you noticed any irregularities or registered any complaints about how the campaign has been conducted?

Boden: We have registered a couple of things, and we have tried to put them into two interim reports that ODIHR has issued, the last of which came out a couple of days ago.

An OSCE monitor checks a Moldovan newspaper on June 1 (OSCE)

And of course there are a couple of shortcomings that we have listed apart from saying that, overall, the election is proceeding in an orderly manner.

There are a couple of things that give rise to concern, notably, for example, instances of intimidation of some candidates, specific cases, with names and places that we have listed. Another area that gives rise to certain concern is the media [coverage], where we think, again, on the basis of solid monitoring that we have done here in the mission, that not every time the principles of pluralism have been observed. So these are, for example, two things that have been mentioned in a critical way.

RFE/RL: What recommendations would the OSCE monitoring mission want to make to both the Moldovan voters and authorities for the vote?

Boden: Our recommendation would be that those well-known rules valid for the voting process should be observed. It begins with secrecy of voting. It has also elements of uniformed police not appearing in polling stations unless they are invited by the head of the polling station, things which in the past have not always been in perfect order.

So I think our team has been solidly briefed on these matters. We have experienced people, and so I think we'll just have a close look on these well-known principles of voting. And I hope they will be observed. The Moldovans have made a major effort also in terms of training of their staff. So I've always said, their interest and our interest in making these elections an example of free and fair elections coincide.

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