The second monitoring report on the inclusion of persons with disabilities and Roma persons was released today. The report was prepared under the aegis of the Civic Coalition for Free and Fair Elections.

It was produced as part of the project “Civil Society Advocacy for Inclusive and Fair Elections in Moldova, Compliant with EU and OSCE/ODIHR Recommendations and Human Rights Commitments,” implemented by the East Europe Foundation in partnership with the ‘Partnership for Development’ Center, Piligrim Demo, and Tarna Rom, funded by the European Union and co-funded by Sweden.

The main findings of the monitoring report:

Representation of Roma people:

Roma people remain underrepresented on the lists of candidates for first-tier local councilor. Only ten election contenders registered Roma persons as candidates in 22 out of 185 localities densely populated by Roma people. According to the information collected during the monitoring period, 42 Roma persons were registered as candidates for first-tier local councilor, and three persons of Roma ethnicity/origin registered as independent candidates for first-tier local councilor.

Similarly low was the number of Roma people on the lists of candidates for second-tier local councilor (in district councils). Only 11 of the 25 election contenders registered 17 Roma persons as candidates for second-tier local councilor (district councilor) in 13 localities densely populated by Roma people.

Roma men prevail on the candidate lists Election contenders registered only 13 women out of 42 Roma persons as candidates for first-tier local councilor (in towns, communes, and villages). Seven of them were included among the first ten positions on the candidate lists. Election contenders registered only 5 women out of 17 persons of Roma ethnicity/origin as candidates for second-tier local councilor (in districts). Only one of them was included among the first ten candidates on the lists.

Even lower representation of Roma persons is among the candidates for mayor (in communes and villages). Only 3 of the 25 election contenders registered four Roma persons (three men and one woman) as candidates for mayor in the first-tier administrative-territorial units in 3 (one commune and two villages) out of 185 densely populated localities. None of the persons of Roma ethnicity/origin registered as independent candidate for mayor in the administrative-territorial units of tier I (towns, communes, and villages) and tier II (the municipalities of Chisinau and Balti).

Election contenders’ platforms cover the specific problems of Roma persons insufficiently. The monitoring mission identified only five election platforms, prepared by three election contenders, that acknowledge the problems faced by Roma persons as a vulnerable group and include affirmative actions aimed at supporting them.

Inclusiveness of the electoral process for persons with disabilities:

In comparison with other elections, the problems of persons with disabilities are more prominent in the election platforms of the candidates and some political parties and in the media. However, the participation of persons with disabilities as election contenders is lower. Only 15 persons with disabilities stood as candidates at the general local election of October 20, 2019. They have the following profile: eight women and seven men; 4 from urban regions and 11 from rural regions; 1 candidate for mayor, 15 candidates for local councilor, and 4 for district councilor; 2 independent candidates and 13 on party lists; three wheelchair users.

Worryingly, from October 11, 2019, in the full swing of the election campaign, three TV channels stopped the translation of newscasts and programs into sign language. These actions, especially at the height of the election campaign, are hard to understand for the community of persons with hearing disabilities: “Persons with hearing disabilities watch TV screens as just moving pictures, without understanding the subject… What is this supposed to mean?”

Access of persons with disabilities to election information is significantly obstructed. The accessibility audit on 150 web pages revealed that only two of them were accessible, another two were conditionally accessible, while the rest did not contain or contained insufficient accessibility tools for blind and partially sighted persons. This is a serious violation of Government Decision No. 188 of April 3, 2012, on the public authorities’ official web pages.

PEBs’ accessibility remains a serious unsolved issue on the agenda of public authorities. Accessibility is one of the fundamental principles of the UN Convention and a prerequisite for the ability of persons with disabilities to enjoy other rights in various aspects of life.

From the start of the election campaign, none of the residential institutions or other community-based centers hosted electioneering meetings with and for persons with mental disabilities. The number of voters with mental disabilities is estimated at between 30,000 and 40,000 (or, according to the WHO, at between 2% and 2.5% of all voters), and approximately 1,600 of them are in residential institutions. Apparently, this constituency is not of particular interest for election contenders.

Accessibility of the offices of political parties is poor. Approximately 28 offices of political parties in ten Moldovan towns were checked for the accessibility of access ways and entries. Only three of them had partially accessible conditions, while the rest were inaccessible.