On 10th December, 2006, the unrecognized republic of Pridnestrovie (PMR) held its fourth presidential elections in a calm, orderly and efficient manner. The British Helsinki Human Rights Group sent two representatives to observe the elections for President and Vice-President of the Republic of Pridnestrovie (PMR) on December 10, 2006. The team visited polling stations in Tiraspol, Rybnitsa, Grigoriopol, Kamenka, and the villages of Podoina, Rashkov, and Malajesti. The observers met the Head of the Regional Electoral Commission in Grigoriopol and the representative of the Grigoriopol region on the Central Election Commission.
The election itself proceeded smoothly in every polling station visited by BHHRG. Both the electoral commissions and the electorate were well-informed on the electoral regulations and procedures. The chairman and secretary of the local commissions, as well as their deputies, had attended seminars on the correct conduct of the elections at the regional commission level. In turn, they had instructed the members of their local commissions in preparation of Election Day. As a result the Group’s observers did not witness any misunderstanding or confusion about the correct electoral procedure. At every polling station the observers spoke to the observers of the candidates present, and although no candidate had observers in every polling station, none of the observers to whom BHHRG spoke had witnessed any irregularities. BHHRG visited the count in polling station 231 in Tiraspol. Although the commission had to process 1300 ballots, the whole procedure took less than 50 minutes. There, too, the observers of the candidates were satisfied with the conduct of the poll and the count.
Two of the four candidates for the Presidency - Ms Nadesha Bondarenko and Mr. Andrei Safonov mentioned of problems and delays during the registration process for candidacy for the Presidency. Ms Bondarenko complained that the necessary 9000 signatures – or some 2 percent of the total electorate – was too high a hurdle to take in order to be registered. Since it took her staff a long time to gather the signatures needed she was left with only 3 weeks of active campaign time. Due to a conflict between Mr. Safonov and the Central Election Commission about the validity of his list of signatures, which was ultimately resolved in the candidate’s favour by court decision, Mr. Safonov had only a few days left to present himself to the electorate.
Since the registration process was the main concern of these candidates the criteria for registration may be queried. Clearly, it would not be advisable to have no hurdles to registration given the large number of candidates that might result. Secondly, Russia also employs the two percent rule and it is very hard to be registered as a presidential candidate in France and the United States, for instance. Maybe the number of signatures required to register a candidate should be lowered, easing the organizational burden on a prospective candidate’s staff, but a monetary deposit which would only be returned if the candidate gathers more than a certain percentage of the vote (say 8%) could be required to discourage frivolous candidacies. Ultimately, of course, these matters are for the legislature of PMR to decide.
All democracies face debates about registration procedures and other aspects of their electoral processes, but PMR’s election workers seem to have carried out their duties on polling day conscientiously and honestly. The election commissions should therefore be congratulated on the professional performance of their duties.