With this week being global diaspora week (see US Secretary of State Kerry’s opening remarks here), I was reminded of IRI’s work with diaspora before the November 2014 Moldovan parliamentary election.
Moldovan law provides for overseas voting, and about one-quarter of Moldova’s voting-age population resides abroad and remain highly invested in the country—remittances make up more than 27 percent of Moldova’s GDP. Unfortunately, diaspora frequently do not have access to campaign materials and basic information on voting procedures. IRI sought to remedy this problem by linking Moldovan diaspora leaders, the Central Election Commission (CEC) and the Foreign Ministry’s Diaspora Relations Bureau (BRD).
Through seven seminars in Italy (home to one quarter of Moldova’s abroad population), Portugal, France, Ireland and the United Kingdom, IRI reached 134 diaspora leaders. At these forums, representatives from the BRD and the CEC shared information about voting procedures directly with the diaspora community. Also, the diaspora leaders were able to share their perspectives on polling locations, new voter regulations and government outreach efforts to the communities abroad. Through this exchange of information, election officials were able to quickly remedy problems facing voters overseas. Two problems that were addressed are:
- The prohibition on using expired passports as valid voter identification. At IRI’s events, diaspora representatives presented this problem to the Moldovan government officials in attendance, who in turn communicated to the CEC, which waived the regulation on November 18, 2014—allowing citizens to vote who would have otherwise been turned away at the polling stations. See CEC decision here.
- The increase in convenient polling locations in a number of the European countries targeted. For example, in Dublin, Ireland the diaspora representatives who participated in IRI’s session informed the BRD and CEC authorities present that the local polling location was inconvenient to the areas where the majority of Moldovans lived, and that this would have a negative impact on turnout. Upon hearing this, the BRD and CEC authorities took action and the location of the polling station was changed to a more accessible area.
Democracies work better when governments and constituents communicate this way, and IRI’s voter abroad initiative in Moldova is but one example of how building these linkages can have productive results.
Feaure Photo: Representatives of Portugal’s diaspora associations attend IRI’s GOTV seminar in Lisbon, Portugal October 25, 2014.Top