For the second time in its history of over 650 years, Moldova will be able to choose its head of state by a popular vote, will chose between at least two candidates. In 1996, Mr. Petru Lucinschi became president after gathering over 919,831 votes. No other party or person managed to get so many votes in Moldova in a competition with one or more counter-candidates. The stake of the presidential elections in 2016 is very high because for the first time in twenty years one person has a chance to be voted by nearly one million Moldovan citizens, which will lend him a certain legitimacy and popular support, and responsibility.

There are discussions about the fairness of the vote, which are based on several misunderstandings over the methodological approach or the definition than the actual situation. I will try to list the elements of this context:

1. There is made a misapprehension between the number of citizens of Moldova with right to vote and the present population. It is no secret that we have more citizens than people de facto in the Republic of Moldova, but this is not a reason to deprive our citizens abroad of the right to vote as long as they have not renounced their citizenship.

2. Data from the 2014 Population Census have not been published yet. The preliminary data were presented hurryingly and have nothing to do with the logic. According to them, the population of Chisinau would be below 500 thousand people, or about 300 thousand less than in 2014. However, there is no reason to believe that the population of Chisinau has declined that much, while the population of other regions diminished insignificantly. The good news is that on September 20, 2016, over 82% of the Population Census questionnaires were processed, thus in about a month we could start receiving the first results. Anyway, there will always be suspicions about their quality.

3. There is a systemic problem in the management of governmental data. For some reasons, there is the State Register of Voters (SRV) and separately - the State Register of Population (SRP). There is only one condition for people from SRP to get in the SRV - to reach the age of 18. That is all. Any specialist in databases, even a beginner will say it's redundant to keep two registers. Purely technical, SRV should be a selection from SRP done before the elections, where to include the information on alive people with the age of 18 and more.

4. "The million problem." In the national consciousness deepened the idea that one million people are currently abroad, although no one has presented any other information about this "million": what countries it is distributed in, neither its structure on age, ethnic composition, education, etc. The Population decline by one million does not explain why the Gross Domestic Product continues to grow. On the contrary, there were supposed to be some catastrophic consequences on the indicators. An analysis of consumption – the largest GDP component, shows us that the number of people abroad may not be so great. Due to the "million" effect, there is no an accurate assessment of the current situation in several areas, including the electoral one.

5. The issue of the dead ones. If in the past there was chaos in the electoral lists that were updated arbitrarily, then now should not be such a problem. As in the case of the dear departed Emil Loteanu, there are Moldovans settled abroad who died and nobody informed SRP or SRV that this person is no longer considered "alive." Of course, beside the reduction of the number of registers from two to one, other measures of legislative nature for a person to be declared dead are also needed. For example, a model exists on Facebook - either a death certificate is attached or a number of people confirms that the person is deceased. Furthermore, if a person does not receive any public service, does not appear in any database for a specific period, it may be investigated whether that person is alive or not. Certainly, other solutions could also be found.

6. The demographic structure changed dramatically in the last 25 years. At the beginning of the 90’s, the population of Moldova was bigger, and even younger, than nowadays. In the 80’s many children were born, who can vote now. In this way, a paradox occurs: we have a decreasing population, but an increasing number of voters. However, since the children born after independence are in a far smaller number, and soon the number of voters will begin to decline.

7. The Transnistrian problem. For various reasons, many ignore the fact that in the Transnistrian region live people, and most of them have the Moldovan citizenship. Of course, there were no elections in which they have participated massively, but yet they are Moldovan citizens and have the right to vote. Therefore, add about 490 thousands to the population of Moldova, about 270 thousands to the number of voters and about 210 thousands to the number of citizens (estimated data). I mention that all these three indicators are different.

 

Here at least 7 SERIOUS reasons of confusion, which makes most of the assumptions on how accurate are certain data to be incorrect.

I made an appraisal of the migratory balance for the period 1991-2015. I found it curious that since 2012, there are more foreigners who obtain Moldovan citizenship than those who give it up. In total, for 4 years, 14.838 people obtained the Moldovan citizenship, mostly Romanians (17%), Arabs (13%), Ukrainians (13%), Russians (12%) and Turks (10%). On the other hand, in the same period 10.257 Moldovan citizens emigrated. Most went to Ukraine (32%) and Russia (31%). But here I refer only to the citizens who emigrated permanently.

It is not clear to what extent the increasing number of immigrants influences the electoral process and if some of them simply want to benefit from Moldovan passport to travel to EU without a visa. However, their number will be small soon and even this will not be an advantage, at least for the Ukrainian citizens who will be able to travel with no visa to EU.

If we take the whole period after independence, we lost about 135 thousand citizens who have emigrated and no longer hold citizenship of Moldova. We also have about 53 thousand immigrants and about 59 thousand repatriated. It should be noted that the number of the new returnees was higher in the 90s and is quite small now.

How many are abroad? To answer this question I have created a model that takes into account the natural increase and migration in 1991-2015. Thus, according to the NBS in 2015 were 325.4 thousand people who went temporarily abroad. In the model, we found a difference of about 120 thousand people - who should be citizens of Moldova, but are not covered by NBS data. Therefore, we have abroad 445.4 thousand Moldovan citizens who may come back.

At this number we add 135 thousand people who emigrated definitively. In addition, we can take into account the natural increase among the migrated population (120 thousand not covered by NBS and 135 thousand who emigrated definitively). No one knows exactly how many children were born abroad among migrants who have left, but let us assume that their number is at least 40% of 255 thousand "lost" citizens, which means another 102 thousand people who could have been part of the present population in Moldova. Regarding the number of the dead, I will use an arbitrary number, because such data are difficult to estimate - 25 thousand people.

Finally, we have, 657.4 thousand people, who left permanently or temporarily, including the children born abroad without the citizenship of Moldova. 

Who is left in the country to vote? CEC data on the number of voters in SRV are just a few thousand more than in my simulation model of the number of population of the country from 1991 to 2016. So the error can be in several thousand unregistered deceased citizens, which would be about 3-5 thousand in total.

Hence, from the total number of over 3.2 million voters from SRV, really could vote more than 2.5 million people who are in the country, and if we had a real rate of participation of 60%, we could expect 1.5 million voters at the ballot boxes. For example, in 2015, 1.38 million persons voted for the mayors in their municipalities, which would be 55.2% from the base of 2.5 million potential voters, which seems reasonable.

Of course, the official participation rate will be lower because it will be divided by 3.2 million. In this context, it is necessary to decrease the electoral threshold and any barriers to the registration of candidates because the present population is declining, even though the number of citizens decreases slower.

Conclusively: CEC data are not perfect, but close enough to reality. 

Data source: National Bureau of Statistics (www.statistica.md), Central Electoral Commission (www.cec.md) and iData calculations.