More than 63,000 people from Gagauzia region received information about the upcoming elections in their language

Olga Dudoglo is 27 years old and she is from Comrat. She graduated the local university and is now a lawyer. Last year she joined other volunteers with whom she visited each village and town in the region of Gagauzia to inform the voters about the upcoming parliamentary elections in February 2019. "There were villages where I, personally, have never been to, but the campaign brought me there. People were surprised to see us as we came from to inform them about the elections and the new electoral system,” says Olga.

The electoral education campaign in Gagauzia was conducted by two non-governmental organizations, Comrat Legal Clinic and Media Birlii - Union Media, in partnership with the Central Electoral Commission and the Election Commission in Gagauzia. The NGOs were selected according by competition and benefited from a grant offered by a United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) project funded the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the British Embassy in Chisinau through the Good Governance Fund and the Embassy of Netherlands through the Matra Program.

So, from May to the end of last summer, Olga, together with other volunteers, answered to the questions of the people from Gagauzia, informed them about the new electoral system based on which the parliamentary elections take place. Guides and posters were distributed, available in all three languages spoken in the region: Romanian, Russian and, of course, Gagauz.

"People had different levels of familiarity with the subject, some did not even know what kind of elections are coming. So, I knocked at the gates and doors and talked to them, I explained them what a mixed electoral system means,” says the volunteer.

Some voters addressed additional questions and wanted to know more information, says Olga: "Many were glad and surprised that the brochures were also available in Gagauz. I liked this campaign because the information we have provided, the information materials were all accessible and easy to read for all the citizens of the Gagauzia region."

Vitalie Gaidarji, the president of the non-governmental organization Media Birlii - Media Union, was the one to manage the translation of the information materials. According to him, it was a significant but difficult task, as Gagauz language is not so rich in electoral terms. So, a team of experts worked on adapting the guide on the parliamentary elections, the general poster on the mixed electoral system and two others reflecting the uninominal constituencies nr. 45 and 46 of Gagauzia region.

“It was a premiere for Gagauzia. Moreover, with this exercise, we contribute to preserving this language, which has already been declared extinct,” says Vitalie Gaidarji. The information materials are also useful for journalists in the region, who cover the subject of elections, noted Gaidarji.

Iurie is a pupil at a school in Comrat. His mother speaks Russian, and his father Romanian. He knows both languages, but at school he also studies Gagauz language. So, he just took three brochures in all available languages: "I go to school and talk to my colleagues about what I read in these materials. I think that pupils, even if they do not have the right to vote, need to know as much as possible about elections to become responsible citizens,” says Iurie.

Another premiere for Gagauzia is that on February 24th, 2019, in all polling stations the posters on the mixed electoral system and the uninominal constituencies will be displayed in all three languages which are spoken in the region.

The Comrat Election Commission had an active role in this campaign. The president of CEC Gagauzia, Ivan Komur, participated in several TV and radio shows and answered citizens’ questions. "All information materials distributed in this campaign contributed to encouraging people's participation in elections, and hopefully will improve the turnover. People were asking questions while the show were aired, and I enjoyed this. It means that the population is interested in electoral processes,” says Gagauzia CEC president.

The Head of the Office of the Comrat People's Advocate Office, Svetlana Mironova, is of the same opinion. She was one of the mentors and guests who went to educational institutions to conduct electoral simulations with pupils and students from Gagauzia, but also participated in meetings with citizens as part of the mobile campaign, conducted by Comrat Legal Clinic. "People are interested in the specifics of these elections, in the role of constituency’s candidates. And the electoral simulations involving young people are much more than just an ordinary briefing. Young people, especially those who will vote for the first time, simulated the election day. Such exercises are a premiere for Gagauzia,” notes Svetlana Mironova.

"This campaign has put a strong emphasis on facet-to-face communications with citizens. For UNDP Moldova and the Central Electoral Commission, as a project partner, it is important that each voter, before entering the voting booth, knows his/her rights and obligations and becomes aware of the responsibility of his/her vote and, of course, not to meet obstacles in the voting process,” says Eva Bounegru, Project Manager, UNDP Moldova.

All in all, more than 63,000 Gagauz citizens, including 32,400 women, were informed about the parliamentary elections to take place on February 24th, 2019. 12 non-governmental organizations benefitted from grants for electoral education campaigns, that targeted various groups of voters, including people with disabilities, women in difficult situation, ethnic minorities, inmates.