Press Release

Home > Our work > Press Release > FDM Brief - April 2019
30.04.2019 18:51

FDM Brief - April 2019

FOUNDATION FOR A MODERN DEMOCRACY

 

 

Politics and society in the Republic of Moldova

Briefing series | April 30, 2019

 

 

ISSUE MEMO: A CASE FOR SNAP ELECTIONS

 

Although the Parliament can amend the country’s electoral code, changes apply only for the next round of ordinary elections, provided that the election law is amended at least one year in advance - according to a Constitutional Court ruling from April 26. Recent debates on a snap election scenario, mostly fueled by the opposition, have also provided a platform for supporters of the previous election system to call for the return of proportional representation. The current mixed system, passed through social and political consensus in July 2017, was first implemented in February 2019, when Moldovan voters elected their representatives in the country’s parliament both on local constituencies and on a national list. If snap elections are triggered, the same electoral process must be repeated. Constitutional judges have argued against frequent or belated amendments to the electoral code, as such actions can disadvantage voters, electoral competitors and political parties and can result in limitations to citizens’ rights to vote and be elected. International legal bodies have also been arguing that the change of the electoral system must be done only under certain conditions, with a strong focus on the predictability of this process.

 

Nonetheless, a recent poll[1] reveals that 79% of the voters did not encounter any difficulties on the election day, caused by the mixed voting system. 66% of the voters consider snap elections a negative development and 68% reported no willingness of voting again. On the contrary, 31% of the Moldovan voters believe that the Democratic Party (PDM) should form a coalition with the Socialist Party (PSRM). 20% of the poll’s respondents would favour a coalition between PSRM and the ACUM electoral bloc (PAS - ‘Action and Solidarity Party’ and PPDA - ‘Dignity and Truth Party’), whereas only 10% would agree with a PDM-ACUM coalition. 39% of the respondents agree that a PDM-PSRM coalition would improve the country’s infrastructure, whereas 22% would see the PSRM-ACUM coalition fit for the job (and only 11% would vouch for a PDM-ACUM coalition in this respect). Respondents’ hopes surrounding a PDM-PSRM coalition have also been captured as follows: 39% believe that PDM-PSRM would help pensioners; 38% believe that PDM-PSRM would improve public order and safety; 36% believe that PDM-PSRM would improve people’s living conditions. The same poll measures voting intentions in the case of snap elections, concluding that Moldovans’ options have not changed significantly since February and the Socialist Party would still come first, at 30.1%, followed by ACUM 23.4% and PDM 23.2%.

 

In conclusion, as snap elections have become a viable option amidst several rounds of failed negotiations among parliamentary parties, often dominated by unreasonable demands, the rules cannot change after the game has started - meaning that early elections would still be organized following the mixed voting model. Most importantly, snap elections would not change the political scene as much as expected by those who pursue this scenario.

 

 

BROADER STORY: COALITION NEGOTIATIONS IN DEADLOCK

 

More than two months after parliamentary elections, the political context in Chişinău remains unclear, as negotiations between winning parties seem to have failed, registering no significant progress. For context, newly-elected Members of Parliament must form a coalition in order to unblock key processes: the appointment of a Speaker of the Parliament, the formation of parliamentary committees, the nomination and appointment of a new Prime Minister, immediately after, a Cabinet of Ministers. All these processes are conditioned by an agreement between political groups.

 

Yet much of the blockage has been fueled by the former extra-parliamentary opposition, now known as the ACUM bloc, reuniting 26 MPs led by Maia Sandu (‘Action and Solidarity’ Party - PAS) and Andrei Năstase (‘Dignity and Truth’ Party - PPDA). The other two major political groups are the Socialists (PSRM) and the Democrats (PDM), reuniting 35 and 30 MPs respectively, as 51 MPs are necessary for a ruling majority. After refusing PDM’s political offer, ACUM has shown some openness to discuss with PSRM, but divergences were triggered by the division of high-level positions and their opposing views on the nature of their future political cooperation.

 

In a nutshell, ACUM seems ready to support a minority government and is determined to advance a so-called ‘anti-oligarchy’ package. Among their proposals in this regard, ACUM leaders have included “the adoption of a Parliament Declaration regarding the ‘captured’ character of state institutions” and the dismissal of the General Prosecutor and of the heads of the Information and Security Service (intelligence service), the Central Electoral Commission, the National Anticorruption Centre, the National Integrity Authority, the Supreme Court of Justice and others. Moreover, ACUM requests the annulment of the mixed voting system and the creation of three commissions within the Parliament, to investigate the billion theft, the consequences of the amnesty legislation, the ‘Russian Laundromat’. Furthermore, ACUM militates for the adoption of the Magnitsky Act in Moldova, a bill intended to prevent suspected individuals connected to large-scale money laundering, corruption, or human rights abuses from entering Moldova, access its banking system, or apply for its citizenship. Legal experts believe that many of ACUM’s requirements come in contradiction with the country’s Constitution.

 

This is the position that ACUM has assumed after unsuccessfully courting PSRM in order to form a majority coalition and after deciding against supporting a Speaker of the Parliament from PSRM. PSRM aims to appoint party leader Zinaida Greceanîi as Speaker of the Parliament and also control the ministries of interior, defence, foreign affairs and reintegration, as well as amend the prosecution law. Whereas PSRM showed some openness to support ACUM’s ‘anti-oligarchy’ package, the Socialists insisted that the institutional framework for such measures must be set first. In an unexpected turn of events, after finally meeting with ACUM on April 11, the Socialists were even ready to support Maia Sandu as Prime Minister. On April 16, Socialists changed their minds, after ACUM refused to negotiate the positions targeted by the Socialists.

 

The Democrats have not been negotiating with other political political groups outside a format introduced by President Igor Dodon, but have presented a ‘social’ package for Moldova, to serve as their own basis for negotiations. Arguing that the initiatives included in their ‘social package’ represent ‘citizens’ priorities’, most of them are continuations of programs already implemented, signalling that PDM is ready to join the government again. Prime Minister Pavel Filip declared that “the main purpose of PDM is to improve the lives of people through higher pensions and salaries, new housing facilities, support for families and stronger social protection measures for the disadvantaged, as well as infrastructure projects.” The initiatives promoted by PDM include: higher one-time stipends for childbirth, monthly stipends for children until the age of 18, making the 600 MDL financial support for disadvantaged families a permanent measure before holidays; implementing the ‘First House 4’ program; driving infrastructure programs such as ‘Good roads for Moldova 2’, the extension of sewage and water supply systems.

 

 

LOOK OUT FOR…

 

  • President Igor Dodon plans to request the Moldovan Constitutional Court to issue a ruling on the right to nominate a candidate for the Prime Minister’s office, ready to resume negotiations with parliamentary groups. Igor Dodon stated on April 22 that legal experts from the Presidential Administration argued against the President’s possibility to move with a nomination, but an opinion of the Constitutional Court is needed. According to Dodon, “if the Constitutional Court says the President is obliged to do so, then I will resume negotiations with parliamentary groups after Easter and, even without parliamentary leadership, I will propose a candidate for Prime Minister. If there will be a parliamentary majority, then everything is clear. Two parties must advance a nomination.” If Igor Dodon moves with nominating a Prime Minister, it would be the last possible action before triggering snap elections.

 

  • Prime Minister Pavel Filip and the PDM-backed ministers will maintain executive offices until the appointment of a new government. As announced on April 9. Prime Minister Pavel Filip, Interior Minister Alexandru Jizdan, Education Minister Monica Babuc and Agriculture Minister Nicolae Ciubuc will benefit from an extension of their mandates until the appointment of a new Government. Usually, elected MPs must resign from Executive office within 30 days after parliamentary elections - according to the Moldovan law, holding a parliamentary mandate is incompatible with being a Minister, an Ombudsman, a local official or exercising any other type of remunerated activities, except for teaching and scientific research. However, a four-year old ruling of the Constitutional Court allowed for the current exception, which confirms that Prime Minister Pavel Filip and a few Ministers will continue to ensure the functioning of the Government in the following weeks.

 

  • Central Bank Governor warned that a new IMF mission to Moldova may be conditioned by the appointment of a new Government in Chişinău. On April 5, Central Bank Governor Octavian Armaşu warned that the appointment of a new Government in Chişinău is key to secure a new mission of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to Moldova, in order to benefit from the next tranche of the IMF loan. According to Governor Armaşu, who is a former Minister of Finance, “in order to have an assessment mission to agree on certain actions and be granted the next tranche of money, we need a plenipotentiary government. We will most likely receive a new IMF mission after a new parliamentary majority appoints a new government.” The Governor added that the latest IMF mission to Chişinău was content with the Central Bank’s evolution, including as regards the shareholder transparency policies and the efforts to attract new investors in the Moldovan banking system.

 

  • Andrei Năstase confirmed that PPDA and PAS will run in local elections as the ‘ACUM’ electoral bloc, despite forming separate political groups in Parliament. On April 16, PPDA Chairman Andrei Năstase announced that his party will reunite again with Maia Sandu’s PAS in order to run together in local elections, reviving the ‘ACUM’ electoral bloc. According to Andrei Năsase, “we will resume the mandate that people gave us. Personally, I will go with the ACUM bloc. We have decided within the ACUM bloc to run united.” However, Năstase did not explain whether he or someone else would run for the mayor’s office in Chişinău, adding that “we don’t have a date for elections, we cannot say whether the Parliament will be functional to decide upon a date. It is premature to discuss this topic.” Local elections can be organized anytime after June 14, according to the Central Electoral Commission, but the Parliament must decide upon a date, with at least 60 days in advance.
 

[1] The cited poll was conducted by IMAS and commissioned by the Democratic Party of Moldova. Final report available here (in Romanian).