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 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.
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