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Parliamentary consensus on current legislative activity
Sergiu Grosu, April 11, 2006
The second administration of President Vladimir Voronin turned one on April 4, 2006, a moment of reference for the following period which is named more often as "period of political consensus between some parliamentary parties." One year is a good occasion for every side participating in collaboration, for each opponent of the process and independent observers to summarise the results. The recent developments (in March and April) in the Parliament allow certain conclusions concerning the state of the parliamentary consensus which seems to oscillate from "Status Quo" to "selective progress".
We ascertain that the political consensus established between the Moldovan Party of Communists (PCRM), Christian Democratic People's Party (PPCD), Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM) and Social Liberal Party (PSL) at the very beginning has broken sometimes and it seems that the three Social Liberal lawmakers have withdrawn definitely from the initial group (the turning point was the launch of the idea of "impeachment of the president", followed by "regret of the April 4 vote", a series of bitter criticism against governance in general and PCRM in particular). Accordingly to its traditional stance, the Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM) does not fail any occasion to criticise certain decisions of the majority faction, saying however more than once that "it will support the decision, but it has some proposals," and appeals of PDM for reformation of PCRM, renunciation of Vladimir Voronin to his post in the political party are heard more rarely. PPCD remains the most devoted member of the coalition, both in the virtue of the fact that certain of the earlier proposed reforms have not been implemented yet, as well as with the purpose to demonstrate the usefulness of the consensus, its utility for promotion of democratic reforms to the national and international public opinion. However, PPCD does not forget to mention that the partnership is related to major political issues, to relations between Parliament and President, while the Government and its policy is described as "yours".
Former members of AMN who introduce themselves as "independent lawmakers" affiliated in a group coordinated by Dumitru Braghis have joined the traditional partners. The reduction of criticism against governance and the recent appointment of Lidia Gutu to the important diplomatic and political post of ambassador to Romania reveal some points of tangency between members of this group and parliamentary majority (or, better saying, with the leadership of the parliamentary majority).
The AMN faction that has lost half of the members with whom it joined the Parliament, remained in the same "active opposition" and it became more active on the first anniversary of the March 2005 elections, trying to organise some protests, but they had a low scope or failed because the legislation unfits the European standards and due to abuses of authorities .
Some latest events and the way certain issues have been debated in the Parliament reveal that the initial partners of the coalition are coming closer to each other and a rivalry, a competition appears between representatives of the constructive opposition for the right to promote decisions and policies.
The appearance of the April 3, 2006 Government Decision that appointed Valentina Cusnir, lawmaker representing the parliamentary faction of PPCD, as deputy director-general of the Agro-Industrial Agency Moldova -Vin, is an interesting element.
Under Constitution and law on status of parliamentarian, the quality of lawmaker is incompatible with any other remunerated office, except for didactic and scientific activity and, therefore, Cusnir should give up the mandate (or the new office) within one month. Cusnir is the first PPCD lawmaker promoted to a public post in the executive and this fact may serve in a certain measure as ground for presumptions that the PPCD is participating in governing, though this faction did not award a trust vote to the Government and its leaders do not publicly back the policies of the executive. Other posts of deputies that the PPCD has obtained in some independent central institutions (Chamber of Auditors, Central Election Commission) may be explained through the need to control and to train staffs, but this is a technical office in a department that does not promote important policies and it captures attention due to the sponsored economic field and launched projects (Wine Festival, Wine City, new law on vine and wine, wine making development project).
Lawmakers have decided to create a special commission to work out draft legislative acts on consolidation of local autonomy. The document is approved with the purpose to execute the schedule of legislative actions for implementation of recommendations from the Resolution of Recommendations of the Council of Europe, while the commission includes lawmakers of all factions, as well as parliamentary groups unaffiliated to any factions. It was interesting to observe the reactions of the parliamentary majority and lawmakers representing other factions towards inclusion of Oleg Serebrian in the commission. Although he has ascertained that there are no obstacles on way of such a decision, the speaker did not fail the moment to note that Serebrian was in charge in the initial political consensus with coordination of a group for drafting of proposals aimed to improve the legislation on local public administration, but that group did not produce anything.
A week after the commission mentioned above was created "through consensus", the Communist parliamentary majority voted alone the law for the modification and completion of the law on Government, which stipulates the creation of the Ministry of Local Public Administration for the third time despite objections of other parties. The law was partly modified at the proposal of the chief of state, who has ordered the exclusion of the merger of the Regional Development Agency within the new institution, this remaining the body in charge with the implementation of national programmes on constructions, water providing and improvement of infrastructure. The fact if the structure and competences of the new ministry will be the object of examination in the special commission for elaboration of draft legislative acts on consolidation of local autonomy, which could stop working at the same time with the creation of the new governmental structure1, was not discussed any longer when the law was examined. According to representatives of the "constructive" and "active" opposition, the creation of the ministry that would not include structures in charge with territorial development is another negative element related to the lobbyist interests of some persons close to the ruling party. AMN chairman Serafim Urechean has accused that the agency in charge with constructions is used to promote political and economic interests of the governance, while leaders of the agency are close to the PCRM leadership and they maintain this way its bureaucratic competences instead of promoting the legitimate interests of territories.
Controversial debates between parliamentary majority and members of other parties have been registered when the law on exemption of works for technical expertise, prospecting, designing, building and restoration of the Curchi monastery from VAT was examined. At present, the law exempts four objects: the monastic complex Capriana; the children's centre in the village of Pirita, the district of Dubasari; the museum complex Orheiul Vechi and the monument of soldiers killed in the 1992 battle for independence and integrity of the Republic of Moldova, in the city of Cantemir, the district of Cantemir. Lawmakers representing the parliamentary factions of PPCD, AMN and PDM have proposed the modification of the law in terms to extend its area of action on religious places which are being constructed or rebuilt. The parliamentary majority turned down these proposals and certain representatives of opposition accused the governance of supporting only a religious denomination and notably the Metropolitan Church of Moldova. Lawmakers agreed after controversial debates that a list of all religious objects which are being constructed or renovated be worked out in order to draft a special legislative initiative on exemption of these works from taxes. Experts said that the perspective of adopting such a law is uncertain in the virtue of the fact that the reconstructions are often not orderly, official; they are not under a strict fiscal control, while the money is raised and administrated by clerks who are not assisted by adequate accounting services. As a result, given the fact that the law completed by Parliament stipulates express the exemption from VAT only "in the limit of donations," the extension of its provisions will be unlike, while general considerations regarding the "combat of fiscal evasion," "loss of budget collections," etc. could be used as counterarguments.
Representatives of the parliamentary opposition have voted a draft law on completion of some legislative acts concerning the operative activity of investigations in the first reading. The document proposes some additional rights for bodies in charge with operative competences of investigation, obligation of operators of post services and all types of telecommunication services to provide possibilities to access the transmitted information, to provide other types of assistance sought by competent bodies, as well as to take technical-administrative measures for non-disclosure of information about operative services of investigation. It also proposes that the materials on authorisation and collected information be stored in archives of bodies that exert operative measures of investigation, in contradiction with present regulations, which stipulate the storage of these documents at instruction courts. The domestic security service SIS has initiated the draft in July 2004, but its examination was postponed before the parliamentary elections in order to prevent criticism of opponents and tensioning of situation. The Government was proposed in early 2006 to withdraw this draft from the Parliament, but this did not happen and the draft has suddenly appeared in the legislature's agenda. The document was not made public, consulted with public opinion, nor was any international expertise of this document conducted in order to establish its accordance with human rights standards, with the existence of some similar norms in legislation of the Russian Federation, the United States and some member states of the European Union serving as essential argument. The document was criticised during debates by representatives of the AMN faction, who proposed its unconditional rejection; the PDM faction, which recommended to turn it down and to draft some adequate amendments to the proceeding-penal legislation; representatives of the PPCD faction, who proposed to make an expertise of the document in order to establish its accordance with international norms. The PCRM faction has backed the draft, saying that it does not introduce new regulations capable to extend the rights of operative bodies of investigations, it details only some technical provisions needed to ensure the activity of law bodies and to oblige economic agents to support the activity of these bodies.
Lawmakers have passed in the first reading the draft Audiovisual Code initiated by representatives of the PCRM, PPCD and PDM factions. The document aims to establish the concept, structure and functioning of national broadcasting and proposes a union of regulations on audiovisual, electronic media watchdog CCA, activity of the public broadcasting company TeleRadio-Moldova, regulations which are part of several organic laws at present.
AMN did not warm the document, raising some objections and invoking criticism of specialised organisations against this code. Representatives of draft developers on behalf of PPCD accused some public organisations of lack of interest for unpaid participation in the drafting of the document, but other speaker rejected these suppositions, saying that they had earlier developed a fruitful cooperation with these organisations.
PPCD Deputy Gheorghe Susarenco read a declaration on March 30 disagreeing with the use in the parliamentary practice of the "independent lawmaker" notion or lawmaker representing a party that did not succeed the electoral threshold independently, a practice that he regards as contrary to constitutional orders, provisions of the Election Code and legislative acts in effect. According to Susarenco, independent "candidates" only are "independent lawmakers", while lawmakers who joined the Parliament as members of a party that they have left meanwhile are only "deputies" or "deputies who withdrew from faction," and the use of a name of a political party that did not attend the elections beside their names is wrong. Parliamentarians agreed to discuss this problem in the process of examination of amendments to the Parliament's Regulation, but it is useful to recall in this context similar cases that happened in the previous legislatures, in particular, in the 15th legislature. Thus, the electoral party (electoral bloc) Braghis Alliance has changed its name in 2001-2005, taking over the name of a political party created after the 2001 parliamentary elections - the Social Democratic Alliance of Moldova (ASDM), and it self-called meanwhile Our Moldova Alliance, the name of the party which ASDM had joined. The parliamentary majority voted a decision (#553-XV) on December 18, 2003, with the declared purpose to react to an address of the Constitutional Court, but the real goal was not to admit the public use of the name of an extra-parliamentary party, a potential competitor at future elections in the Parliament. The decision:
- takes notice of the report of the legal commission for rules and immunities on results of examination of the November 27, 2003 address # PCC-01/29e of the Constitutional Court, a report prohibiting the change of relevant elements of parliamentary factions (names);
- declares as null and void the change of the name of the parliamentary faction representing the electoral bloc Braghis Alliance after creation of this faction on basis of Article 4 (3) of the Parliament's Regulation;
- empowers the legal commission for rules and immunities to work out and to table to the Parliament proposals on modification of the legislation in effect within 2 months (by February 25, 2004), with the purpose to solve the problems raised to the Constitutional Court.
We ascertain that legislative solutions for the "political migration" problem have not been approved so far after more than two years and some fair solutions to satisfy everybody will unlikely appear soon.
1 Under transitory provisions of the re-voted law, the Government shall work out the structure, functions and functioning regulation of the newly-created ministry within three months after enforcement of the document. The special commission for elaboration of draft legislative acts on consolidation of local autonomy shall end its activity not later than in late July 2006.