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Early general local elections were declared unconstitutional

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February 20, 2002
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During its February 19 session the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Moldova ruled that Parliament decision on conducting early general local elections on April 7 is unconstitutional. The Court justified its ruling by the fact that by holding general local elections Article 109 of the Constitution on the eligibility of the local public administration bodies may be infringed.

Commenting the event, President Vladimir Voronin stated that as a guarantor of the Republic of Moldova’s sovereignty he calls all the public administration bodies of the country to observe Constitutional Court’s ruling.

Domestic analysts claim that besides legal grounds for passing such a ruling there were political ones as well. Those played a crucial role in blocking the process of restoring soviet-model local public administration reformed in 1998–1999 in compliance with the principles of the European Charter “Autonomous exercise of the local power”. As a matter of fact, representatives of the Council of Europe who visited Moldova as part of the monitoring mission of the democratic processes expressed their concern regarding Communist authorities’ intention to revise the principles of local public self-administration. Representatives of the Congress of Local and Regional Governments, a specialized body of the Council of Europe, specifically stated which of the Chart provisions would be infringed in such a case. Namely, Article 6 of the Charter specifically providing that residents of the local communities should be consulted in a referendum on whether they support changes in administrative-territorial units’ boundaries. Furthermore, the delegation stated that termination before the term of the elected officials’ mandate is a violation of the contract between the voters and the bodies they elect.

Political situation in the Republic of Moldova has been worsening continuously since January 9, 2002 when non-stop protest actions against the policies promoted by the Communist governing party were launched. A series of non-governmental organizations protested against the introduction of compulsory Russian lessons in the primary schools (despite the lack of support materials or failure to consult the parents); the replacement of the History of Romanians course with the History of Moldova; as well as the censure at the national TV and radio stations, etc.

In mid February the number of participants in the daily protests ranged from 10.000 to 30.000 people. The protestors headed by the leader of the Christian-Democratic Peoples’ Party have gradually changed their claims, transforming the protests into a movement against communist authorities. Now the protestors claim the resignation of the Communists and general elections.

Protests in Chisinau are unfolding in parallel with another conflict in Gagauz-Yeri, triggered by the control conducted by the Court of Accounts in Gagauz-Yeri. The latter lead to a scission in the Gagauz-Yeri General Assembly, which started the procedure of dismissing the Bashkan, Dumitru Croitor. Obviously, the political conflict unfolding in the South of the Republic of Moldova may result in a greater ethnical conflict. Gagauz authorities would like to pretend that is not the issue of embezzlement at stake, but rather a fight between Gagauz authorities and those Chisinau, which attempt to infringe their autonomy.

Moreover, communist authorities are not in good terms with the neighborhood countries, Romania and Ukraine, the former being blamed of interfering in the internal affairs of Moldova, the second of favoring smuggling from Transdnistria, failing to comply with the new customs regulations of the Republic of Moldova.

Under those circumstances early local elections might have had unforeseeable impact, that is why Constitutional Court’s ruling is a very elegant way to back out from early local elections without damaging communists’ image. On the contrary, President Voronin stated that he would defend the constitutional order in the country. It is true that the President’s councilor foresaw such a development, blaming the Parliament majority and the Government for the current political crisis.

Meanwhile the Christian Democrats may celebrate their first victory. However, given the fact that early local elections are not being held, they will have to change their message. No doubt, Christian-democrats won’t give up their strategic offensive against communist authorities. On the other hand, authorities may claim that by giving up early local elections they complied with domestic and international norms, thus illustrating how a deadlock may be overcome. They will insist Christian-Democrats to follow their example and give up the illegal protests. Consequently, it is difficult to predict the future developments. One thing is clear, communists intend to hold a referendum to consult the citizens on all the issues that triggered the deadlock. It is very unlikely that the protesters will agree.

2002 Local Elections The political crisis in Moldova