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Revision of the local public administration system

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March 5, 2003
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Local public administration system has taken center stage again. It was easy to foresee that sooner or later Communist Party would revise local public administration, as it was among its key promises made in the parliamentary elections of February 25, 2001.

There are enough reasons to believe that other motives than increasing the efficiency of the local public administration or meeting Council of Europe standards determined Communists to revise the local public administration system, namely inertia in changing attitudes towards issues of paramount importance for the country. This inertia is very illustrative for the Moldovan political elite as a whole. While in opposition the Communist party rejected all the initiatives of the ruling Alliance for Democracy and Reforms, including local public administration reform, which was implement with the assistance of international organizations. Later on, once acceding to power the Communist Party continued the economic reforms initiated by their predecessors, which they so much criticized. The fact is that the economic reforms have been imposed and coordinated with international monetary organizations IMF and WB.

On the contrary, local public administration reform initiated back in 1998 was not imposed by the aforesaid organizations, that is why Communist Party is committed to fulfil its electoral promise at least as far as the local government is concerned, despite any possible shortcomings like the lack of funding or violation of the constitutional principle of local autonomy. Presidential Spokesman confirmed this when stated that the President would probably not promulgate the Law on Local Public Administration before consultations with the Congress of Local and Regional Powers of the Council of Europe.

Having said that, let’s consider all the events in the chronological order. On November 6, 1998 the XIV Legislature Parliament adopted the Law no. 186 on the Local Public Administration with the majority vote of the Alliance for Democracy and Reforms, whereas on November 12 passed the Law no. 191 on the Administrative-territorial Division of the Republic of Moldova. Under the later, the country was to be divided in counties, thus reducing by three times the number of second-level administrative-territorial units and by 200 the number of first-level units, i.e. mayoralties. In its Resolution no. 293 of 02.19.1999 the Parliament set the date for general local elections for May 23, 1999. Administrative-territorial reform was to be completed after the elections with the formation of public administration bodies at the county and local level (municipalities, communes, and villages).

On December 28, 2001 by the majority vote of the Communist faction and several independent MPs, the XV Legislature Parliament passed the Law no. 781 on the modification and completion of the Law on Local Public Administration. Prior to that the Parliament passed a new Law on Administrative-Territorial Division of the Republic of Moldova to return to the old administrative-territorial division, i.e. rayons. The procedure of mayor election was also changed, under the modifications they were to be elected by the local councils. In compliance with the newly adopted law, on February 5, 2002 the Parliament issued Resolution no. 807 on establishing the date for general local elections for April 7, 2002. Two weeks later the Constitutional Court outlawed the said Resolution on the grounds it ran counter to the Constitution. Later on February 14, in its Resolution no. 13 the Court outlawed several provisions of the Law on modification and completion of the Law on Local Public Administration and Law on modification of the Electoral Code. The Parliament had to comply and firstly suspended the enforcement of the said laws, but later even substantially revised them.

Simultaneously, opposition in Parliament notified Council of Europe on problems related to local government in the Republic of Moldova. In its turn, through its specialized bodies Council of Europe recommended Moldovan authorities to reconsider the modifications they operated to the electoral and local government laws and to submit them for the expertise of the Council of Europe.

Recently, the Parliament amended the Electoral Code and restored all the provisions related to the direct election of the mayors by the entire community.

Last week the Parliament commenced examining a new Law on Local Public Administration. The new law compiles the majority of 1998 law provisions. Consequently the ruling party abandoned the idea of establishing “vertical power”.

The main difference between the two laws is that the prefect institution (cornerstone of decentralization) is abolished and the procedure of forming local government and their prerogatives are changed. Furthermore, the law provides that local government shall be formed in line with the new administrative-territorial division.

Although largely criticized by non-governmental organizations working in the field, it’s very likely that the rayons would be restored no latter than spring-summer. Needless to say, a lot of problems are expected to surface upon the enforcement of the law. Any reform requires financial, material and human resources. In the last two years, the ruling party complained on numerous occasions that it lacked qualified people for an efficient state administration. At the central level the problem might be partially solved by frequent employees’ turnout (until the people devoted to the party acquire enough experience). However the same method may not be applied to the newly formed local governments (three times exceeding the current number of local public administration officers).

To conclude, under given circumstances the only thing opposition and civil society can do is to point to the shortcomings, negative impact and high cost of revising local public administration system. Noteworthy, the estimations made by the government for enforcing the reform differ significantly (5–10 times) from the ones made by the non-governmental organizations working in the field. Despite the criticism, there are enough reasons to believe that the local public administration system shall be revised after all, and neither Council of Europe nor international monetary organizations would insist on the contrary. However, it is to be expected that the said organizations would react in case the revision hinders the economic growth or is to much burden for the state budget. Things would be clarified after general local elections.

As strange as it might seem the ruling party commits itself to an undertaking, i.e. revising local public administration, without being 100% certain that it would lead to an economic growth. If the reform fails it would inevitably lead to social and later on political problems.

Regrouping of political forces Reformation of “Teleradio-Moldova” Company