Recently amendments to the Law on the Procedure of Electing the President of the Republic of Moldova were operated, under which “The Parliament of the same legislature gets to elect the President only once, except for cases of vacancy of the position”. In fact it was opposition who came up with the idea of having the amendments, however the Communist Party preferred to vote its own amendments claiming that these would “calm down the opposition”.
The problem stemmed from the fact that future Parliament was to be elected between 26 February — 26 May, while the President between 22 February — 7 April, 2005. Once the amendments were operated and entered into force, and actually will be respected together with the constitutional provisions, Parliament elections would as usual be held on a Sunday in the time period between February 27 and March 13, 2005 the latest. And this because sufficient time should be left for the tabulation of election results and their validation by the Constitutional Court, which might take up to 2 weeks, especially given numerous appeals that are to be settled prior to the validation of the mandates of the newly elected deputies. Later, in compliance with Article 63(2) of the Constitution, the President convenes the Parliament of the new legislature that is to elect its own governing bodies and only after that the special Commission for the election of the President is formed. All of these should be completed by the deadline set for electing the President, i.e. no latter than April 7, 2005.
To ensure the compliance with the terms provided by the law for hosting elections, the Parliament should announce the day of parliamentary elections no latter than December this year, before the closing of the autumn-winter sessions, as under the electoral law election date is to be set at least 60 days prior to the election day, while the next session of the Parliament (in line with Constitution) starts only in February. It may well happen that a special session of the Parliament would be called after winter holidays only to set the election day, as provided by the Article 76 of the Electoral Code.
Consecutiveness of parliamentary and presidential elections might have a decisive role in the elections outcomes. Thus, if Presidential elections were to be held before parliamentary ones, then re-election of the President in office for another term would raise some eyebrows, people would rightly wonder whether it is appropriate for the President after being re-elected to run also in parliamentary elections by heading the party list in order to help it to win. It seems to be obvious that if President Voronin would not participate in the parliamentary elections it might in the end have a negative effect on the total number of votes cast in favour of the Communist Party.
That is why amendment of the Law on the Procedure of Electing the President does not run counter to the Communist Party interests. On the other hand, the same problems exist even if parliamentary elections are held before the presidential ones, as it is not clear if the chief of the state may run for another position, especially MP, without having to resign from the position he is holding. It is this misunderstanding that triggered debates in the opposition press alleging that the Chief of state might resign on the eve of the parliamentary elections so as to get re-elected by the incumbent legislature (without even violating the legal framework) or in order to head the Communist party’s list and then be re-elected as a President.
Noteworthy, the amendments drafted by the Communist faction and voted by the Parliament, although are very much welcomed, leave wide berth for manoeuvres both in terms of setting the day of presidential elections as well as in consecutiveness of conducting parliamentary and presidential elections. On the other hand opposition draft proposing to validate Presidential elections via an organic law would exclude any such opportunity. The thing is that if the majority Communist faction really wants it may argue at any time that constitutional provisions on conducting parliamentary elections within 3 months of the expiration of the legislative body’s mandate prevail over the limitations imposed by the Law on the Election of the President.
Government affiliated media claimed recently that Chisinau mayor, Serafim Urechean, singled out as the main political foe of President Voronin, lied the citizens when he ran for the Chisinau mayoralty knowing that he would later on run for the Parliament as a leader of an opposition party. The problem is that the situation is very much similar in the case of President Voronin. On the one hand he represents the state, and on the other hand he is the leader of Communist Party whose candidates’ list he would probably want to head in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Having said that it would be rather interesting to have a closer look at the incompatibility issue. For instance Chisinau office of the State Chancellery recently appealed in the Court of Appeal the legality of one of the decisions of the Chisinau Municipal Council on appointing pretors designated by Mayor Urechean, on the grounds some of the councillors were holding at the time the decision was passed, positions incompatible with that of the councillors, namely they were pretors and actually voted for their own re-election. Court of Appeal rightly ruled in favour of the State Chancellery viewing as illegal the election of pretors, with Supreme Court of Justice also confirming the ruling.
The decision of the Supreme Court is of special interest especially if viewed from the perspective of the constitutional principle on the uniformly applying the law, meaning that President Voronin’s eventual participation in parliamentary elections on the top of his party list might raise some problems. Article 81 of the Constitution states: “position of the President of the Republic of Moldova is incompatible with exercising any other paid work”. MP position is a paid job. If Vladimir Voronin ran on the Communist Party list and kept the Presidential seat, then once elected in Parliament he would no longer be able to exercise his constitutional prerogative of the chief of state and thus wouldn’t be able to convene the new legislature of the Parliament as the Constitution requests. If President Voronin would renounce to his MP mandate in order to be able to convene the new legislature the risk is however that the Communist Party would not win enough seats in Parliament to elect the President, thus Voronin might end up with no parliament nor presidential seat.
If President Voronin would choose to resign before the parliamentary elections than this plan would have to envisage “sacrificing” the eventual mandates of Parliament Speaker or Prime-Minister, which according to the constitutional provisions are interims of the President. In fact, mass media’s scenario that the President would resign on the eve of elections so as to head Communist Party list is very unlikely. From a political point of view, the move might impair the Communist Party image.
Thus the recent decision of the Supreme Court of Justice may serve at least as a suggestion for deputies to address the Constitutional Court in order to clarify whether the chief of the state may run for another position while he is exercising his mandate. At the beginning of Vladimir Voronin’s presidential mandate the Constitutional Court refused on various grounds to provide a clear answer to the question raised by the opposition on whether a President may also be a party member. If President Voronin would indeed head the Communist Party list, then Constitutional Court would find it quite difficult to avoid responding to the question if it is asked.