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Concerns on the eve of elections

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Igor Botan / September 12, 2004
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With the launch of the fall political season analysts and media alike engaged in assessing preparations for parliamentary elections. According to their estimates, elections might be held late May or even June next year. The source for such predictions is the Constitution itself. Paragraph 3 Article 61 of the Constitution provides that “election of Parliament members will be started not later than 3 months from the end of the previous mandate or from the dissolution of the previous Parliament”. Article 63 specifies that “the mandate of the current Parliament may be extended until the structure of the new Parliament has been completed and the latter can meet in full session” that according to the same article is held “within at most 30 days from election day”. That is why it is considered that Parliament mandate commences on the day of its first session. Given that the last parliamentary elections were held on February 25, while the Parliament was convened on a first session via a Presidential Decree on March 20, 2001, it is expected that parliamentary elections would be held sometime during the three months March 21 — June 21, 2005.

This estimation is logical and at the first glance seems accurate. Arguments cited by those who claim election date would be set for the end of May or even June cite, derive from the supposed interests of the ruling party. It is believed that Party of Communists would like to exploit for propaganda purposes April religious holidays (Easter) and turn again bringing the Holy Fire from Jerusalem into a political show. Celebration of the 60th anniversary of the victory day on May 9, in the middle of electoral campaign, promises additional political dividends. The more so as the CIS chief of states were already invited by President Putin to celebrate the anniversary in Moscow. The latter might prove to be crucial in convincing a 30% Russian-speaking electorate that President Voronin is on good terms with the Russian leadership.

It is said that by mid-May electorate gets more tolerant with the ruling elite as the hardships of winter are long forgotten. This time however winter promises to be particularly hard due to the forecasted shortages of electricity and natural gas as a result of the would-be “adequate measures” undertaken by Transdnistrian authorities in response to so-called “economic blockade” from Chisinau. Given the string of provocations contrived by the Tiraspol leaders, it may well happen that the “adequate measures” would be scheduled precisely for the cold period of the year, i.e. during pre-electoral campaign and would therefore considerably tarnish ruling party’s rating.

Those expectations led some newspapers into believing that worsening relations between Moldova and Transdnistria might serve grounds for the governing to declare a state of emergency, which would allow it to postpone elections a month or two for a more favourable period. In addition, it is said that ruling party would seek to amend Constitution so as the President be elected directly by people.

Those speculations should be viewed with scepticism. For a start, the latter supposition is no longer valid as according to Article 143 (1) of the Constitution “Parliament has the right to pass a law for revising the Constitution after no less than 6 months from the date when the revising initiative was submitted.” Article 74/2 of the Law on Parliament Regulation provides that debates on constitutional laws may start only “after six months after the submission of the relevant draft law together with the Constitutional Court endorsement”. So far no such draft was submitted to the Constitutional Court. Therefore, ruling party simply does not have the six months necessary for the Constitution revision, as its mandate expires in five months and a half, when it would no longer be able to adopt or amend Constitution or any organic law.

As for the speculations on declaring a state of emergency, we better not disregard those arguments but rather take them seriously. On top of worsening relations between Chisinau and Tiraspol, a string of events have happened and numerous quite suggestive laws have been passed. Thus, on May 24 President signed a Decree on establishing Supreme Security Council (SSC). Opposition dubbed it as President’s “politburo” or “pet government” seeking to replace Government and “serve dictatorial ambitions and usurpation of state power” and having the function of electoral headquarters entrusted to bring the victory to the ruling party in the 2005 parliamentary elections. One month later, on June 24, 2004 Parliament passed the Law no. 212-XV on the State of Emergency, Siege and War. About the same time government affiliated media predicted that opposition would stage a putsch right on the eve of elections, the so-called “Sun Flower” (Moldovan version of the 2003 Georgian scenario)[1]. And finally on September 13 the Director of Information and Security Service (ISS) announced that “Five persons, including Defence Ministry officials were detained in suspicion of embezzling large quantities of weapons from the National Army warehouses”[2]. ISS Director noted “it is quite symptomatic that the theft coincided with the escalation of the Transdnistrian conflict and activation of certain socio-political forces”. In fact it is as symptomatic that SSC Director’s statement regarding “separatist authorities’ inclination towards violent actions” was published on the front page of the governmental “Moldova Suverana” besides the editorial where the author referring to Russian Federation’s support to Transdnistrian regime claimed that “all the appeals by the international community to Russian Federation are made to it as a guarantor-country, but they should be made to an aggressor state, as it was publicly acknowledged in the ECHR’ judgement on Ilascu case”. Quite bold allegations from official press given the approaching negotiations between Moldovan Government and Gazprom on the country’s debt on gas.

Insinuation on “activation of socio-political forces” is also quite obvious, referring to the opposition parties’ support to Teleradio-Moldova journalists in strike. Major opposition parties voiced their support to the protesting journalists and pointed that upcoming elections would not be free and fair unless Teleradio-Moldova issue is settled, meaning it is no longer under governors’ control. To maximize protest actions that are going on for two months now, it was planned to move them downtown close to main public institutions. Under those circumstances, when governors identified their domestic foes (opposition and Transdnistrian regime) and foreign ones (Romania — “the last European empire”, Ukraine — allowing smuggling from Transdnistria through its 460 km border with Republic of Moldova and Russia — “aggressor-state which the West refuses to treat accordingly”), a dramatic deterioration of socio-political situation is to be expected right on the eve of elections.

Going back to the date of elections, it is worth mentioning that the aforesaid arguments do not take into account some important political and legal factors. Firstly, they ignore Resolution no.31 of 10.11.1997 of the Constitutional Court providing that “Parliament mandate commences on election day and ends after 4 years”. This ruling is quite interesting, meaning that for about a month there are in fact two Parliaments in the Republic of Moldova. The new one, whose mandate commences on election day and the old one whose mandate is extended for about one month until the former convenes on its first session. In fact, this curiosity does not bear any risk. Anyway Constitutional Court rulings are final and binding for all. In this particular case, Court’s ruling narrows only by one month the berth for manoeuvres to ruling party in setting election date. However, in line with Article 2 of the Law on the Procedure of Electing the President of the Republic of Moldova, presidential elections are to be held “at most 45 days prior to mandate expiry of the incumbent President”. The first article of the same law, amended in June, provides that “Parliament of the same legislature gets to elect the President of the Republic of Moldova only once”. The incumbent Parliament has already elected the President once, therefore by April 8, 2005 when the President’s mandate expires, a new Parliament should be elected so as to be able to elect a new President within the time frame allotted by the law.

Therefore if the governors were to abide Constitutional provisions and electoral law on parliamentary and presidential elections, then by the end of its session in December Parliament would set the date for parliamentary elections. The latter would therefore be held in the last Sunday of February or any Sunday in the first half of March, i.e. February 27 — March 13, 2005. And this because sufficient time should be allotted: to tabulate election results, Constitutional Court to validate election results, President to convene the newly-elected Parliament, Parliament to elect its governing bodies, establish Special Commission for the Presidential Elections, and conduct those elections by April 8, 2005. Most importantly, Constitutional Court ruled in its Resolution no. 4 of 12.01.2001 that terms for presidential elections specified in an organic law should be strictly observed.

Under the given circumstances, Government would better dispel lingering concerns, rapidly settled Teleradio Moldova conflict, and conduct elections under the aforesaid terms. It would be a terrible mistake for the main state institutions — Parliament and Presidency — to operate longer under expired mandates and respectively limited prerogatives, especially given tensed relations between Chisinau and Tiraspol pushed to the brink of renewed conflict.

  1. Puciul “Floarea soarelui”, Accente libere, #15, 8.07.2004 ("Sunflower" putsch)
  2. Din depozitele armatei nationale a fost sustras armament, Moldova Suverana, #152–153, 14.09.2004 (Weapons were stolen from the National Army warehouses)
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