The Central Election Commission (CEC) unanimously decided on September 23 to convoke new local elections in 10 settlements, including the Chisinau municipality, on November 27. CEC passed this decision on an as democratic as possible way, taking into account paragraphs (m) and (n) of Article 22 of the Election Code regarding “consultation of parties and public organizations” for “plenary participation in the electoral process.” The CEC sitting was really public, with participation of journalists, representatives of political parties and public organizations, as well as of the OSCE Mission to Moldova.
Although the CEC decision perfectly fits the international standards, norms of Moldova’s electoral legislation, rulings of the Constitutional Court regarding election of local public administration bodies, there is an impression, however, that this decision is inopportune, especially as regards the Chisinau municipality.
International standards particularly envisage the strict need of periodical organization of elections. Under Article 1 of the Election Code, the periodicity of elections is ensured within mandatory “general elections” of any kind. There are detailed norms on terms for organization of “general elections”, either parliamentary, or local polls. The same detailed norms envisage the establishing of eventual early parliamentary elections, which end an old phase and begin a new phase of periodicity of elections for the new Parliament elected for a 4-year period. This is a provision of Article 63 of Constitution.
As for local elections, the periodicity of elections is ensured by the 4-year mandate of local public administration bodies, which begins on the day of “general elections”, being in effect for the entire community of local councils and mayors in Moldova. The Constitutional Court has passed a number of rulings aimed to clarify the way of election of local public administration bodies and to establish the strict duration of their mandates, after adoption of Moldovan Constitution in 1994 and after the first local elections conducted on its basis in 1995. Thus, two rulings of the Constitutional Court say that the 4-year mandate of local public administration bodies established through Article 119 (1) of the Election Code cannot be shortened or prolonged. Another two decisions based on Article 112 of Constitution say that the central administration authorities cannot name the local authorities if a mayoral office becomes vacant. Even more, the July 30, 2002 notice # 2 of the Constitutional Court opposed the intention of a group of 52 lawmakers to modify the Constitution, so that to allow local councils to elect mayors indirectly, an intention which perfectly complied with the European Chart Autonomous Exercise of Local Power, an international document which has priority over internal legislation after the Moldovan Parliament ratified it in 1998.
All the documents envisaged above indicate the need to elect local councils and mayors within local “general elections”. Article 139 of the Election Code stipulates the organization of new election of councils and mayors in case of such a need. As for new elections of local councils, there were no major problems the past 10 years. There were very few cases of this kind. As regards new mayoral elections, such elections take place in 10–25 settlements a year throughout a 4-year mandate. The experience of new elections of mayors was satisfactory till the office of Chisinau mayor became vacant last spring, and new followed by repeated local elections failed.
Thus, if we speak about legal side of local elections in the Chisinau municipality, we observe that it was completely respected throughout current mandate: 1) citizens directly elected a mayor of Chisinau for a 4-year period on May 23, 2003; 2) early and, respectively, repeated elections took place on July 10 and 24 after the mayor elected in 2003 had stepped down, but they remained invalid because of the low turnout. Following questions appear under these conditions — how necessary the repeated new elections are, can the non-stop organization of new elections be avoided?
The answer may be based on the fact that the vacancy of mayoral office, regardless of its cause, always has an element of hazard and therefore the problem to elect the mayor must be treated through the opportunity to organize new elections or a deputy mayor must be ad-interim mayor. In this regard, before setting the new elections for November 27, CEC should call on the Parliament in order to try to persuade lawmakers to modify Article 139 of the Election Code, so that no election validation threshold of 1/3 participation rate be in effect for new elections or at least to eliminate it in case of repeated elections; to ask the legislature to interpret Article 139 of the Election Code on basis of Article 66 © of Constitution in a move to clarify how many times a settlement can organize new local elections throughout a 4 years mandate.
Both approaches would allow us to get rid of “electoral fibrillations” caused by eventual failed elections, which have nothing in common with the obligation of periodical elections and interest of citizens to have a local administration to protect their legitimate interests.
Leaders and representatives of political parties the Liberal Party (PL), Democratic Party (PD), Christian Democratic People’s Party (PPCD), Party of Communists (PC), Social Liberal Party (PSL) have favored the establishing of data of new local elections in their speeches before CEC passed this decision.
However, attitudes and expectations of political parties regarding the scheduled elections, especially in Chisinau, are different. Although the summer period halted the participation last summer, the results of the July 10 new elections and July 24 repeated elections highlighted the rating of candidates of parties in Chisinau. This rating also indicates the interests of parties for new elections:
These interests of political parties also highlight the problem of timeliness to hold new elections in the Chisinau municipality. Also, there are other problems regarding timeliness to organize elections:
All these causes taken together may have a negative impact on motivation of citizens to participate in elections.
It may be supposed that electors in the Chisinau municipality are tired of invitations to cast their votes four times in only 9 months. However, they have nothing to do but to accept this situation and to use their constitutional right and obligation of citizen to cast their ballots. The best solution to the electoral tiredness is to make the Chisinau residents read or read again the extraordinary literary works of known writers Mihail Saltikov-Scedrin and Iaroslaw Gasec — “The Story of a City” and, respectively, “Municipal Elections” in the new electoral period. Thus, the special pleasure is to persuade that “all is old and all is new”, that means the present problems of the Chisinau municipality and their approach by politicians during electoral campaign are very similar to the ones faced by other cities from other meridians almost 100 years ago (and even more).