The law of the Administrative Territorial Unit (UTA) of Gagauzia concerning the election of members of the People’s Assembly was adopted on January 15, 1998. It was further amended to improve the election legislation, but not all shortcomings signalled in the report “The compatibility of the Gagauzia legislation with the national and international election regulations”, issued in 2011 by Association ADEPT under the auspices of the OSCE Mission to Moldova and released during a roundtable with the participation of decision-making authorities of the People’s Assembly and the Executive of the autonomy, were remedied.
Following debates on the report concerned, the sides agreed to harmonise the election legislation of Gagauzia with the related national and international laws. Therefore, new draft laws concerning the elections to the People’s Assembly, for the Governor and law on election bodies were issued by December 2011, debated and accepted in principle. The only key issue was related to the need of putting together the election legislation of Gagauzia into an Electoral Code. This issue raised controversial debates and obstructed the voting of both the new draft election laws and of the Electoral Code of Gagauzia. In consequence, the elections to the People’s Assembly are based on the old legislation and face all the shortcomings signalled by the above-mentioned report regarding:
The shortcomings indicated above were signalled after the monitoring of the four previous electoral campaigns, and their resolution should improve the electoral process. The failure to amend the election legislation had a negative impact once the current campaign started. Under Article 45 of the Gagauz Regulation, the elections to the People’s Assembly shall take place three months before the mandate of the incumbent members is over. The mandate of the forth People’s Assembly of Gagauzia was over on April 23, 2012. The People’s Assembly convened in a sitting on May 16 to set the Election Day, and a repeat sitting took place on May 19, but decided to set the elections for July 29, 2012, despite statements of some legislators who signalled the violation of the legislation in force. The sitting on May 24, 2012 approved just six candidates to run for the Central Election Commission of Gagauzia, as follows; three members on behalf of the People’s Assembly, one on behalf of the Executive Committee of Gagauzia, and two on behalf of the Comrat-based Court of Appeals. Lawmakers turned down three candidacies representing the CEC of Gagauzia. Under the election legislation, the Gagauz CEC is made of 9 members, by three on behalf of APG, of the Executive Committee and judiciary. Representatives of the Executive Committee and the Comrat Court of Appeals disagreed with actions of members of the People’s Assembly. In such circumstances, Gagauz Governor Mihail Formuzal contested the decision of the People’s Assembly in the law court. The Comrat Court of Appeals awarded victory to the governor, and the legislators had to settle the problem of voting the complete composition of the commission and set a new election date. Therefore, the Election Day was set with about one month and half latter than stipulated by legislation — on September 9, 2012.
The elections to the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia are based on the majority election system, and are structured into two rounds if no candidate gathers more than half of the valid votes in the first round. Thirty-five electoral districts were built in the 26 localities of Gagauzia, so that each locality represents the least one district, and several districts open in localities with less than 5,000 electors, proportionally to the number of voters.
Between 3 and 6 candidates to the seat of deputy were registered in each electoral district during the five electoral campaigns, including the 2012 campaign. A particularity of elections in the Gagauz autonomy is that the number of candidates on behalf of political parties must be comparable to the number of independents. The only exception was observed in the first electoral campaign, when the number of candidates representing political parties (48 candidates) was threefold higher than the number of independents (15). This exception was a result of the fact that the law on political parties allowed regional parties in 1995, but regional parties were deleted from the list of parties after the amendment of the law concerned in 1998. In addition, labour groups designated 43 candidates for the 1995 elections and their political support was unknown.
Table 1. Number of candidates registered during five election campaigns
However, statistics on assignment of candidates accordingly to their political membership conceal the affiliation of independents to key characters from the Gagauz administration or Comrat authorities etc.
Table 2. Distribution of candidates (national, regional parties, labour groups, independents)
There were three poles of interest in Gagauzia after the last elections — the head of the Comrat Executive, Governor Mihail Formuzal, Comrat Mayor Nicolai Dudoglo and the Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova (PCRM). The first two are leaders of civic organisations — the United Gagauzia (GU) and the New Gagauzia (NG), respectively. During the last 2008 elections the majority of independents who succeeded to the assembly discretely represented the two civic platforms affiliated to the governor and Comrat mayor. Their membership was revealed just after elections, when lawmakers should elect the administration of the newly-elected People’s Assembly, a voting which turned into a scandal that lasted approximately three months.
Things are more complicated in the 2012 campaign. Firstly, the Gagauz governor as one pole of interest for the regional elite still runs his office for two more years and will have then to join the politics at national level. From this perspective, Mihail Formuzal became leader of the Party of Regions, which he set up in September 2011. Even if Mihail Formuzal joins the national political orbit, he will need supporters in the new People’s Assembly of Gagauzia to close his mandate of governor successfully. From this perspective, Governor has strangely avoided to involve the Party of Regions in elections to the People’s Assembly. On the other hand, the good relations of Governor Formuzal with Premier Vlad Filat may be a brain wave for building a post-electoral configuration, which will be at least less aggressive towards the governor. In short, the Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova (PDLM) registered candidates in 22 out of 35 electoral districts. At the same time, many of the 81 independent candidates could be affiliated to the civic platform United Gagauzia represented by the governor.
Table 3. Political affiliation of candidates
The second political pole of interest in the region — Comrat Mayor Nicolai Dudoglo — will also need a great representation in the People’s Assembly. After failing twice the electoral race for the seat of governor in front of Mihail Formuzal in 2006 and 2010, Nicolai Dudoglo is regarded now as one of strongest candidates for the seat of governor. If Dudoglo wins the ordinary elections in late 2012 or early 2015, he will have to cohabit with the new People’s Assembly for at least two years. Here is the interest of Nicolai Dudoglo to enjoy a great representation in the regional legislature. However, Nicolai Dudoglo like Mihai Formuzal does not post the membership of some independent candidates to his civic platform New Gagauzia. Notwithstanding, given the perspective indicated above, Nicolai Dudoglo became very close to the Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM) led by Speaker Marian Lupu and his deputy Vlad Plahotniuc, though Dudoglo was previously very close to the Social Democratic Party (PSD). It is worth noting that representatives of the two political poles of interest in Gagauzia enjoy a great support in two of the three districts, respectively Ceadir-Lunga and Comrat, where they were born. The situation in the third district, Vulcanesti, is unclear. However, one knows that PDM leaders are in very close relations with local elites in Vulcanesti district, and this fact could be very useful to Nicolai Dudoglo. It is worth noting that PDM registered 7 candidates while PSD nominated nine in Vulcanesti district. Even more, many independent candidates could be affiliated to the civil platform New Gagauzia, which is supposed to be funded by businessman Dmitrii Constantinov, who has a great financial potential. It is not a secret that the same Constantinov supported the incumbent governor in 2006, when Mihail Formuzal was credited the highest chances to be elected. Nicolai Duduglo is now credited the greatest chances and that’s why reports regarding the support of Constantinov are pretty credible.
Finally, the PCRM is the third political pole of interest in the region, and this party has also enjoyed a massive support in Gagauzia, from 30 to 80 percent. Now the PCRM loses the support as it turned into an opposition party, while its former strong candidates are being attracted and converted by representatives of the other two political poles of interest from the region. However, the PCRM succeeded to register most of candidates — 26 — and launched a single political platform for all candidates.