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Invalid and useless referendum

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Igor Botan / September 6, 2010
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Constitutional referendum of September 5, 2010 turned out to be invalid due to absenteeism. Some of the ballot boxes were attended by only 30.3% of citizens included on electoral lists, with a validation threshold of 1/3. The referendum was held on the initiative of the components of the European Integration Alliance (EIA), which relied on the positive outcome of it as the only remedy for alleged constitutional crisis, related to the inability of the Legislative body to elect the head of state.

EIA leaders have managed to convince the rapporteurs for Moldova of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe that there is no alternative to overcome the so-called constitutional crisis, but through organizing a constitutional referendum. This transpires clearly from the informative note of the co-rapporteurs for Moldova of the Council of Europe — Josette Durrieu and Egidijus Vareikis who, after meetings in Chişinău with EIA representatives, presented a report to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, where they pointed out that according to EIA leaders “it is an imperative that the current constitutional crisis in the Republic of Moldova should be resolved quickly. To convene a referendum on changing the way of electing the head of state is the only solution. This would allow the political class to be guided in its work by the willingness expressed by voters”.

EIA’ attitude towards the referendum — as the only salvation idea, was based on the results of opinion polls, which over the years undoubtedly showed that the overwhelming majority of Moldovan citizens would prefer the direct election of the president. On the eve of the referendum, about 1–2 months before it, two surveys were conducted by two of the most rated survey institutions in the Republic of Moldova. Both surveys showed that over 80% of citizens would vote to amend Article 78 of the Constitution, meaning the transition to direct election of the president. At the same time, as for the turnout of citizens the standard intention of almost 70% was confirmed. These intentions had yet to be translated into deeds, which never happened, most likely due to the fault of politicians.

In reality, the motivations of the main political entities to get involve in the referendum have been different. Two of the four EIA components — it is the Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova (LDPM) and the Democratic Party of Moldova (DPM), have relied on amending the Article 78 of the Constitution by referendum in order to hasten the transition to direct election of the head of state, because they were confident that their leaders — Vlad Filat, on the one hand, and Marian Lupu, on the other hand, may win the presidential competition without a proper candidate of the most powerful oppositional party — PCRM. The other two parties in the Alliance — the Liberal Party (LP) and the Alliance Our Moldova (AMN), were involved in the referendum by the end of the campaign, rather for the sake of publicity.

On the other hand, the Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova (PCRM) participated in the referendum to promote the non-participation, i.e. the boycott. PCRM boycott rather aimed at compromising the legitimacy of the referendum, i.e. securing a turnout under 50%. Consequently, the absenteeism caused by various reasons went far beyond the effects of the PCRM boycott. The invalidity of the referendum in fact made PCRM the main beneficiary of the EIA effort to organize the popular vote. The propagandistic benefit of PCRM following the unexpected failure of the referendum is enormous. There is no doubt that this failure, although it results particularly from the EIA frivolous attitude towards it, will be presented to voters as implicit support for PCRM.

Does the ace up Ghimpu’s sleeves beat the revenge card of Communists? Reasons for failure of the referendum