The first round of elections for the Governor of Gagauzia, held on December 12, 2010, has been not able to identify the winner, therefore, the second round was held two weeks later, on December 26, involving the first two contestants with the best result in the first round — acting Governor, Mihail Formuzal, and Comrat Mayor, Nicolai Dudoglo. In the second election round the winner was again Mihail Formuzal, and the competition was actually a replay of the similar one held in December 2006, where Mihail Formuzal and Nicolai Dudoglo have also confronted. It’s important to compare the results of elections for the Governor of Gagauzia in order to understand the evolution of the political landscape in the autonomy, whereas in the past five years some civic movements have been established in the region in support of certain leaders and political currents, which compete with political parties on national level. Thus, Mihail Formuzal is for several years leader of the “United Gagauzia” Movement (MGU), and Nicolai Dudoglo later became the leader of the “New Gagauzia” Movement (MGN).
Elections of 2006–2010 for the position of Governor (PG) and the People’s Assembly (PA)
|2006 — PG||2008 — PA||2010 — PG|
|round I||round II||round I||round II|
|Mihail Formuzal — MGU||33.89%||56.23%||12 seats in PA||37.19%||51.38%|
|Nicolai Dudoglo — MGN||31.40%||43.77%||8 seats in PA||31.84%||48.62%|
|PCRM candidates||24.14%||—||14 seats in PA||30.96%||—|
The above table points out to the establishing contours of influential political forces in the Gagauz region and suggests which will be the main political contestants also in the upcoming regional electoral cycles.
After the Central Electoral Commission of Gagauzia (CECG) issued on December 28, the final electoral results, they were to be validated by the Comrat Court of Appeal. However, Nicolai Dudoglo refused to admit his defeat before the acting Governor, Mihail Formuzal, in the second round held on December 26, 2010, invoking massive violations of electoral legislation. Already on December 29, 2010 Dudoglo Nicolai’s supporters have started ample protests against CECG’ decision, requesting to hold an additional round in fair conditions and insisting on apologies for undermining the image of their favourite candidate in the campaign.
Although, according to local legislation the Court of Appeal had to validate the election results no later than in ten days after receiving the results from CECG, the deadlines have been extended till January 17, 2011, and then even later till January 19, 2011, when the Court of Appeal convened to examine the appeal filed by Nicolai Dudoglo, who was dissatisfied and requested to change the judges. Thus, the legality of elections or their non-validation was postponed for indefinite period.
In Gagauz elections the electoral platforms of contestants represent very important reference points, but most important are the messages concerning the attitude towards Russia and, particularly, the signals from the Russian bodies and elites towards the political leaders of the Gagauz autonomy. In recent gubernatorial electoral campaign, a real battle took place among the main candidates to persuade voters that Russian elites, as well as important institutions of the Russian Federation, support those candidates. Thus, on December 6, 2010, being in a visit in Chisinau to explore the Moldovan political spectrum, Sergey Naryshkin, head of the Russian Presidential Administration, also referred to the elections of Gagauz Governor, stressing that these have a special significance for Moldova, because “the Gagauz autonomy in the composition of Moldova is an example of delicate approach towards the national minorities in a multinational state”. According to Naryshkin, “the Gagauz elections are meant to show that if a national minority’ opinion is accurately and with great delicacy taken in consideration, then it is possible to ensure calmness, security and ascending development of the territory populated by minorities”.
It is important that the above statements of the Head of Russian Presidential Administration have been made about a week before the first round and with just a few days before the second round the acting Governor of Gagauzia, also a candidate for a new term, Mihail Formuzal, was present in Moscow, where he received the Honorary Diploma of the Russian Federation President, for outstanding contribution in the development and consolidation of cultural cooperation between Russia and Moldova. In parallel, the opponent of Mihail Formuzal in the second round — Nicolai Dudoglo, MGN leader, accompanied by first Deputy Chair of the People’s Assembly, Demian Caraseni, travelled to Moscow on a working visit. The purpose of the visit was to sign an agreement on partnership relations between the Administration of Sokolniki district of Moscow and the Gagauz capital — Comrat municipality. This agreement was presented as an evidence that Sergei Sobyanin, new Mayor of Moscow, included Gagauzia in the list of friendly territories. The agreement provides for cooperation between Sokolniki district administration and Comrat municipality in order to implement joint investment projects and economic programs, to establish commercial-economic, business and culture relations, to hold joint conferences, forums, fairs and exhibitions, to organize internships for specialists in science, education, medicine, culture, sports and media, exchange of experience and delegations etc.
However, the level of relations of the Governor Mihail Formuzal with the Administration of the President Medvedev differs much from the level of relations between the Mayor of Comrat of the Gagauz autonomy of the Republic of Moldova and a district of Moscow. Therefore, in order to raise the level of relations of Nicolai Dudoglo they resorted to contacts with the Russian Patriarchate. In this regard the Bishop of Comrat and Cahul, Anatolie, contributed to organizing a meeting between Nicolai Dudoglo and the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.
Given the fact that Moldovan citizens of Gagauz origin are sincerely attached to Russia, everything would be right and clear in the competition of those two opponents willing to show voters the relations with various institutions in Russia, where it would not degrade into a mere altercation, with mutual accusations of resorting to methods far from fair play. Thus, the electoral staff of Nicolai Dudoglo accused Mihail Formuzal of buying the Diploma awarded by the Russian Presidential Administration, meaning he would have obtained it as a result of an ordinary act of corruption, in order to pretend of being a leader who is supported by Moscow. The replica of the electoral staff of Mihail Formuzal was that, in fact, Nicolai Dudoglo and his supporters commit a sacrilege by the very fact of admitting that Administration of President Medvedev would be corrupted. Also, the staff of Mihail Formuzal doubted that during the meeting of Nicolai Dudoglo with Patriarch Kiril, the late would bless him to win the election, as it is stated by Dudoglo’ s press service. In this context, the press service of the Russian Patriarchate had to clarify that upon the request of Gagauz guests just a short meeting was held focused on church issues and the Patriarch, closer to the end of discussion, blessed the guests, mentioning that this blessing had absolutely nothing to do with the elections in the autonomy. The issue of Dudoglo’ s attempt to show as if he would be supported by the Russian Patriarchate was speculated in Gagauz media proceeding from premises that Mihail Formuzal would originate from a family that shares the Baptist denomination. This topic has been also speculated in the electoral campaign of 2006, when PCRM supporters have tried to accredit the idea that Mihail Formuzal would have the support of some influential circles in the U.S., precisely through the Baptist pathway. At that time Mihail Formuzal dismissed these insinuations, invoking as an argument the freedom of conscience.
Thus, much profit has been gain from the issue of external factor in the elections in Gagauz region. It was also fully manifested in the elections for the People’s Assembly in March 2008.Then, on the eve of the elections held in February 2008 a delegation representing the Executive Committee of Gagauzia has visited Moscow. The purpose of the visit was to sign a long-term agreement with the Executive of the Russian capital on economic and cultural cooperation. The document had to be signed on March 6, 2008 by Moscow Mayor, Yuri Luzhkov and Governor of Gagauzia, Mihail Formuzal. It was expected that signing the agreement would bring additional scoring to the MGU candidates, who planned to obtain a sufficient number of seats to form the legislative majority. The central leadership in Chisinau, controlled by PCRM, for which the intentions of Comrat Executive do not represent a secret, has expressed reservations about this initiative. In this respect, PCRM representatives have suggested to the Governor Formuzal to plan his trip to Moscow after the electoral campaign in the region. However, on March 4, 2008, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has released a press release, expressing its puzzlement regarding the actions of Moldovan authorities, which proposed to postpone bringing humanitarian aid requested by Gagauz Executive. Russian MFA declared it plans to send the aid in early March, since Gagauzia is a region of Moldova affected by the consequences of drought in the summer of 2007.Although initially accepted, Moldovan authorities have recalled their agreement that two Russian planes would bring humanitarian aid to Chisinau, proposing to postpone the transportation. Then much has been speculated on the refusal by central Moldovan authorities to avoid the use of Russian factor in the electoral campaign for the People’s Assembly.
Things have reached the point when the meeting between the ex-President Vladimir Voronin with Deputy Secretary of Russian Supreme Security Council, Yuri Zubakov, also focused on the issue of humanitarian assistance to be delivered to Moldova by the Russian Federation in order to mitigate the consequences of 2007 drought. They regretted that this issue became the subject of artificial politicization, and Vladimir Voronin pleaded to speed up the delivery of Russian humanitarian aid to Moldova, including in the Gagauz autonomy. Yuri Zubakov informed the President of Moldova that the railway shipment of humanitarian assistance has already begun. Immediately, the MGU adherents addressed Moldovan leadership with request to intervene in order to receive the humanitarian aid which is needed by Gagauz population. Finally, although the Russian factor was very important in elections for the People’s Assembly in March 2008, MGU has obtained just 12 seats out of 35, PCRM — 14, and “Dudoglo group” — 8, and a seat remained vacant.
Gagauz autonomy has a special importance for Moldova. The way from confrontation to the settlement of problems by providing autonomy to the region densely populated by ethnic Gagauz people has been positively assessed by specialized international institutions. Despite the fact that there still are many annoying problems, generally, the things evolve in the same positive manner, and the Gagauz model of solving similar problems became a reference-model. Precisely for these reasons, the conflicts that constantly take place around the regional elections are regrettable. Thus, in 2002, Chisinau quite brutally intervened in the situation in the region, causing the early governor elections. Resorting to tricks, such as organizing the third electoral round, although this is not stipulated by local legislation, has consequences now, when the electoral candidate, Nicolai Dudoglo, dissatisfied with the final results of elections held in December 2010, also requires an additional round to be hold.
The governor elections in Gagauzia held in December 2006 were marked by pressures from central authorities, disguised as prosecuting the main candidate of local opposition — Mihail Formuzal, who had eight criminal file-cases opened against him. Tensions between the administration of Comrat and that of Chisinau were also transferred on the elections for the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia held in March 2008.The confrontations were visibly manifested immediately after the elections, when establishing the leadership bodies of the People’s Assembly, the process that lasted months in a row, caused public scandals and involved the judiciary to overcome them. Consequently, in 2008–2010, the relations between the Gagauz Governor and the majority of People’s Assembly were marked by tensions.
For central authorities the best strategy is to refrain from getting involved in Gagauz elections, since the experience concerning the involvement of Russian factor shows the existence of a risk when everyone would be dissatisfied. However, it is important for the central authorities to create normal conditions for conducting a free and fair electoral process. Last two electoral cycles in Gagauzia showed that when candidates in the region are supported by a ruling national-wide party, such as was the PCRM, which supported its candidates, the local elites interpret this kind of relations as creating conditions in order to subordinate the autonomy to the interests of the centre. This was the case of the Governor Gheorghe Tabunşcic in 2002–2004. Consequently, the influence of local opposition is growing rapidly, and it makes use of political instruments to counteract the influence from the centre, invoking the federalist model and displaying a kind of special relationships between the Gagauz autonomy and Transnistrian regime. It happened always like this, and the victory of opposition candidate — Mihail Formuzal in the 2006 elections showed that the needs related to the concrete problems of citizens sweep rapidly romantic approaches, requiring a pragmatic behaviour, based on strict respect for legal norms imposed by Constitution and Law on Special Legal Status of Gagauzia. From this point of view, the example of the Governor Formuzal is conclusive. After the end of PCRM governance in 2009, the Governor Formuzal was able to establish normal relations of cooperation between Comrat and Chisinau. Under these circumstances, already the MNG, which is in opposition to Formuzal (although in reality it’s a part of PA majority, together with PCRM), evokes the old slogans about federalism, the status of Russian language, relations of Gagauz autonomy with Transnistria etc.
Broadly speaking, the things mentioned above indicate the contours on the regional political spectrum, the main issues that motivate political actors to act in one way or another, being suggestive for national elites in order to avoid conflicts that could undermine political stability in the region and in the whole country.