Parliamentary elections in “Gagauz constituencies”: predictable forecasts and surprise scenarios, OP-ED

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05:30, 11 Dec 2018

Parliamentary elections in “Gagauz constituencies”: predictable forecasts and surprise scenarios, OP-ED

 

 
The political struggle for the “Gagauz constituency” could  continue after the elections too, but already beyond the limits of democratic competition ...


 

Veaceslav Craciun
 

In the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia, the main favorites in the upcoming parliamentary elections were decided. Sociologists anticipate the success of the Socialist candidates. But the team of the Democratic Party also has ‘trump cards’ and can count on independent candidates. Surprises can be yet witnessed up to the end of the election campaign.

Socialists versus Democrats

During public discussions on the electoral system reform, the administration of Gagauzia referred to five single-member constituencies and then to three  constituencies, as a compromise. However, based on the decision taken by the special governmental commission, only two constituencies were established in Gagauzia – in Comrat and in Ceadâr-Lunga – Vulcănești, which mainly coincide with the administrative borders of the given districts (No. 45 and No.46, by the order set by the commission).

The Party of Socialists (PSRM) was the first to announce its candidates  in the “Gagauz” constituencies. The names of Alexandr Suhodolskii for constituency No. 45 and of Fiodor Gagauz, for constituency  No.46, were first made public in October. Currently, Suhodolsckii holds the post of deputy speaker of the People’s Assembly of Gagauz-Yeri (APG-Y) and does not have significant political experience. Before forming part of the PSRM’s team, he was among the PCRM’s activists and in the public sphere distinguished himself when holding the post of deputy mayor of Comrat municipality. As regards Fiodor Gagauz, he was the trustworthy person of ex-Bashkan Mihail Formuzal, until the latter “resigned politically”. In 1999 – 2001, he led the Internal Affairs Division of Gagauz-Yeri, in 2012 was elected a member of the APG-Y, while in 2014 was elected MP on the Communist ticket.

As regards Socialists’ main opponents, the situation is not very clear. Most probably, these will take part in the elections without official support from a party, but most of them are affiliated to the Democrats to a particular extent.

Former MP on behalf of the PDM Nicolai Dudoglo recently announced his participation in elections in the Comrat constituency and this was an expected decision. Dudoglo has considerable administrative experience – from the head of the main sport division to the post of mayor of Comrat. In 2012, the public movement “New Gagauzia” that he headed in its congress decided to join the PDM and in 2014 Dudoglo entered Parliament on the list of this party. Last spring, Dudoglo publicly distanced himself from the Democrats and started to work on his image of independent politician. He remained yet the leader of ”New Gagauzia” and his team continues to include members of the PDM’s staff in Gagauzia. It can be thus presumed that the Democrats will not field a representative of the party, but will prefer to support a loyal former member of the party.

APG-Y deputy Grigorii Cadîn is expected to run in the Ceadâr-Lunga – Vulcănești constituency. He hasn’t yet announced his intention, but his sociopolitical activities show he has such plans. Cadîn is one of the managers of the Ceadâr-Lunga local organization of the PDM and heads the district vehicle registration and driver qualification section of the state-run enterprise “Registru”. It should be noted that the politician does not display his affiliation with the party and takes part in all the regional elections independently.

Ex-prosecutor of Găgăuzia Gheorghii Leiciu diversifiesthe political spectrum in the  Ceadâr-Lunga – Vulcănești constituency. For now he hasn’t yet officially announced his intention to run for MP, but his discourses and meetings with voters reveal his parliamentary ambitions. There are no reasons to speak about Leiciu’s connection with the PDM, but the Democrats could support him in a move to weaken the Socialist opponent.

Democratic MP Cornel Dudnic from Vulcănești is another notable figure in this constituency. Several months ago, he said he will not run in the parliamentary elections. If Dudnic will not change his mind, he could influence the campaign by supporting a favorite of the party.

Crisis of confidence

The search for evident or hidden ties of the future independent candidates with the Democrats is not accidental. The Democratic Party itself, more exactly the political experience it accumulated in Gagauzia, caused the crisis of confidence in such a type of politicians. This way, in the elections to the APG-Y in 2012, most of the seats were won by independents, while the PDM, without any deputy, miraculously managed to constitute the ruling group. The story repeated in 2016, when the Democrats, who won only one seat of deputy of 35 seats in the “independent” APG-Y, got this deputy elected Speaker.

The tactic of the Socialists is different. Until recently, Fiodor Gagauz appeared as an ally of the Socialists in the region. During the adoption in Parliament of the new electoral system, he was the only one in the PSRM group who voted against, expressing his disagreement with the number of constituencies set in the region. But in the current elections he will openly run as a party candidate.

Influence of the Government and Bashkan

The causes that make the Gagauz politicians distance themselves from the PDM party brand or throw support to the Socialists ca be found in the results of the sociological polls conducted recently in the autonomous unit. According to the pre-electoral barometer issued by the sociological company Date Inteligente, the PSRM has big chances of winning in the two constituencies in Găgăuzia. But it is too early to make forecasts concerning the results. Socialists’ opponents have their own potential that could be supported by the administrative resources of the ruling party. Besides, the Democrats can support the loyal candidates by allowing them to propagandistically use the results of the programs implemented by their Government. At least inaugurations of roads repaired under the PDM’s programs by some of the candidates who officially left this party take place regularly in the region.

The moods of the voters in Gagauzia will be definitely influenced by the Bashkan of Gagauzia Irina Vlah, who is completing her duties and will enter the election campaign prior to the Governor elections after the parliamentary elections. President Igor Dodon already said that the Socialist will support her reelection. This implies response steps and probably support for the Socialists on February 24. According to the data of CBS-AXA and the Institute for Public Policy, the rating of the Government of Gagauzia stands at over 70% and her political position in the parliamentary elections will be converted by the Socialists in additional votes.

Surprises after elections

In February, the news in Gagauzia could center not only on the statements of local politicians, but also on the challenging of the electoral outcome in court. The particularity of the single-member constituency No. 46, which is the largest by the number of voters, could serve as a reason for filing a challenge by the side that would be dissatisfied with the results. According to the Central Election Commission, there are 67,278 persons eligible to vote in the Ceadâr-Lunga – Vulcănești constituency.

The commission set the borders of constituencies based on the criteria set down by the Government in the relevant regulations. Under these, a constituency should consist of 55,000 to 60,000 voters, with a deviation of at most 10%. If this norm is interpreted and the deviation is calculated from the average of  57,500 voters, the number of voters in the case of constituency No. 46 is exceeded. If the legal norms are interpreted skillfully, as it was witnessed mainly in the Constitutional Court’s judgements during the past few years, this circumstance allows looking for violations of the electoral rights of the citizens. This way, the political struggle for the “Gagauz constituency” could  continue after the elections too, but already beyond the limits of democratic competition.
 

 
Veaceslav Craciun, Comrat

 


IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.
 

IPN note:

According to the information portal “Ruskii mir”, the scientific conference “World War I in the past of southern Bessarabia”, held to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I of 1914 – 1918, was organized by the Consultancy and Information Center “Dialog” in cooperation with the Scientific Society of Bulgarians in the Republic of Moldova within the project “Together we Restore Memory” that is implemented in Gagauzia and Taraclia district with support from the Foundation “Russkii mir”.

05:30, 11 Dec 2018

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