About constitutional referendum. Op-Ed by Victor Pelin

It can be assumed that until the announcing of the election campaign, other political parties out of the 64 registered by the Public Services Agency will shape and announce their option in the referendum. It is certain that the Republic of Moldova, its citizens, have to solve a principled, strategic problem. Fundamental in this process is the mobilization of supporters and the strength of the pros and cons...

Opinion of the Constitutional Court

On April 16, 2024, the Constitutional Court (CC) issued a positive opinion on the draft law to amend the Constitution by referendum. The draft law, which is to be put up for a referendum on October 20, 2024, proposes: reaffirming in the preamble of the Constitution the European identity of the people of the Republic of Moldova and establishing the country’s strategic objective – the European integration. In this respect, the draft provides for the introduction in the text of the supreme law of Title V' “INTEGRATION INTO THE EUROPEAN UNION”, on how to join the founding treaties of the European Union (EU).

In fact, the positive opinion of the CC is nothing but a well-rounded synthesis of the decisions adopted by the high court over the last 15 years, with reference to the conduct of referendums on amending the Constitution and European integration. The most important aspect of the CC opinion refers to the fact that the draft law to amend the Constitution does not affect the sovereignty and independence of the Republic of Moldova, respectively, Article 142 of the
Supreme Law is not applicable in this case, which establishes that “The provisions on the sovereign, independent and unitary character of the State, as well as those on the permanent neutrality of the State, can be revised only as a result of their approval by referendum, with the vote of the majority of citizens put on the electoral lists”.

Opinion polls show that, in principle, a referendum on the European integration would be supported by an absolute majority of citizens. The only practical problem lies in the fact that the only national referendum on amending the Constitution, held on September 5, 2010, was not validated due to an insufficient turnout, less than 1/3 of the number of voters put on the electoral lists. On the other hand, the consultative referenda, held on the same day as local or parliamentary elections, gathered the necessary number of participants to be validated. Hence probably the decision of the President’s Office and of the parliamentary majority of the Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) to organize the referendum simultaneously with the ordinary presidential election, as a measure to ensure the necessary participation.

Mobilization for and against referendum

As already mentioned, back in 2010 the electoral law was amended to reduce the participation rate for validating national referenda from at least 1/2 to 1/3. Given that the number of voters on the electoral lists, assigned to electoral districts, is of about 2.7 million, over 900,000 voters need to take part for the referendum to be validated. In fact, taking into account the participation of Diaspora voters, the participation of approximately one million voters will be required to validate the referendum. In this regard, the political parties that oppose the European integration of the Republic of Moldova – the parliamentary opposition of the Bloc of Communists and Socialists (BCS), both Communists and Socialists - have already called for a boycott of the referendum, in order to invalidate it.

The BCS’s move to boycott the referendum poses a real danger to the successful conduct of the ballot. Respectively, in order to prevent the implementation of this scenario, a group of four pro-European political parties, in opposition to the current government and critical of the idea of organizing a referendum and the presidential election simultaneously, recently announced the creation of the “Together” Bloc, inviting other pro-European parties, as well as public figures, to sign a “Pact for Europe”, similar to the “Snagov Pact” of Romania. The announced goal is to confirm the signatories’ commitment to follow the path of the Republic of Moldova’s integration into the EU.

In fact, the idea of a “Pact for Europe” is not new. Previously, such an initiative had been launched by leaders of other pro-European parties. For example, in the context of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and, respectively, the submission by the Republic of Moldova of the application for accession to the EU, the PAS called, on July 11, 2022, for a trenchant choice between two models of development – that of war and a European one, following the model of the Snagov Pact. In the same vein, the National Alternative Movement (MAN), led by the mayor of Chisinau Ion Ceban, on the eve of the founding congress announced that they will also propose the signing of a Pact like the one signed in Snagov, insisting that the European integration must become a national idea. In the same connection, the European Social Democratic Party (PSDE) on April 12, 2023 urged to sign a declaration similar to the one in Snagov.

In the sense of the aforementioned, it is important that both the MAN leader and the PSDE leader stated that, in principle, they support the idea of holding the referendum on the European integration, but not on the same day as the presidential election. Their fear is that the referendum could end in resounding failure as long as the European integration has not yet become a national idea. Moreover, the leaders of the two parties suspect President Maia Sandu of wanting to use the referendum to secure her second presidential term. This attitude highlights the difference between the attitude of the PAS and the President’s Office, on the one hand, and of the MAN/PSDE, on the other hand. The President’s Office and the PAS start from the premise that the presidential elections are a guarantee that the referendum will also be validated, in terms of the participation rate, so as to avoid a possible failure, as in the case of the constitutional referendum of 2010. Then, before the constitutional referendum of September 5, opinion polls showed that about 80% of the respondents wanted the direct election of the head of state. In fact, only about 30% of the voters participated in the referendum, and in a post-referendum poll 58% of the respondents said they participated in that exercise.

Dispersion of anti-European political forces

On the eve of the presidential election and the constitutional referendum on the European integration, pro-Russian and anti-European political forces proved to be as dispersed as the pro-European ones. On the one hand, as it was mentioned, the BCS components advocate boycotting the referendum in order to invalidate it. On the other hand, the clones of the Shor Party – “Chance”, “Victory”, “Revival” and
“Alternative and Rescue Force of Moldova” - met on April 21, 2024 in Moscow, where they formed the electoral bloc “Victory to participate together in the presidential election and the constitutional referendum. This newly created bloc urges its potential supporters to participate in the referendum and vote against the European integration, implicitly in favor of Moldova’s integration into the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and CIS bodies. During the meeting, the criminal fugitive, Ilan Shor, proposed the election of Gagauzia Governor Yevgenia Guțul as executive secretary of the national council, and Marina Tauber as secretary of the bloc’s executive committee.

Anticipating the events in Moscow, PSRM leader Igor Dodon hastened to announce the launch of a campaign entitled “National interest – the main priority for Moldova. The essence of the campaign is to inform the population that: not foreign interests of other countries, but the National Interest of Moldova must guide the decisions and activity of the state authorities so as not to allow the transformation of our country into a colony and not to lose opportunities for economic development and social harmony”. In fact, in this way Igor Dodon admitted that he lost the competition with Ilan Shor for the Kremlin’s financial support. It could not have been otherwise as the PSRM lost the last three election campaigns for the presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections. On the other hand, Dodon asserted himself as a farsighted politician who made blind predictions about the Republic of Moldova’s European integration, which did not come true: “After the signing of the Association Agreement with the EU, Moldova’s economy will collapse” (June 2014); “By signing the Association Agreement with the EU, Moldova committed a suicidal act” (July 2016), pleading for the annulment of the Association Agreement. In fact, thanks to the Association Agreement, the Republic of Moldova’s trade with the EU reached about 70%, the country escaping the trade and energy blackmail of Putinist Russia. 

After the recent events in Moscow, the former governor of Gagauzia, Irina Vlah, remains without the object of her announced work and activity. The point is that the initiative of the “Moldova Platform to unite the anti-European forces has completely failed. Moreover, the assumption that Yevgenia Guțul eclipses Vlah was true, the former becoming a leader of the electoral bloc “Victory”. In fact, there were preconditions for repelling Irina Vlah’s efforts. First of all, the PCRM, which launched her into politics, suspected Vlah of colluding with Vlad Plahotniuc, who allegedly favored her very dubious family businesses. The PSRM also has principled differences with Irina Vlah: “If we talk about Bashkan Irina Vlah, we supported her twice in the elections. I am convinced that without our support, she could not have won in 2015 or 2019. Then she said that the official language is Moldovan... What has changed now? She is not a member of the PSRM and she hadn’t been. If we had known that she believes that “the Romanian language is one of the greatest values of the people of the Republic of Moldova”, then we wouldn’t have supported her.” So, Irina Vlah, despite her efforts, fell off the books.

However, the Gagauz factor remains an asset on the Kremlin’s books against Moldova. Besides the fact that the governor, Yevgenia Guțul, was named in Moscow as a leader of the electoral bloc “Victory”, there is another Gagauz element in the games of Russian imperialists, promoters of Eurasian ideas. Thus, one of the former leaders of the separatist movement in Gagauzia, Ivan Burgudji, participating in a show entitled “When Gagauzia will join Russia?”, on April 20, 2024, revealed Comrat’s plans to undermine the legitimacy of the EU accession referendum by boycotting it, claiming that the Gagauz autonomy would have the right to veto the issue of regional integration of the Republic of Moldova. It is curious that Burgudji was also extremely loyal to Vlad Plahotniuc, respecting him very much. It is curious that during the period of the state captured by Vlad Plahotniuc, the Gagauz leaders accepted to join the Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM) he led, and after this fled from the Republic of Moldova, together with Ilan Shor, they resumed, in a principled manner, the refrain about the limitation of the powers of the autonomous unit, complaining in Moscow. For now, it is not clear what miraculous approaches Plahotniuc had in relation to the political leaders in Gagauzia. Probably, the same ones that Ilan Shor currently applies, promising hundreds of billions of dollars.


Half a year after the constitutional referendum on amending the Constitution in order to enshrine the European integration as a strategic objective of the Republic of Moldova, we have, for now, the following positioning of the political forces in the country:

  • seven political parties declared support for the constitutional referendum on the European integration, among them the ruling party PAS, four parties of the “Together” Bloc and two social-democratic parties – the MAN and PSDE;
  • two political parties, components of the BCS, representing the parliamentary opposition, advocate boycotting the referendum in order to invalidate it due to insufficient voter participation, below the necessary 1/3 of the number of citizens included in the electoral lists;
  • four parties, considered clones of the Shor Party, which was declared unconstitutional, announced in Moscow the creation of the electoral bloc “Victory”, which pleads in favor of participating in the referendum for giving a negative vote to the European integration.

It can be assumed that until the announcing of the election campaign, other political parties out of the 64 registered by the Public Services Agency will shape and announce their option in the referendum. It is certain that the Republic of Moldova, its citizens, have to solve a principled, strategic problem. Fundamental in this process is the mobilization of supporters and the strength of the pros and cons.

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