“These elections will be decisive”. When the election campaign approaches, we will more often hear this propagandistic cliché. However, in the context of the upcoming elections, it is the number of formulated forecasts and expectations that could be considered exclusive. Will the Socialists manage to remain at the height achieved in 2014; will they allow “Our Party” to run; which are the prospects of the pro-European parties; will the mixed electoral system enable the Democrats to gain a majority in the future Parliament – these are the questions that determine the atmosphere at the end of the political season and the political autumn will begin with the same questions. In the Autonomous Territorial Unit (ATU) of Gagauzia, the expectation of the autumn campaign is supplemented with at least one more question related to the national agenda– will Gagauz society boycott the parliamentary elections of 2018? Relevant calls are heard and are even discussed at least in the region.
One condition is imposed
On June 13, the away meeting of the standing commission for regulation, appointment, immunity and deputy’s ethics of the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia (PAG) was held in Ceadir-Lunga. Among the subjects examined by the commission was the eventual boycotting of the future elections to choose members of Moldova’s Parliament on the territory of Gagauzia.
Civic activist Leonid Dobrov most actively calls for boycotting this autumn’s lections in Gagauzia. He addressed his call both to the inhabitants and society and to the region’s administration, filing a relevant application to the PAG.
The press release of the PAG says the deputies “partially support” Dobrov’s call. Before accepting the boycotting, the lawmakers of Gagauzia proposed requesting the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova to offer Gagauzia a share of five MPs or they will reserve the right to call on the residents of the region not to take part in the national elections.
Populism of the Democrats
The idea that Gagauzia can count on five seats is pertinent, with the presentation of arguments and references to the European practice concerning the representation of national minorities. But in the current circumstances and in the tonality of the threats, this looks an impossible and populist condition. Less than half a year remained until the elections and the electoral constituencies were decided. The central authorities made it clear that Gagauzia cannot have more than two single-member constituencies on its territory.
In fact, formally, not the Democrats, but the Socialists offered two constituencies to the Gagauz people – as the authors of the legislative proposal concerning the mixed electoral system, where the criteria for establishing the single-member constituencies simply didn’t offer Gagauzia another variant than the current one. Even President Dodon, who in this dispute considers he supports the “Gagauz side”, speaks everywhere only about three constituencies, not five.
The threatening with the boycott is less credible also because the aforementioned standing commission of the PAG is headed by Grigori Cadyn, a member of the Democratic Party of the Republic of Moldova (PDM) and one of the managers of the party’s local organization in Ceadir-Lunga. It should be noted that the People’s Assembly is headed by Vladimir Kyssa, who is also a member of the PDM and heads a primary organization of the party in Comrat district. In other words, it is less probable that the Democratic rulers will cause a scandal and will repudiate the elections in which they put great hope.
Purpose of the boycott
However, the theme of the boycotting of the parliamentary elections in Gagauzia exists and it will be a mistake to consider it artificial. Definitely, a part of society was gripped by this idea.
Dobrov, as the main “promoter” of the boycott, created together with a group of supporters an organizational committee for the campaign against the elections. On his page on a social networking site, he announced that during the next few months he will organize, in concert with his supporters in the autonomous unit, peoples’ assemblies on the boycotting of elections and will design a newspaper that will center on the given work with the population.
Not only Mister Dobrov speaks about the eventual absenteeism among the Gagauz voters in this autumn’s elections. Ordinary deputies of the PAG also speak about this in debates. The regional mass media and participants in demonstrations also raise the issue. As the main supporters of this scenario say, the major goal is to attract the international community’s attention to the problems of the ATU. They think the electoral absenteeism in Gagauzia will make Moldova’s external partners support Comrat in their discussions with the central power.
If we look at the last election campaigns, we see that the turnout of voters in ATU Gagauzia was indeed below the national average. In the first round of the presidential elections of 2016, Gagauzia was among the three most passive administrative units. Does this mean that the Gagauz people have reasons to ignore the parliamentary elections?
Comrat has always had objections towards the central authorities, sometimes for objective reasons, while other times for not very objective ones. During the last few years, opposition in Gagauzia appeared for different reasons: the annulment of local laws by court judgements, transfer to Cahul of offices of agencies and services, failure in the activity of the working group for ensuring the functionality of ATU Gagauz-Yeri, and surely owing to the laws adopted by Parliament that were interpreted in the region as an anti-Russia approach.
Actually, all these problematic subjects could be given as reasons for boycotting the parliamentary elections, ‘seasoned’ with the argument that no Moldovan party promotes the interests of the Gagauz people. On the other hand, the same thesis can be used to propagate the active participation in elections because the full absence of representatives of Gagauzia from the central administration will evidently not contribute to solving the problems of the autonomous unit. Moreover, the main politicians in the region do not intend to give up campaigning and, if these are fielded in single-member constituencies according to the new rules, they will appear before the voters without the burden of the negative image of a party or another.
In general, the idea of the Gagauz boycott seems utopian now. But this does not diminish the potential of its practical utility – to focus attention on the main disputes in the relations between Chisinau and Comrat so that the dialogue aimed at solving these continued after the elections, with the active participation of the European partners.
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.