Elections in Gagauzia put “on hold”. Op-Ed by Veaceslav Craciun



The People’s Assembly of Gagauzia (PAG-Y) didn’t take part in the process when the decision to put off the own elections was taken. This is a clear proof of the defective character of the PAG-Y as part of the political system...


Veaceslav Craciun

After a state of emergency was declared in the Republic of Moldova, a lot of people in Chisinau started to make forecasts as to the influence of the regime of restrictions on the political commitments and the period of snap elections. Meanwhile, the decision of the regional Commission for Exceptional Situations of the Autonomous Territorial Unit (ATU) of Gagauzia already generated direct political changes: the elections to the People’s Assembly, which is the regional legislative body, set for May 16 were placed “on hold”. In search of causes that would justify this decision, except for the pandemic crisis, political reasons also emerged inevitably.

Igor Dodon’s initiative

“The campaign prior to the elections to the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia should be suspended between April 1 and May 30.” This is an extract from the decision of the regional Commission for Exceptional Situations of Gagauz-Yeri, which became the top event of last week and practically set a precedent in the history of the elections in the ATU.

From formal viewpoint, the decision represented the Commission’s reaction to the request made by PAG-Y Speaker Vladimir Kyssa, who asked for explanations about the possibility of holding elections during the state of emergency declared in the country. But the discussions on the fate of elections started several days earlier and not in Comrat.

On March 30, at the meeting of the parliamentary group of the Party of Socialists, Igor Dodon said that in times of a pandemic crisis, the snap parliamentary elections and any other elections should be suspended until the situation is stabilized. The ex-President proposed requesting the authorities of Gagauzia to transfer the elections to the APG-Y to a later period. Also then, the Socialist leader discussed the issue with the Bashkan of Gagauzia Irina Vlah.

“I presented the initiative to the administration of the ATU Gagauz-Yeri. Yesterday, I talked to the Bashkan over the phone and discussed the necessity of putting off the elections as the pandemic covers the whole country. We should first contain the pandemic and will then enter the elections,” Dodon told a radio station.

Irina Vlah hasn’t yet stated her opinion on the elections, while the Speaker of the PAG-Y argued his request to the regional Commission for Exceptional Situations.

“The hospitals are full. We must overcome this situation. The doctors have fought the pandemic for a yea already... I made a request to the Commission and consider I acted correctly,” stated Vladimir Kyssa.

Delay of elections: pros and cons

Not all Vladimir Kyssa’s colleagues agreed with such a development. On April 2, the deputies had a meeting and many of them expressed their disagreement with the fact that the Commission assumed responsibility for solving a situation that is not within its remit. A number of deputies said the regional Commission for Exceptional Situations should consult the People’s Assembly and should not only make reference to a request made by the Speaker.  

The opponents of the postponement of elections invoked the unpredictable situation in Moldova, saying the decision of the National Commission for Exceptional Situations could be yet annulled. For example, PAG-Y member Nicolai Ormangi proposed that the CEC should continue to register candidates and next Friday, if the state of emergency is maintained, they should postpone the elections.

The ex-head of the Main Division of the SIS for Gagauz-Yeri, deputy Mihail Jelezoglo proposed taking a pause of two weeks. According to him, at that time the Constitutional Court’s position on the state of emergency would be already known and the deputies would be able to take a compliant decision.

Deputy Sergey Cimpoieș said he was definitely in favor of the postponement of elections.

“Even if we admit that we can hold the elections somehow, the courts of law will not validate them. There is the republican law that applies to the whole country. If the decision is adopted by Parliament, it becomes an imperative norm and is applied automatically. We must obey the law,” stated Cimpoieș.

The next day after the meeting of the People’s Assembly, the CEC of Gagauzia fulfilled its formal duty and ascertained the impossibility of holding the elections on May 16. Eight of the nine members of the CEC voted in favor of stopping accepting documents, issuing subscription lists and registering candidates.

Сui prodest?

The participants in the elections to the PAG-Y gained time even if it’s not really clear how they could use this time. The postponement of the election campaign cannot be a goal itself. The given scenario would have been useful for taking particular steps to strengthen the own positions of the candidates or for implementing longer strategies. Neither the candidates nor the groups from behind them showed signs of being interested in something like this. The situation from the Socialists’ court looks different.

Igor Dodon has maintained that the holding of elections is risky. The representatives of the Socialists noted the pandemic should be contained and snap elections should be held later. One week ago, this position had at least one weak chain – the elections to the PAG-Y set for May 16. It is not possible to speak about the danger of snap elections at national level by avoiding the risks related to the election campaign in the ATU. After the regional Commission for Exceptional Situations adopted its decision, Igor Dodon’s arguments became weightier, even if they caused different reactions.

In Gagauzia, many people perceived the postponement of elections as an attempt by the deputies to keep their seats. This is not really so even if a part of the deputies became enthusiastic at such a perspective. There is one much more important moment: the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia (APG-Y) didn’t take part in the process when the decision to put off the own elections was taken. This is a clear proof of the defective character of the APG-Y as part of the political system. The created situation is rather emblematic from the angle of the fulfillment of the functions of this body and of the prospects of its dialogue with the central authorities.

Veaceslav Craciun
Publicist Veaceslav Craciun completed master’s degree courses at the University of European Studies of Moldova, specializing in international law. Professional interests: regionalism, political processes in ATU Gagauzia, the region’s relations with the central authorities of the Republic of Moldova.

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.

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