“It’s true that there are also worrisome signals for the Shorist activists. As the patrons from Russia became disappointed with the work of the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM), which was monthly financed with $700,000-800,000, they could have also become disappointed with the unconstitutional Shorists, resorting to direct financing, without intermediaries, of the inhabitants of Gagauzia...”
Initiation of Shorist referendum
Activists of the Shor Party (Shorists) which was recently declared unconstitutional because it argued against the rule of law principles, the sovereignty and independence of the Republic of Moldova, entered the fever of dissolution. Not to lose their supporters, the Shorist activists are looking for methods to remain at any cost at the top of the events in the Republic of Moldova. In this regard, a demonstration in support of the leaders of a Shorist initiative group for initiating a referendum was staged next to the building of the Central Election Commission on June 29, 2023. By all appearances, the process of dissolving the Shor Party discouraged the advocates of the party, leaving it without legal support. Or the incoherent statements of the leaders of the initiative group - Pavel Verejanu, mayor of Orhei municipality, and Dinu Țurcanu, head of Orhei district, which was the fiefdom of the former Shor Party - cannot be easily understood.
Judging by the way in which the two questions that are to be put in the plebiscite were formulated, we see that it goes to a consultative referendum. The particularity of the consultative referendum is that its results are just taken note of and nothing more. That’s why it was curious to see yet the two questions. They were made public in front of the crowd, before being presented to the CEC together with the set of the necessary documents. The mentioned questions were formulated as follows:
- Do you support the continuation of the European integration process in the Republic of Moldova?;
- Are you for maintaining the status of neutrality of the Republic of Moldova?
If the leaders of the Shorist initiative group had consulted the advocates of the former Shor Party, they would have learned that the responses to these questions are simply irrelevant.
Relevant Constitutional Court decisions on European integration and neutrality
First of all, the part “continuation of the European integration process” from the first question is very vague. Any process can have a series of stages. That’s why it is not clear at what stage the European integration process should be eventually interrupted. For example, it is not excluded that some of the citizens can agree that the eventual interruption of the European integration process should amount to the renouncing of the visa free regime with the EU or the withdrawal from the Free Trade Agreement with the EU, etc. Secondly, the Constitutional Court (CC), in its Decision No. 24 of October 9, 2014 established that: “Based on the Declaration of Independence and Article 1 of the Constitution, the orientation to the European space of democratic values is a defining element of the constitutional identity of the Republic of Moldova”. That’s why, from the angle of the CC decision, the correct question of the Shorist initiative group should be formulated as follows: “Do you support the renouncing of the defining element of the constitutional identity of the Republic of Moldova?”
The second question, concerning the maintaining the status of neutrality of the Republic of Moldova, does not have any sense in a consultative referendum. Article 11(1) of the Constitution provides in an imperative way that: “The Republic of Moldova proclaims its permanent neutrality”. Moreover, the Constitutional Court interpreted this status of neutrality in its Decision No. 14 of May 2, 2017, providing that: “The Constitution is not a “suicide pact". This way, in case of a threat to such fundamental constitutional values like the national independence, territorial integrity or state security, the authorities of the Republic of Moldova are obliged to take all the necessary measures, including military ones., which would enable them to efficiently defend themselves against these”. Such a conclusion by the CC should be extremely discouraging for the Shorist initiative group, which insisted on “full neutrality, in all directions, either military or judicial..., or what type you want” (see video min. 26.05 – 26.20). It is interesting what judicial neutrality of the Republic of Moldova means?
What is more interesting is that the CC decision provides that: The Soviet/Russian occupation hasn’t stopped in the Eastern part of the country even today, even if it the independence of the Republic of Moldova was proclaimed. The Russian Federation recognized it, but withdrew its army only from the western part of the Moldovan territory (11% of the Republic of Moldova’s area remains under occupation). For these reasons, the observance of the provisions of paragraph (2) of Article 11 of the Constitution - “The Republic of Moldova does not allow deploying military troops of other states on its territory” - is topical for the Republic of Moldova more than ever. Respectively, the efforts aimed at withdrawing the illegal military presence of Russia in the Eastern districts of the country should become the common objective of all the constitutional political forces, evidently not of the unconstitutional ones. To bring this problem to an end, the CC decision underlines that: “Article 11 of the Constitution should be considered an instrument of protection, not as an obstacle to the protection of independence, democracy and other constitutional values of the Republic of Moldova”.
This way, in accordance with Articles 191 and 192 of the Electoral Code, the CEC will have to decide what the priority is – to obey the provisions of the Constitutional Court’s decisions that are definitive and binding, rejecting the application to register the Shorist initiative group, or on the contrary, to dispute these, allowing challenging them in an eventual consultative referendum.
How opinion polls respond to initiative group’s questions
In fact, in order to identify the necessary responses to the two questions of the Shorist initiative group, it is enough to consult the results of opinion polls. The questions, in the way in which they are formulated, are suitable for sociological researches. Moreover, polls can be carried out constantly, with convenient periodicity, so as to catch the changes in citizens’ attitudes, at a comfortable price of several thousand dollars, saving tens of millions of lei for the referendum – budget funds. The charm of the situation is that the former Shor Party established close cooperation relations with the sociological company IMAS. So, it should fully trust the studies of this. Now, if we visit the official website of the company, we see that this carries out polls on a constant basis, while its last opinion poll conducted in May 2023 responds also to the questions of the Shorist initiative group.
This way, the direct question is: If a referendum on … was held next Sunday (you would be asked to vote), would you vote for or against?, and the answer is the following (see page 58):
- Joining of the European Union – 53% for vs. 30% against;
- Joining of the Eurasian Economic Union - 40% for vs. 37% against;
- Union with Romania – 32% for vs. 55% against;
- Joining of NATO – 26% for vs. 60% against.
The charm of sociological research is that questions that are not permitted at a referendum can be formulated within this, like: “If next Sunday you were to choose between the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union, what would you vote for?”, and the answer is very eloquent (see page 60) – 50% for joining the European Union vs. 36% for joining the Eurasian Economic Union. It is noteworthy that according to the IMAS poll, the Moldovan citizens are 62% sure (see page 40) that the country will anyway become a member of the European Union even if during a longer period of time.
In such circumstances, we should wonder why a consultative referendum needs to be held if the citizens look into a perspective of up to 20 years? Moreover, the legal value of consultative referendums does not exceed the value of opinion polls. The only difference is that the polls have yet a margin of error. In the case of IMAS, this is ±3.0%. The answer to the last question would be that the leaders of the former Shor Party also lost confidence in IMAS already! It’s a pity...
Together with the coming of the local general elections, which in a year will be followed by parliamentary elections, we will witness all kinds of political initiatives aimed at reinvigorating the voters. In this regard, the initiative of the Shorist initiative group is anyway one of the first swallows. It’s regrettable that it wastes its forces on refutable initiatives like consultative referendums. The arguments in favor or against the mentioned initiatives can be speculated on successfully even during election campaigns. Ultimately, the eventual accession of the Republic of Moldova to the European Union or renouncing of permanent neutrality can be mandatorily subject to referendums, but not a consultative one, but a constitutional one, as Article 142 of the Constitution provides. But this will happen at the opportune moment, right before the adoption of the given decisions. What is more, Parliament adopted a decision to support the resolution of the “European Moldova” Assembly, which, for its part, provides that “The Constitution should be amended in order to definitively and irreversibly establish the accession of the Republic of Moldova to the European Union”. So, the referendums on the mentioned subjects will take place and there is no need for all kinds of political adventurists to force the doors open.
Anyway, the Shorist activists should not fall into despair if the CEC eventually rejects the application to register the initiative group for holding the referendum. At the moment, public opinion expects that they will fulfill the promises on the territory of the Dreamland in Gagauzia: a) identification of a lot for building the international airport in Comrat; b) launching of the process of investing the €500 million in Gagauzia’s economy; c) raising of pensions of the region’s inhabitants, etc. There is a very broad space for discharging the energies and consuming the money of the patrons from Russia. It’s true that there are also worrisome signals for the Shorist activists. As the patrons from Russia became disappointed with the work of the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM), which was monthly financed with $700,000-800,000, they could have also become disappointed with the unconstitutional Shorists, resorting to direct financing, without intermediaries, of the inhabitants of Gagauzia.