Last week, the standing commission for legal issues of the PAG held public hearing’s on the lawsuit filed by the State Chancellery of the Government of the Republic of Moldova concerning the stripping of Gagauz deputies of the right to immunity. The case, which is tried by the Comrat court of law, has lasted for over a year. The administrative control body demands to annul articles of Code of Gagauzia and of the Regulations of the PAG, which give legal immunity to the Gagauz deputies. The State Chancellery makes reference to Articles 70 and 81 of the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova, according to which immunity in Moldova is enjoyed only by the members of Parliament and the President, not yet by the deputies of the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia.
Representatives of the central authorities didn’t take part in the public hearings. A representative of the Prosecutor General’s Office, which was included in the trial as a third party, wasn’t present either. Therefore, central authorities’ arguments in the hearings were read by the chairman of the PAG’s legal commission, deputy Petru Ceavdari. After the essence of the lawsuit was made known, a one-gate game started. The PAG deputies accused in turn Chisinau of attempt to deprive Gagauzia of powers.
“No matter what arguments we provide, the court will anyway take a political decision. We should request the Presidential Office, the Government and Parliament to annul these proceedings or our relations will worsen further,” said deputy Sergei Cimpoes.
Deputy Ivan Burgudji challenged the court’s right to try such a case. “The ordinary courts of law cannot annul laws adopted by the PAG. Our laws possess by definition legal power. They can be only checked for compliance with the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova. But this is not within the competence of the ordinary courts of law,” stated Burgudji, reminding that a year ago the PAG adopted a relevant decision.
Former head of the Security and Intelligence Service for Gagauzia Mihail Jelezoglo, who is now a member of the PAG, said it is not right to shift the whole blame on Chisinau. “The problem that appeared is the result of our inconsistency. In 2016, the State Chancellery filed nine lawsuits concerning the illegality of our decisions, but we didn’t react appropriately,” stated the deputy. Jelezoglo pleaded for a balanced and substantial dialogue with Chisinau, noting that Gagauzia can seek support from international organizations and from the embassies of Turkey and Russia.
Besides the decision to make an approach to the central administration taken in the debates, it was suggested holding in Comrat an international conference that would center on the powers of local autonomous units, including as regards the legal immunity of local lawmakers. Furthermore, the deputies promised to raise this issue in the meeting of the common working group of representatives of the PAG and the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova.
National laws versus regional laws
The State Chancellery’s lawsuit is only one of the aspects of the existing problem of harmonization of the national and regional legislation. Contradictions over the right to immunity can be also identified with respect to candidates for deputy.
The Election Code of Moldova describes the guaranteed rights of election runners, including their protection against firing, prosecution, arrest and other administrative penalties. But the immunity does not cover the deputies of the PAG. On the other hand, about two years ago, the PAG adopted the own Election Code of Gagauzia, which stipulates the same rights for the candidates for member of the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia.
The given contradiction materialized when the candidate for deputy on behalf of Dezghingea village Nicolai Raia was arrested before the elections to choose PAG deputies. The arrest was made in Comrat, but at the request of the prosecutor’s office of Edinet, which suspected Raia of tax evasion. The prosecutors in Edinet could have known in detail the legislation of Gagauzia or not, but the candidate for deputy was set free after the Gagauzia media loudly disseminated this case.
A similar gap can be noticed in the Moldovan legislation concerning regulations, which describes in detail the lawmaking process, the powers of subjects and the hierarchy of laws in the Republic of Moldova. Even if the People’s Assembly also adopts laws at the local level and the Bashkan and the Executive Committee of Gagauzia also have powers to make laws at regional level, the given circumstances weren’t sufficiently described in the national legislation. The notion of “local law” in the activity of the PAG hasn’t been yet defined in the Moldovan legislation.
The list should be supplemented with one more point from the Constitution. In accordance with the Supreme Law of the Republic of Moldova, Parliament is the only legislative power in the state. The status of the PAG, which fulfills the same duty in Gagauzia, is thus not clear.
Working group: without optimism and alternative
Theoretically, the laws of Moldova and Gagauzia form part of the same legal framework. But, as practice shows, they develop in parallel. A working group was constituted to deal with these contradictions. This includes deputies of the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia and members of Moldova’s Parliament. The group has worked for over two years, but no palpable results have been yet achieved. So far it has drafted three bills, but none of these has taken effect yet. Two of these bills were adopted in the final reading before Parliament went on the summer vacation, but haven’t been promulgated by the President. The Head of State was urged to use this right by the PAG, which does not agree with the changes made to the initial text of the bill. The third bill was adopted only in the first reading and this also arouses controversy.
It is evident that the agenda of the working group will be soon supplemented with the immunity of PAG deputies. Given the previous experience, the new problems would most probably not be solved rather swiftly. Any issue examined by the working group incorporates a lot of contradictions and interests. The wish to protect the powers of the autonomy should not prevail over the national interests, while the natural wish of the deputies to promote their political and party interests should not stop this activity.
Anyway, there is now no another dialogue platform. Any alternative for the working group now will entail the escalation of political tensions. That’s why it is in the interests of the sides to step up the activity of this body. Moreover, Moldova’s foreign partners follow attentively the activity of the working group and are ready to offer support.
Veaceslav Craciun, Comrat
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