“So, the Constitutional Court will have to bring in order its own case law concerning the relations between the presidential administration and Parliament...”
Institutional memory of Moldova’s presidential administration
The presidential administration of the Republic of Moldova shows to us that it has institutional memory and, respectively, coherence in actions and attitudes. No matter who holds the post of President, the presidential administration’s attitude to the necessity of dissolving Parliament and calling snap elections remains unchanged. This way, during his tenure as President, Igor Dodon constantly pleaded for snap elections. In fact, he took up his duties in 2016 with the promise to dissolve Parliament and call snap parliamentary elections during the first 100 days of his tenure: “I will insist on the organization of snap parliamentary elections. I will launch consultations with all the parties and civil society on the triggering of snap parliamentary elections”.
Later, so as to achieve his goal, President Igor Dodon made concerted efforts. Initially, he drafted a bill to amend the Constitution so as to obtain the right to dissolve Parliament. Later, he ventured to initiate a consultative referendum, intending to ask the citizens: “Are you in favor of giving the President of the Republic of Moldova additional powers for dissolving Parliament and calling snap elections?”. He failed to fulfill his pre-electoral promise during his first term in office as President. That’s why, aiming to win a second term in office, Igor Dodon resumed his narrative as to the necessity of dissolving Parliament and holding snap elections. In this regard, several months before the presidential elections of November 1, 2020, President Dodon said it firmly: “The Parliament should be reformed and cleared of oligarchic cans”. The insistent approach in favor of the dissolution of Parliament was supported by Prime Minister Ion Chicu and Parliament Speaker Zinaida Grechanyi. That’s why, after the presidential elections, the first step towards the dissolution of Parliament was taken on the last day of President Dodon’s term in office, on December 23, 2020, when Premier Chicu announced his resignation, noting that the triggering of snap elections “is an objective we declared a priority so as to ensure normality in the country”.
When taking over on December 24, 2020, the new President Maia Sandu showed she was sticking to the principle of consistency of the presidential administration, including to the initiatives of her predecessor. In this regard, in her inaugural speech, she said: “The snap elections are the only path to clean Parliament and to break the deadlock. There is no other solution. In the current Parliament, we do not have 51 MPs who would support a people’s government”. Surprisingly, Maia Sandu decided to follow her predecessor’s scenario for triggering snap elections, which Igor Dodon described in his program President Responds of August 13, 2020: “I tell you from the start that I will not propose a candidate (for Prime Minister) who is supported by turncoats. Why? I don’t want a man of Plahotniuc, named by Shor and Candu, to manage the Government. Even if Maia Sandu and Andrei Năstase come to terms with them, I will not accept this! If you don’t like it, put the issue to the vote, garner 67 votes and let’s have a referendum. The people should have their say and decide who is right – I or you. You, who wanted to name Plahotniuc as Prime Minister or I, because I opposed? And we will hold a referendum, if you want. I don’t think you want it? (30.20 - 31.03).
At a distance of several months, it turned out that coming to terms with Shor is the PSRM’s privilege. However, the hypothetical scenario of Igor Dodon started to be put into practice by President Maia Sandu almost fully. Predictably, the Constitutional Court (CC) decided that the President is obliged to nominate the candidate of the parliamentary majority. In response, President Maia Sandu, in fact, reproduced her predecessor’s scenario: “The people hold the real power in the state and are those who can solve this situation. At snap elections or at a referendum, the people will decide their future and the future of their country”.
From the aforementioned, we see an amazing consistency in the attitude of the presidential administration, either this is managed by Igor Dodon or by Maia Sandu, to the necessity of dissolving Parliament and holding snap elections. This is how the institutional memory of the presidential administration is manifested, showing that it is anyway dissatisfied with Parliament and its activity, no matter who holds office of President.
Institutional memory of main political force – PSRM
The political parties have the task of preparing and promoting competent staff at the elected institutions of the state. For the purpose, the parties are financed from the public budget with tens of millions of lei a year. That’s why the citizens have the right to expect predictability and consistency in actions from parties. In this connection, the citizens realized that the governmental and political crisis was deliberately provoked by the leaders of the main political party of the country – the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM). The president of the PSRM Zinaida Grechanyi, as the head of the legislative body, on December 23, 2020 confirmed that the resignation of the Chicu Government is a solution for returning to normality: “This Parliament does not represent the result of elections. It should be dissolved!”. Despite this, together with Igor Dodon’s return to the leadership of the PSRM on December 30, 2020, the party changed its view about the necessity of inducing snap elections. In fact, the change was announced on the last day of Igor Dodon’s tenure, as he said: “I support the idea of a transitional government and of holding snap parliamentary elections later, contrary to what Premier Chiuc and Speaker Grechanyi said earlier the same day. So, it looks like a new sample of political chess, which is the attempt to mislead the whole society, this time.
Igor Dodon’s twist on the way from the presidential office that he lost in the elections to the post of president of the PSRM witnessed evolution up to his transformation into a defender of the Constitution and parliamentarianism: “If President Maia Sandu opposes and refuses categorically to implement the Constitutional Court’s judgment, we... could support this interim Government , without a Prime Minister being nominated, without snap elections during the next two years, until the ordinary parliamentary elections of 2023”. It is curious reformation by the one who was suspended for five times from office by the Constitutional Court, being declared incapable of fulfilling his presidential duties. Despite these manifestations of political oscillation, Igor Dodon accuses his political opponents and the representatives of the development partners of applying double standards.
Parliament Speaker Zinaida Grechanyi turned out to be as consistent in attitudes. After an unannounced visit to Moscow, she forgot that she firmly pleaded for the dissolution of Parliament on December 23, 2020, now pleading as firmly for “the formation of a new government rather than holding of snap parliamentary elections as this will ensure stability in the Republic of Moldova”.
After deliberately causing the governmental crisis, the PSRM changed its attitude to the announced intention of triggering snap parliamentary elections. The PSRM’s reputation will suffer a lot as a result of the inconsistency of the party’s leaders, while the citizens will convince themselves that the financing of parties from the public budget does not achieve its goal. The causes of the twist probably reside in the incorrect calculations done by the leaders of the PSRM, who hoped that they could win the snap elections towards which they were heading determinedly when the Chicu Government announced its resignation.
Owing to the mistaken estimates, the parliamentary group of the PSRM has to insist on a long-lasting confrontation with the presidential administration, which they plan for a period of up to two years, until the next ordinary parliamentary elections. In this long-lasting political confrontation, the PSRM has among its allies the turncoats and the MPs of the Shor Party, whom it called representatives of the mafia and bandits only several months ago.
The political games of the PSRM throw the Republic of Moldova into a general political crisis amid the worsening of the pandemic and economic crisis. Furthermore, there is that absolutely inopportune conflict in the relations with the main development partner of the Republic of Moldova – the European Union (EU), following the frontal attack on representatives of the EU, which insists on the fulfillment of the obligations undertaken by the Republic of Moldova through bilateral documents for which consistent political, humanitarian and financial support is offered.
The presidential administration’s consistency in the problem of snap elections and, in general, in the relations with Parliament is actually a joke. During the independence of the Republic of Moldova, all the Presidents elected directly by the citizens had major conflicts with the legislature. It happened so during the tenures of Mircea Snegur, Petru Luchinski, Igor Dodon. It is so now that Maia Sandu took over the presidency. The Constitutional Court made a mistake when it reviewed by itself some of the aspects of the constitutional reform of 2000, restoring the direct election of the President without retouring yet the previous powers enjoyed by the President. As the current political and constitutional conflict has its roots in a CC decision, it’s clear that namely the High Court will have to find a swift solution for overcoming it. The solution is needed for thwarting the PSRM’s intention to maintain the chaos directed from the Parliament that was discredited by the acts of corruption and party switching.
It is evident, and we must admit it – the return to the direct election of the President was a major mistake. Never did the people of the Republic of Moldova or its representatives – the MPs – vote for a regime of government in which the President would be elected directly, but would enjoy the powers typical of a parliamentary regime. The hybrid regime of government in the Republic of Moldova is the result of the judicial engineering practiced earlier by the CC, which ignored the main principles concerning the stability and unity of the constitutional matter.
After it hybridized the government regime, the CC had to further apply judicial engineering so as to annihilate eventual conflicts between the elected President and Parliament, developing techniques for suspending the President for 5 minutes. But the abandoning by the new CC composition of the practice of suspending the President for 5 minutes predictably creates new problems related to the equality of the weight of the presidential and parliamentary mandates. President Maia Sandu’s determination to overcome the current political crisis either by snap elections or by a referendum derives from here. This kind of danger was signaled by some of the main authors of the judicial engineering for amending the constitutional norms, who expressed their bewilderment at the abandonment of the five-minute suspension practice by the CC. That’s why the answer to the question Who benefits from the annulment of the possibility of suspending the President is – it does not matter! As popular wisdom says: It is not for those for whom it is intended, but for those who manage to benefit! So, the Constitutional Court will have to bring in order its own case law concerning the relations between the presidential administration and Parliament.