Plans B of electoral system change. IPN analysis

… The protest against the change in the electoral system of June 11, 2017. The column of protesters marches along Stefan cel Mare Blvd from Buiucani towards the Parliament Building. The protesters shout slogans and carry anti-change placards. A TV crew films the column from the sidewalk near the Parliament Building. A corpulent man with beard, being in the row that was the closest to the TV journalists, unrolls a placard in front of him, keeps it for several seconds and then rolls it up and continues to move within the column. The reporter makes a sign and the cameraman films the case. The placard promotes the electoral system change, not criticizes it. It says something like “Elections for decent people, not for lists of cheaters”. The given images are later broadcast by a number of TV channels for several times…

The promoters of the electoral system change play harshly, technologically, and take care of the smallest details. From organizational, promotional and political viewpoints, it seems that they outstripped a lot their internal opponents, both those from among the political sphere and those from among civil society organizations, by the principle “the dogs bark, but the caravan goes on”. The “caravan” goes determinedly, more determinedly than ever. If the direct and often harsh style in the formulation of political messages was typical for one of the promoters, the Party of Socialists (PSRM), the second promoter, the Democratic Party (PDM), for the first time in its history abandoned the weighted, conciliatory, “centrist” style of tackling the problems. The personages and styles of the type “Dumitru Diacov” and “Marian Lupu” were moved to the second place if they weren’t withdrawn completely. The PDM borrowed the PSRM’s draft law to introduce the mixed-member electoral system instead the party-list proportional representation system and pushes it forward more intensely than the “natural parents”.

Caravan goes out of the country

The same mobilization and complete determination is witnessed in the relations with the foreign partners, especially the Venice Commission and the administration bodies of the European Union. With particular background differences, the principle about the caravan remains valid. Inside and outside, the promoters disseminate similar messages about the firm decision to complete the electoral system reform, in the “near future” and in any conditions, with the same power.

If the electoral system change is ultimately implemented, which is the draft law is adopted in Parliament in the final reading, the promoters will reap the laurels and all the benefits at internal level. Respectively, they assume all the risks of the success, which could be smaller than the advantages. In the case with the foreign partners, the risks of the success are much bigger than those that are possible inside the country. Furthermore, bigger risks to the whole Moldovan society could be incurred.

The risks are indeed big and real because only the promoters do not want or cannot admit that their pro-change arguments are now more convincing for the foreign partners than they think or say that they are for Moldovan society. Their low persuasion force at foreign level can result not only in minus €100 million, initially for the country’s budget and the people’s pockets, but also in damage to the state image that does not take account of the rules of coexistence in Europe, in general, and the Council of Europe’s recommendations in terms of democracy and human rights, in particular. In Europe, it seems now there is only one state that affords this luxury, but that is a very big state, at least from territorial and military viewpoints. 

Did the arguments catch the Europeans’ interest?

Why do we say that the pro-change arguments didn’t catch interest at the foreign level or caught it not to the extent to which the promoters wanted?

First of all, because not only particular influential persons from among the foreign development partners, but also the institutions that these represent expressed their concern about the possible negative effects of the reform, in the current political conditions of the Republic of Moldova.

Secondly, because this position is unanimous and unvocal, without any exception. There is even evident a particular relevant agreement of the development partners from Europe between them and with those from over the ocean. The common position refers to the fact that the recommendations of the Venice Commission should be considered and fully followed to the letter and, respectively, without dividing these into “technical-legal” and “political” recommendations.
Even in such conditions, the promoters of the change continue to reveal only the “full part of the glass”, suggesting that this has never been full and thus more consensus in Moldovan society on the issue of electoral system change cannot be achieved.

Surely, the promoters have the capacity and intelligence needed to understand that the risks are very big. They definitely have to assess more possible scenarios, especially in case of ”success”. The failure, in the meaning of abandonment of the idea to replace the electoral system, could bring more favors from outside. However, “the caravan goes on”, towards the adoption of the mixed-member electoral system in Parliament as Plan A and the only one. Why and which are the possible scenarios for overcoming the situation - a possible “Plan B” or even several “plans B”?

Declared and undeclared stakes

First of all, why do the promoters behave in such an extremely risky way and which are their stakes?

One of the stakes could be the maintaining of the power and perpetuation of government. It is a legal and legitimate political stake in the political struggle for power, as for any other political party. Another question is why they need the power in the state. The variant suggested by the political opponents is to keep the state and its institutions hostage so as to continue to pursue obscure personal and group interests and to make sure that they will not be held accountable for the facts of which the opposition accuses them. In the variant of the promoters, the electoral system change is needed to satisfy the wish of the majority of people and to also renew the political class so that this is able to modernize and Europeanize the country, again for the benefit of the people. In their conception, this is the role, if not the historical mission that no one has been able to assume so far. In both of the variants, “pure” or combined, the promoters are condemned to go on, “towards success”, despite all the aforementioned risks, especially the foreign ones.

The PSRM’s Plan B is on the surface and is based on the same benefits that are obtained in any conditions: with or without the withdrawal of the support that the development partners offer to the current government of Moldova. In the case of withdrawal, the benefits could be even greater for this promoter.

The PDM had and still needs more ingeniousness to draft and implement plans B that would enable to reconcile the domestic “cabbage” with the European “goat”. To better understand the nature of plans B, we should speak about one more reasons that the PDM can have to play so riskily with the Europeans.

Nothing against the Europeans

The PDM actually has nothing with and against the Europeans and if there had been only these, the Democrats would have renounced or postponed until better times the procedure for replacing the electoral system, as they already did earlier. The point is that a possible abandonment of the plans to change the electoral system, eventually under the pressure of Europeans, would mean first of all defeat suffered to the internal political opponents, especially the Party “Action and Solidarity” and the Political Party “Platform Dignity and Truth”, which now enjoy more credibility with the Europeans. This defeat would influence a lot, from this moment already, the outcome of the 2018 parliamentary elections, with all the big mobilization needed now by the PDM. This would mean that the PDM would be put in the situation to share, at internal level, the power and the privilege of the relations with foreign partners, including the control over the financial flow coming from the assistance offered by the development partners, together with the current political opponents, in the best case. In a duller, but less probable scenario, the PDM could have to concede the whole relationship with the donors to the opponents after 2018.  

Respectively, the main and actually the only ruling party now cannot think up future plans in which it would share the power with someone after it has eliminated practically all the opponents and the partners so far. It cannot claim votes from the supporters of the left, who are faithful to the PSRM and President Dodon, at least for now, because the story about the almighty Party of Communists could repeat. But it can claim everything that moves from the center left to the right, if not further.

You beat the counselor to make the king kinder?

It seems that for the same reasons, the PDM quarreled with almost all the powerful civil society organizations, accusing these of being the object or even the subject of a new phenomenon that it defined as “captive civil society”. For a party that until now avoided, at least in public, the image of initiator of open confrontations (not to mention the packing in the form of “principles and values” in which it warped the acerb confrontations from behind the negotiations held with the coalition partners), this is an imprudent and risky gesture because it knows for sure that the given organizations are credible before the Western partners, including for their great expertise capacities to which these partners resort often, including when they need an unbiased appraisal of the actions taken by the government, also as regards the electoral system change. It is at least imprudent to quarrel with the counselor of the partner from which you wait for support.

Many not very efficient Bs

It is not known if the PDM takes into account particular gestures aimed at coming to terms with the given civil society organizations as an element of an eventual new Plan B. It is yet sure that it had more such scenarios until now. One of them consisted in bringing together, under its colors, many and even a lot of civil society organizations that publicly endorsed the initiative to replace the electoral system, but the number not always beats the quality and this has been known from the time of the 300 Spartans, if not much earlier.

Another Plan B could have had the shape of a solid paratrooper of the government teleported to the meeting of the Venice Commission. But here, both the number and the quality were on the side of the Commission and its partners that were involved in the formulation of recommendations.

An even solider paratrooper, who is the most solid one possible, was sent to Brussels, but this also returned with such formulations as “fully” and “to the letter”.

A good and late Plan B

Last Tuesday, the PDM revealed its biggest and most ambitious Plan B that is designed to convince the Europeans of the good faith of the current government, especially as regards its pro-European commitment. It is a new and consistent plan of actions “for developing the country and growing the economy” for the next six months. It is the first Plan that abandons the tactic of sailor-like approach to the opponents and the partners and that is evidently aimed at showing the development partners that the government is ready to implement partners’ recommendations “fully” and “to the later”. However, a lot of will and political sincerity are needed to implement this Plan, while the Europeans have to decide on the provision of assistance to Moldova the coming days. Even if the given decision is taken next week, the money could reach Moldova during up to two years. Maybe the previous plans B followed a wrong path? Maybe a lot of precious time was lost until now on sincere communication, at internal and foreign levels, on the opportunity and method of making such important changes?

Pro-European governments and opinion polls

Possibly it’s not the case to devote too much time to the examination of another Plan B, but this is discussed rather intensely in the public sphere and we cannot overlook it fully. Particularly, the political opponents see particular elements revealing the PDM’s intention to thwart Moldova’s European course in the motives of this party’s risky behavior in relation to the European partners. As it is impossible to detach yourself from Europe without coming closer to Russia in the current geopolitical conditions, the opponents accuse the PDM of “dishonesty”.

On the other hand, the PDM has intensified the messages whereby it expresses its loyalty to the European course, as if it realizes the danger that such a thought could appear in the heads of the European partners.  In reality, the danger invoked by the political opponents is inflated because only with assistance, including financial, and not only, can the PDM achieve its declared goals, including the historical mission to modernize the country, as well as the undeclared goals, a part of which were mentioned above. Russia, as it is well known, does not believe in tears, but also does not provide money or, eventually, gives it so someone else, Transnistria being the first thing that springs to mind, but not the only one. But the European course can be discredited not necessarily as a result of an intention or a plan formulated expressly. The history of the pro-European governments that ruled until now and the dramatic decline in the popularity of the European idea in the options of Moldovans seem to have a direct casualty tie.


… the given images are later broadcast by a number of TV channels for several times. On particular websites, the same person with beard appears with the same placard at the front of the protesters who listen to the speeches given from the improvised rostrum. Those who stay near cannot see the message. However, somebody “immortalized” it. A skilled cameraman with a modern video camera will need only several seconds to do this. The message from this placard is absolutely foreign to all the messages that were written, chanted, shouted or uttered that day, in that place.

Valeriu Vasilică, IPN

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