“The insistence on the continuation of the election of the country’s President by the people’s direct vote implies major risks for the post-electoral political stability. The SOLUTION resides in the annulment of the direct presidential elections and the return to normality!”
Presidential elections can undermine political stability
August turned out to be hot not only due to the dog days that destroy the main sector of Moldova’s economy – agriculture. The preparations for the presidential elections set for November 1 start this month. These preparations are accompanied by a series of events with a major impact on the results of the future elections and post-electoral political stability.
The truth is that most of the political parties challenge either the method of electing the President or the legal framework for holding the elections or even dispute the method of funding parties and candidates, asking that the Prosecutor’s Office should investigate the scandals concerning illegal funding of the campaign prior to the presidential elections of 2016. All these attitudes derive from the defective management by the authorities of the COVID-19 pandemic that in August is breaking all the negative records set the previous months.
Let’s take it one by one. Two political parties challenge the method of restoring, in March 2016, the direct election of the President through a decision taken by the Constitutional Court (CC), which, after 16 years, annulled a part of the constitutional reform of 2000. These are:
- The Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova (PCRM), which from the very beginning has considered that: “The decision to modify the direct election of the President is irresponsible”;
- The Common Action – Civic Congress Party, which insists: “The current composition of the Constitutional Court should annul the illegal CC decision of March 4, 2016 by which the direct election of the Prescient was introduced. This decision led to the usurpation of the power and further capturing of the state. That’s why the Constitutional Court should annul this decision and restore the rule of law”.
Other political parties, at least seven, challenge the legal framework for holding the elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill to amend the Election Code remained in suspense after it was given a first reading, being transmitted to the Venice Commission for examination. These are:
- The Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS), which asked to withdraw the amendments to the Election Code, threatening to notify the Constitutional Court if the variant adopted in the first reading is passed. The most sensitive issues for the PAS refer to the voting by the Moldovans abroad, especially in Europe, which will be hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the voting by the citizens in Transnistria, who can be grossly manipulated, as it happened in the recent parliamentary elections, of February 2019;
- The Union Political Movement (MPU), which consists of five parties that, through the agency of the leader of one of these, stated the following opinion: “I cannot say if annulling the presidential elections is good or bad, but I’m sure that the collection of signatures should be annulled or modified drastically... who and how will monitor/verify the observance of the minimum protection rules, such as physical distancing, mask wearing, disinfection of objects used by several persons, by those who will collect the signatures (20,000 for registering a candidate)?!”;
- The Party “Dignity and Truth Platform (PPPDA), whose leader, referring to the possible postponement of the presidential elections, said: “I will not walk on bodies. There is nothing more precious that people’s lives and health... If at least one person is in danger, we should adopt a correct attitude as there is nothing more important that people’s health and lives”.
Ultimately, the National Unity Party (PUN) and its supporters constantly challenge the method of financing the campaign prior to the presidential elections of 2016 of the candidate of the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM) Igor Dodon. There is no sign that we will not have a similar situation in the elections of this November. By selling gas at prices that are twice higher than the European ones to the Republic of Moldova, Russia’s Gazprom has sufficient financial resources to support its partner (min.0.38 – 0.46) in the Republic of Moldova.
The aforementioned underline the inevitability of challenging the results of the presidential elections, in the eventuality of the victory of Igor Dodon, who, besides the invoked things, turned out to be also involved in Russia’s Imperial Movement that is present in the Republic of Moldova. On the other hand, the eventual victory of an opposition candidate will anyway generate questions, with the main one being – what should the pro-European opposition do win a victory scored under a defective legal framework about which it was known a priori?
Democratic Party of Moldova’s chance to rehabilitate itself
The Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM), which forms part of the governing majority, has the chance to introduce clarity in the difficult situation before the presidential elections. An attempt to this effect was made by the party’s president of honor Dumitru Diacov, who recently made a pertinent statement: “I suggest discussing not the postponement of these elections, but the return to the election of the President by Parliament. The presidential administration should become a factor of stability, of political balance and of national consensus. The party leaders should struggle for the executive, for the post of Prime Minister and for the possibility of implementing the party’s electoral program and also for the right to form a parliamentary majority that ensures the Government’s activity by adopting normative documents”. In this connection, it should be noted that the president of honor of the PDM knows details of the operation to amend in 2016 the constitutional text concerning the direct election of the President. Earlier, he opposed that operation, noting that the modification of the method of electing the President in 2016 was a serious political mistake that offered the leaders of the opposition of that period – the PSRM and PAS – the possibility of asserting themselves as national leaders in the direct presidential elections amid the withdrawal of the PDM’s candidate from the competition.
The fact that the amendment of the constitutional text was hatched up by the coordinator of the power Vlad Plahotniuc is also confirmed by his adviser Vitaly Andrievskii: “The Constitutional Court, replacing Parliament, modified the law on the presidential elections. The Constitutional Court decided to restore the procedure for the direct election of the President by the people, changing simultaneously the age limit of the candidates for President – from 35 to 40 years. Everyone realized that Vlad Plahotniuc was behind that decision. Yes, this is true”. Andrievskii shed light, explaining why the coordinator needed that special operation. First of all, in order to combat the protesting wave, pushing the opposition leaders towards mutual electoral clashes. Secondly, the goal was to remove the most dangerous rival of Igor Dodon – Renato Usatyi – so as to secure the victory of the first.
The fact that Vlad Plahotniuc, the coordinator of the power, pulled the strings and arranged things in Moldovan justice was recognized by him recently, not being forced by anyone, when he disputed in a New York City court of law the U.S. Department of State’s decision, signed by secretary of state Mike Pompeo, by which he, his wife and their two children, on January 18, 2020, were banned entry to the United States, “due to his involvement in significant corruption”. To persuade the U.S. justice of the tenacity of his struggle against Russian agents in the Republic of Moldova, Plahotniuc invoked the removal of Renato Usatyi from the electoral competition in 2014 (see item g), page 7 of Plahotniuc’s complaint). But things developed swiftly and recently, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHGR) ruled in favor of the party “Patria”, whose list of candidates at the parliamentary elections of 2014 was headed by Renato Usatyi, and who was excluded from the electoral race for alleged financial irregularities. It’s strange that the coordinator knew about the Russian danger coming from Renato Usatyi, but didn’t know anything about the danger coming from the Russian Imperial Movement, which is represented in the Republic of Moldova by the PSRM and its leader – Igor Dodon. Currently, owing to the vigilance shown by Plahotniuc, the Republic of Moldova must pay $15,000 to Usatyi. Together with other hundreds of thousands of dollars that should be paid for the coordinator’s multiple involvements in justice, the budget gap expands.
The invoked details support the assertions of the PDM’s president of honor Dumitru Diacov and the coordinator’s adviser Andrievskii, that the modification of the method of electing the President of the Republic of Moldova was a political command fulfilled by the Constitutional Court. In the created situation, the PDM has the excellent opportunity to provide additional evidence of the fact that it was a political order and to join in the parties that challenge the holding of direct presidential elections on November 1, 2020.
Constitutional Court’s role
An important role in breaking the expected impasse is played by the current composition of the Constitutional Court. Recently, the CC gave its verdict concerning the President’s role in the procedure for designing the candidate for Prime Minister, deciding the following: “Analyzing Decision No. 28 of October 17, 2017, the Court held that this instituted the interim status of the post of President of the Republic, which is regulated by Article 91 of the Constitution, as the country’s President refused deliberately, for subjective reasons, to fulfill his constitutional duties, even if this case should have been solved by the suspension from post and dismissal of the President of the Republic, defined in Article 89 of the Constitution”.
This way, the CC decided that the five decisions of 2017-2019, to suspend Igor Dodon from the office of President, were at least incorrect. Given the aforementioned, we can assert that in fact, the suspensions were political orders given by the coordinator. A confirmation of the fact that the political orders became an ordinary practice during the period of the coordination of the government by Vlad Plahotniuc is the circumstance that in its previous composition, the CC annulled six decisions adopted during the so-called duality of the state power, on June 7-14, 2019.
In such circumstances, when the previous component of the CC annulled six decisions, while the current composition disqualified another four decisions, it would be naïve to doubt the fact that the CC’s decision to institute the direct election of the President of March 4, 2016 is a political order. It is evident that the CC’s arguments lack substance. The question now is, what should be done? There is nothing unordinary here. There should be done the same thing that was done by the CC on June 15, 2019, when it annulled the six aforementioned decisions. This way, under Article 72 of the Code of Constitutional Jurisdiction, the CC should convoke its Plenum and should annul the decision of March 4, 2016 so as to restore the legal, constitutional situation concerning the election of the President by Parliament.
A. The political parties, given the necessity of electing the President of the Republic of Moldova, should start from the need to restore the legality and eliminating the effects of the capture of state institutions. In this regard, cooperation is needed with the current composition of the CC so as to annul the CC decision of March 4, 2016 and restore the constitutional method of electing the President.
B. The role of the PDM and its leaders is crucial in elucidating the political motivation of the CC’s decision of March 4, 2016. This way, the PDM has the possibility of getting rid of the accusations that it took part in the usurpation of the state power, contributing to the liquidation of the effects of the usurpation.
C. The PSRM could review its attitude to the President’s role in a parliamentary republic, who has rather protocol powers and has no powers in the management of the economy and social processes. President Igor Dodon’s pretensions to influence the socioeconomic life can be relevant if he pleads for the post of Prime Minister, struggling for victories in parliamentary elections. The PSRM should be afraid of the “little green men” who took part in the annexation of Crimea and recently ventured to destabilize the political situation in Belarus. The colleagues of the PSRM’s leaders from the Russian Imperial Movement already announced their intention to recognize the independence of Transnistria, probably amid public disorder in Moldova.
D. President Igor Dodon could convene the commission for the constitutional reform that he recently set up, entrusting it with only one task – the argumentation of the “revision of a set of Constitutional Court decisions that went beyond the constitutional limit and/or that went beyond the limits of the constitutional powers of the CC”, the others being irrelevant;
E. The eventual return to the election of the President by Parliament will necessitate a compromise. The parliamentary group of the fragmented opposition, alongside the group of the PDM, has a qualified majority of 3/5 for electing a famous person who distinguished oneself at multiple levels as President so as to ensure the peaceful transition to normality. An example to this effect is given by the ex-vice president of the PDM Ion Sturza, who tried to contribute to overcoming the crisis of December 2015.
F. So as not to allow blockages in the election of the President by Parliament in the future, the compromise should also cover the amendment of the constitutional article that would allow electing the President by a simple majority of votes of MP, as the bill of 2000 to amend the Constitution, which was endorsed by the CC, provided. This is exactly what the president of honor of the PDM Dumitru Diacov has always wanted and this fact should make the PDM to support its founder.
G. The insistence on the continuation of the election of the country’s President by the people’s direct vote implies major risks for the post-electoral political stability. The SOLUTION resides in the annulment of the direct presidential elections and the return to normality!