Spring fuss in Gagauzia. Why were Bashkan elections put off? OP-ED


In conditions of a relatively stable level of activism of the population in the recent electoral exercise, the participation in elections based on lists compiled by mayor’s offices was by about 10% higher than in the elections conducted based on lists compiled by the state-run company “Registru”... In such conditions, the use of the database of the state register becomes not a problem for the reelection of Irina Vlah, who is supported by about 70% of the inhabitants, according to polls, but rather an obstacle to holding the elections ...


Veaceslav Craciun

One day before the official launch of the campaign prior to the election of the Bashkan (Governor) of Gagauz-Yeri, the deputies of the parliamentary assembly of the Autonomous Territorial Unit (APG-Y) transferred the election date to the end of June. Simultaneously, there were adopted a series of amendments to the local election code, by which the minimum voter turnout was raised from 30% to 50%. The team of the incumbent Bashkan Irina Vlah is convinced that her old opponent, the leader of the organization “New Gagauzia”, is behind these arrangements. Being close to the Democratic Party (PDM), this pursues the goal of torpedoing the elections. The Gagauz deputies say they only corrected the inconsistencies that existed in the local legislation and the accusations made by the Bashkan are mere speculations. For their part, experts say the postponement of elections could be even in the interests of Irina Vlah.

New rules for elections

The registration of candidates as contenders in the Bashkan elections set for May 19 was to start in Gagauzia on March 19. However, on the eve, on March 18, the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia came together for a special session where it was decided to put off the elections for June 30. The formal cause of this decision was to enable the incumbent Bashkan to promulgate a series of bills to amend the rules of electing the region’s governor that were adopted in the same session.

The given amendments to the election code of Gagauzia raise the minimum voter turnout at the Bashkan elections from 30% to 50% and envision voting based on the register of voters compiled by the state-run company “Registru” instead of the lists compiled by the bodies of the local authorities.

The raising of the minimum voter turnout was welcomed by Irina Vlah. As a matter of fact, the given norm was inserted in the Regulations (Constitution) of Gagauzia and the implementation of this change brought the Election Code in compliance with the legal document of a higher status. Even in the absence of this, all the previous Bashkan elections took place by obeying the given requirement, as the local electoral legislation provided, and this continues to be obeyed. This way, the deputies who adopted the given code several years ago eliminated the own technical mistake.

Turnout “miracles”

The matter concerning the voter rolls based on which voting takes place is not technical in character. The differences between the data from the two types of lists are of tens of thousands in scale. According to the data of local mayor’s offices, there are 110,000 voters in Gagauz-Yeri, while “Registru” indicates almost 132,000 voters. The level of activism of the inhabitants of the ATU at the previous Bashkan elections and at the last parliamentary elections, of February 24, 2019, shows the way in which the voter turnout can differ.


Participation (persons)

Number of voters on rolls

Turnout (%)

2010 Bashkan elections (II round)




2015 Bashkan elections




2019 Bashkan elections




It can be deduced that when the population’s activism in elections is at a relatively stable level, the turnout in the case of voting based on lists compiled by mayor’s offices is by over 10% higher  than in the elections held based on the lists drawn up by “Registru”.

Elections delayed, but campaign launched

The decisions adopted by the deputies of the APG-Y were perceived by Irina Vlah as a “political order” on the part of the ex-deputy elected on the list of the PDM Nicolai Dudoglo, who made already three unsuccessful attempts to obtain the post of Bashkan, but could not come to power in Gagauzia. The assembly of the supporters of Vlah held in Congaz village on March 23 came as a specific response to the meeting of the APG-Y. There was announced the intention to bring to polling places as many voters as necessary. Moreover, summing up the speeches in her support, the Bashkan said she will not sign the amendments adopted by the APG-Y.

The assembly of Irina Vlah’s supporters  actually marked the start of the election campaign, while Dudoglo is for now on tenterhooks. The Speaker of the People’s Assembly, PDM member Vladimir Kyssa commented instead of him. In a video broadcast last Sunday, he rejected the accusations formulated in Congaz and, speaking about the changes adopted by the APG-Y, urged not to treat a strictly legal matter as a political one.

“The changes to the Election Code were made absolutely legally. We request the Bashkan of Gagauzia not to destabilize the situation in the autonomous unit and to hold the elections on June 30 in legal conditions and in a calm atmosphere,” stated Vladimir Kyssa.

In such conditions, the use of the database of the state register becomes not a problem for the reelection of Irina Vlah, who is supported by about 70% of the inhabitants, according to polls, but rather an obstacle to holding the elections. The task becomes more difficult owing to the fact that most of the people at the end of June go on leave or go abroad to do seasonal work. According to MP of the Party of Socialists Fiodor Gagauz, the APG-Y aims to torpedo the elections through a low voter turnout and through the non-admission of Irina Vlah to rerun elections at any cost, including by prosecution.

The organization of rerun elections or the amendment of the legislation when the powers of the incumbent Governor of the region expire will create preconditions for the usurpation of power in Gagauzia,” said Gagauz.

Imitation of a conflict?

In fact, some consider the opposition between the Bashkan and the People’s Assembly is convenient for Irina Vlah. According to Mihail Sirkeli, director of the Comrat-based public association “Piligrim-Demo”, the given conflict could be just an imitation.

“For Vlah, Nicolai Dudoglo is a suitable “battle horse” as she builds the image of a fighter against the anarchy of the Democrats in Gagauzia by confronting him,” stated Sirkeli.

As an argument in favor of the hidden benefits enjoyed by Vlah, he invokes the upcoming national local elections.

“If the local elections are held in June, this will enable Irina Vlah to interconnect the campaign prior to the Bashkan elections with them and to promote her supporters to posts of mayors and councilors or to favor their reelection to these posts. Moreover, such an experience already exists – in the recent parliamentary elections, the candidates of the PSRM won mainly owing to the direct support of Irina Vlah,” concluded Sirkeli.

Meanwhile, the Central Election Commission of Gagauzia held a meeting after the APG-Y’s session and adopted a number of decisions, such as to extend the electoral period for the Bashkan elections. CEC chairman Ivan Comur in a press briefing said there is no precedent as regards the postponement of elections and setting of a new date. But the Election Code provides that the electoral period starts when the election day is announced and ends when the final results are made public. Comur didn’t explain the practical reasons for such a decision. It is also not known what the Commission will do if the Bashkan does not sign the amendments adopted by the deputies and, formally, the election date will remain unchanged, May 19. These are the circumstances in which the CEC, which is responsible for the organization of the electoral process, is probably the most disadvantaged player.


Veaceslav Craciun, Comrat


IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.


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