(Un)justifiable matters. How are laws of Gagauzia “repealed”. Op-Ed by Veaceslav Craciun



The repealing game and the subsequent “re-adoption” of similar laws with formal amendments seem to suit both of the sides...


Veaceslav Craciun

The Comrat Appeals Court revoked two regional laws that were valid on the territory of Gagauzia. One of them refers to the holding of elections to the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia (PAG), while the other one to economic activity based on the entrepreneur’s patent. The region’s authorities intend to defend their position at the Supreme Court of Justice. It should be noted that in Comrat, they consider that the key impediment is not the separate cases, but the fact that the legitimacy of the laws and decisions of the PAG are subject to checks by the courts of general jurisdiction.

Long-lasting dispute

At the end of April, it became known that on the claim of the State Chancellery, the Appeals Court repealed the law of ATU Gagauz-Yeri “Concerning the tax certificate”. The People’s Assembly immediately decided to have an extraordinary meeting and to adopt a statement on this occasion. But it wasn’t meant to be, due to the absence of a quorum. Besides the statement that will be probably adopted in the nearest future, the deputies are ready to defend the law in the highest court.

“It’s very bad that the State Chancellery sued us. We will consider this issue and will not ignore it. We challenged this decision,” PAG Speaker Vladimir Cîssa stated for the radio station GRT.

The subject of the annulment of the law has lasted for many years. In 2001, a law on the fixed tax functioned in the autonomous unit and this enabled some of the categories of small entrepreneurs operating in trade and the food sector not to use cash registers and not to keep accounting records. The law was aimed at supporting the small businesses, covering about 800 individual enterprises.

The law was revoked in 2017 on the claim of the State Chancellery. The court argued that the PAG does not have the power to adopt such laws and the implementation of the repealed law caused damage to the state social insurance budget.

The aforementioned law on the tax certificate is in essence the same law on the fixed tax that was adopted with small changes by the PAG at the start of 2018. The move invented by the Gagauz deputies in reply to the claims of the State Chancellery can be repeated endlessly: they can make formal changes to any repealed law and to adopt this as a new law. 

Law on “residence qualification”

Another law revoked by the Comrat Appeals Court amended the Electoral Code of Gagauzia’s provision concerning the method of voting based on a temporary stay visa.

The given changes were agreed in January, being informally called “residence qualification”, as they stipulated that the inhabitants of Gagauzia who have had a residence visa in the settlement for less than a year can take part in elections only if they present documents confirming the purchase of real estate. Otherwise, those who changed the residence visa to another settlement were to vote in the locality where they lived earlier.

The bill with these limitations was drafted by PAG Speaker Vladimir Cîssa. He argued there are risks of election rigging. As he said, in the constituency from which he comes, the small village Bugeac, over 400 persons from other settlements of the autonomous unit obtained residence visas during a short period of time. These intended to vote for the “right candidate“ using the temporary visa.

By the way, one of the applicants who challenged the amendment of the Electoral Code was Alexandr Kendighelean, a candidate for deputy on behalf of Bugeac. Cîssa accuses this of organizing the mass residence visa issuing.

Court games

The given samples are not by far the only examples of repealing of laws and decisions of the PAG. Among the resonant cases is the Education Code of Gagauz-Yeri that was annulled by the court in 2017. The same year, the State Chancellery obtained the revocation of one of the articles of the Regulations of Gagauzia, which guaranteed the legal immunity of deputies.

It‘s clear that the issue goes beyond separate cases and does not mean only dissatisfaction with the activity of the State Chancellery: we saw that the laws can be revoked also as a result of claims filed by ordinary citizens. This is due to the shortcomings existing in the functioning system of Gagauzia, more exactly the different attitudes to its legal framework.

In Comrat, they insist that the local laws cannot be subject to legality check, but only to the check of their compliance with the Constitution. But neither of these checks is within the remit of courts of general jurisdiction. The central authorities do not accept such an approach and continue the practice of lawsuits. By the way, the legal lawsuits become increasingly habitual and less noisy and this is confirmed by the anemic reaction of the People’s Assembly to the last court decision. The repealing game and the subsequent “re-adoption” of similar laws with formal amendments seem to suit both of the sides.

Veaceslav Craciun
Publicist Veaceslav Craciun completed master’s degree courses at the University of European Studies of Moldova, specializing in international law. Professional interests: regionalism, political processes in ATU Gagauzia, the region’s relations with the central authorities of the Republic of Moldova.

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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