Failure to insert the European integration in Moldova’s Constitution: losers and winners


An eventual referendum could bring electoral benefits to the DPM, but this could simultaneously augment the politicization of the European agenda and distancing from structural and sustainable reforms, either it is successful or failed ...


Dionis Cenuşa

The initiative to constitutionalize Moldova’s European integration that was announced by the ruling party and its political allies in 2017 (IPN, December 2017) failed in two rounds. In the first case, the Democratic Party (DPM) and the Group of the European People’s Party of Moldova formulated the proposal to review the constitutional provisions on October 12, 2018. In the absence of support from the Liberal Democratic Party and the Liberal Party, the vote was put off. Six day after followed the second attempt (October 18). Without the PL and PLDM, which boycotted the voting, the government obtained 13 votes fewer than the legal limit required for validating the amendment of the Constitution (67 votes or 2/3 of the MPs).

On the one hand, in the period of the two attempts and primarily after them, the Democratic Party and its political allies, including the media outlets controlled by them, activated a massive campaign aimed at defaming the parliamentary opposition that refused to vote for introducing the European course in the supreme law (, October 18, 2018). This criticism was shared by Romanian MEPs whose political parties form the government in Romania that is friendly towards the government of Moldova and that regular supported the DPM’s rhetoric in Brussels – Norica Nicolai (ALDE Group) and Andi Cristea (Socialists and Democrats). On the other hand, the failure to amend the Constitution was exploited by President Igor Dodon, who disseminated the idea that the European course loses political ground right inside the pro-European forces (, October 18, 2018).

The examination of the official messages of the parliamentary opposition reveals the absence of counter-messages that would contain clear arguments as to the reason for not voting the constitutional amendment. The Democrats’ unwillingness to couple the ‘insertion’ of the European course in the Constitution with the inclusion of the Romanian language was the only explanation discussed until now. At the same time, the extraparliamentary opposition preferred to keep the distance than to show any solidarity, at least with the LDM (Liberal Democratic Party). The PAS (Action and Solidarity Party) and PPPDA (‘Truth and Dignity’ Platform) most probably anticipate new attacks by the government that would want to extend the rhetoric of public condemnation against them as well. Anyway, the parliamentary opposition’s tactic to bypass the government over the debate on this sensitive issue can result in political self-sacrifice. The DPM will not give up constitutionalizing the European course, either in a successful or a failed form, as it aims to maximize its chances at the parliamentary elections of 2019.

The EU kept its political neutrality towards the Democrats’ initiative to insert the European course in the Constitution. Even if the representatives of the government anticipate that the Association Agreement could be reviewed by the pro-Russian forces, the EU considers that the provisions of the Agreement recognize Moldova’s European aspirations and are sufficient (Free Europe, October 17, 2018). In parallel, the European side underlined the necessity of implementing the Agreement. This way, the EU reiterated its position concerning the European values stipulated in the Agreement whose violation caused the suspension of EU’s assistance (IPN, July 9, 2018) for the second time, after the freezing of the budget support in 2015 following the banking fraud.

Democratic Party – loser or winner?

Being unable to import a positive image from its direct relations with the EU after the recent worsening of the dialogue (IPN, September 18, 2018), the Democratic Party uses the introduction of the European course in the Constitution as a generator of association with the EU. The government’s motivation to exploit this initiative is diverse and is focused on multiple electoral aspects.

First of all, the European integration embraces both positive ideas and experiences with which large sections of society automatically and voluntarily associate themselves. The latest polls point to a revitalization of the European predisposition among Moldovans (See Table below). That’s why the government does nothing but make use of a free political asset that other parties cannot or do not want to capitalize on the same way.


Table. Geopolitical options of the population, 2017-2018, %



Pro-Eurasian Economic Union

June 2018



Feb. 2018



Oct. 2017



March 2017



Source: IRI. org


The second thing derives from the DPM’s wish to diminish the presence of the opposition trusted by the EU in the future legislature. For these reasons, regardless of the result of the referendum planned by the government, the opposition risks being struck frontally or laterally. But the direction of DPM’s actions will depend on the result of the interpretation that will come from the Constitutional Court. If the Court allows holding a plebiscite on the election day (IPN, October 20, 2018), contrary to the current ban that prohibits the holding of referendums 60 days before and after the elections, the government will manage to impose a difficult dilemma on the pro-EU opposition. On the one hand, the opposition will be attentive as to the boycotting of the referendum by the model of the one on the dismissal of Dorin Chirtoacă (of November 2017), as it can discourage the voters’ participation in the elections held simultaneously with the referendum. On the other hand, the leaders of the opposition will have to promote active participation in the vote. This indirectly can contribute to the success of the referendum. The same principle applies to the pro-Russian parties, except for the fact that they will call on the Moldovans to vote against the attachment of the European course to the Constitution.

Thirdly, the parties that oppose the government involuntarily have to distance themselves from the pro-European rhetoric that was undertaken by force by DPM and its partners. The pro-EU political forces weren’t able to absorb the whole pro-European potential of the voters earlier too  (IPN, December 18, 2017). Owing to the Democrats‘ acts, new groups of voters will either neutralize the geopolitical preferences or will refrain from active policy as no party embraces the European aspirations in an authentic and exhaustive way. There are yet no signals showing that the ruling party can change its mind, even if the pro-EU sympathies in society will be affected. The DPM’s key interest is to use any means to keep power after 2019.

Extraparliamentary opposition’s dilemma

Additionally weakened by the refusal to review the Constitution, the parliamentary opposition does not have real chances to remain in big politics after the elections of February 2019. Unlike this, the extraparliamentary opposition can use the government’s despair and the weakness of the LDPM and LP to strengthen itself.

How to treat the idea of reviewing the Constitution – positively, negatively or neutrality – will be the main dilemma for the PAS and PPPDA during the next few months.

The positive version would mean that both of the parties approve the referendum, but explicitly detach themselves from having any future cooperation with Vladimir Plahotniuc’s Democratic. Neither PAS nor the PPPDA could condition the amendment of the Constitution by the introduction of the Romanian language. Or, these parties are now not interested in assuming the ‘unionist agenda’ (pro-reunification with Romania) for which the LDPM and LP struggle. But Maia Sandu and Andrei Năstase can impose other conditions that would offer them time and maneuvering space, if the Constitutional Court allows combining the parliamentary elections and the constitutional referendum.

In the case of a negative approach, together with the LDPM, the two extraparliamentary parties refuse to offer any support for the eventual referendum. For this scenario, the two parties should precisely determine if a negativist rhetoric or call to boycott will not hit their own voters, favoring more the Democrats together with the Socialists.

Apparently, the opposition forces can also adopt a neutral approach, but this will mean that the DPM could manipulate the socio-political context without encountering any resistance on the part of the real opposition. Evidently, the opposition has multiple files that it can use to criticize the government’s policy, but this will not replace its absence from public discussions on the necessity of including or not the European course in the Constitution. Consequently, the Democrats and the Socialists will be practically the only forces engaged in geopolitical debates that contain high efficiency in overall efforts to influence the electoral behavior of Moldovans.

Instead of conclusion...

Based on the political game around a referendum, the government can manage to review the Constitution and to assume a major political victory. Doing this, it will benefit from at least the massive “geopoliticization” of elections, given that the Socialists and Igor Dodon will be forced to openly attack the European course.

The opposition will be obliged to assume a role in the future debates on the revision of the Constitution. Otherwise, this risks being excluded from the public discourse that will determine the electoral disposition of the Moldovans.

Even if the holding of a referendum on the parliamentary elections day seems to be against the current legislation, the Constitutional Court can come up again with innovatory interpretations that would ensure new instruments for the government. An eventual referendum could bring electoral benefits to the PDM, but this could simultaneously augment the politicization of the European agenda and distancing from structural and sustainable reforms, either in case of a successful or failed referendum.

Dionis Cenuşa


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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