The alternative to the peaceful transfer of power could have been a massive destabilization of the situation in Moldova with potential mass clashes and violence. Based on some signals, the Moldovan society was one step away from this scenario and it is important to understand how it was avoided. The reasons, conditions and consequences of the transfer of power, as well as the country’s situation and how this experience can be used in the future, were discussed today by representatives of parliamentary parties who participated in a public debate organized by IPN and Radio Moldova.
Igor Boțan, the IPN Debates’ standing expert, noted: “In a parliamentary regime like ours, the principal public institution is the Parliament of Moldova. The sovereignty of the people rests in Parliament, in the will of the people. In Parliament, majorities are formed which invest a Government, and that Government executes the provisions of the laws, of the Constitution, on a daily basis. For seven times previously this transfer of power took place relatively stably. Perhaps with the exception of what we saw after the April 2009 elections, when a conflict emerged. It was decided to hold snap elections on 29 July 2009, after the failure to elect a president. No problems appeared afterwards, and power was transferred peacefully.”
In his opinion, what happened after the 24 February 2019 elections was due to an antagonization among political forces. “This antagonization caused a break in the relations among political parties, which regretfully weren’t able to discuss normally an arrangement for a parliamentary majority. And so we came to see the Constitutional Court ruling of June 7, which unexpectedly announced that the deadline for investing a Government would expire in just a few hours that day, and the failure to meet it would mean snap elections”. For two weeks afterwards, notes the expert, a duality of power existed, stemming from the series of Constitutional Court rulings issued during June 7-9.
MP Vladimir Cebotari, vice president of the Democratic Party, said that power was in fact transferred peacefully in the period from June 7 to June 14. “This is of course due to the fact that a certain parliamentary majority was created, even if on June 8 that majority was challenged by the Democratic Party. Our party’s position was expressed on June 8-9 and was a logical consequence of the Constitutional Court judgment of June 7, when the court said what some accepted, and others didn’t, that June 7 was in fact the last day when a parliamentary majority could be created and a Government invested”, said Vladimir Cebotari.
According to him, initially the June 7 ruling was accepted by everyone. “We saw the statements made by the Party of Socialists leadership, we saw President Igor Dodon’s statement, we all saw the declaration issued in Parliament and the appeal made by ACUM co-president Maia Sandu. When she urged everybody, and in particular the Socialists, to come in Parliament and form a majority so as to invest a Government, remarking that there were only a few hours left. On June 8, things changed and took a totally different turn. The reasons remain unknown. And I think it wouldn’t be right for me to speak for the Socialists or ACUM, but it’s obvious that on June 8 the Constitutional Court ruling was somehow not acceptable anymore, despite previous statements.”
In his opinion, this caused confusion. “On June 9 already, the Democratic Party saw and analyzed the social and political situation, looking a few steps ahead what the developments might be, and decided to invite everybody to have a conversation. The goal was to discuss the next steps and the peaceful transfer of government. The invitation was publicly formulated on June 10, followed by messages addressed individually to the leaders of different political parties. There were no direct answers, but rather indirect, conveyed through foreign diplomats”, says Vladimir Cebotari. Given that there was no certainty about those talks ever taking place, goes on Cebotari, the PDM convened its national political council and decided unilaterally to withdraw itself from government. This was followed by the resignation of the Filip Cabinet. “Government was left a little bit in a vacuum, because of this constitutional blockage, which could have been avoided had the discussion taken place before the transfer of power”. According to Cebotari, “under political pressure, or political threats, or voluntarily, the Court took an unprecedented decision and revisited its rulings. And from that date the Maia Sandu Government became legitimate and constitutional.”
MP Liviu Vovc (ACUM/DA) said: “in the last few years, Moldova was governed by an organized group that pursued its own narrow interests (...) Let me remind you of the billions of euros of Russian mob money laundered through the so-called Russian Laundromat. Or, more recently, we’ve learned about further smuggling schemes, with amber, with anabolic drugs, with cigarettes. At the same time, people in the government felt free to engage in business takeovers, start criminal proceedings and intimidate opposition leaders. There are people in detention thanks to the previous government. Also, let’s not forget how the Filip Government was invested and how the corrupted parliamentary majority was formed in 2016.”
Liviu Vovc also spoke about the February 2019 elections. “We saw many people being intimidated at local level. We saw administrative resources being used by the government in these elections. And at the same time, we saw public sector employees being forced to attend ‘meetings with citizens’, and later being forced to attend rallies in support of the Democratic Party”, says the MP. In his opinion, the ground was prepared in the legislative elections to repeat the “feat that was pulled” in the Chisinau mayoral election last summer, when the outcome was annulled. “It was not by accident that last winter four Constitutional Court judges were replaced, with three of them being PDM members (...) The master plan was that if something went wrong, the Constitutional Court would be there to block any transfer of power. And that’s exactly what happened. When it became clear that compromise was found in the fight against oligarchy and in the effort to pull the country out of captivity, the Constitutional Court on June 7, in the afternoon, decided that it’s the last day when a majority could be formed,” said Vovc, noting that the ruling was only published, without a proper court sitting being held and without giving all the parties involved the chance to speak out.
In his opinion, all this was done “just so that the previous government could keep its grip on power.” The same day, the Parliament building was surrounded “with the purpose of intimidating other MPs and preventing them from congregating and forming a majority.” “What happened throughout this period was in fact an attempt by the Democratic Party to keep itself in power, and even a parliamentary committee has been set up to elucidate how this was possible, this anti-constitutional coup. I therefore conclude that, regretfully, this time we did not have a peaceful and legal transfer of power, but an attempt to escalate the situation, to create a political crisis. But fortunately the capacity of the political leaders in Parliament was sufficient to prevent bloodshed,” stated Liviu Vovc.
Representatives of the Party of Socialists and of Shor Party were also invited to participate in the debate, but were a no-show.
The public debate titled “Peaceful transfer of power: reasons, conditions and consequences – the domestic factor” is the 111th installment of the “Developing Political Culture through Public Debates” Series held with the support of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.