Referendum inflation. Op-Ed by Victor Pelin

The referendum proposed by the former governor of Gagauzia, on the neutrality of the Republic of Moldova, most likely, as Irina Vlah says, will take place anyway... The referendum initiated by Renato Usatyi cannot take place in principle... As for the referendum proposed by President Maia Sandu, it is impossible to say anything concrete until the text of the constitutional amendments is published.”

Contagious initiatives

Currently, we have a unique situation in Moldova. In the last three months, exactly three initiatives have been launched to hold various referendums. By all appearances, President Maia Sandu’s initiative of December 24, 2023 to hold a referendum on the strategic goal – the Republic of Moldova’s European integration – proved to be contagious. The other two initiatives are, in fact, responses to the initiative of the head of state. In this respect, what should be noted is that all three initiatives have, for now, very vague outlines. It seems that, for now, even the protagonists of the referendum initiatives do not know exactly how the questions that citizens would answer in the announced referendums should be formulated.

It is certain that many politicians believe that the Republic of Moldova’s national priorities are different from those highlighted by the head of state. Respectively, on January 10, 2024, the former governor of Gagauzia and leader of the “Moldova Platform”, Irina Vlah, gave a press conference to change the emphasis from the European integration to the need to confirm by referendum the neutrality status of the Republic of Moldova. In this regard, Irina Vlah pleaded for a referendum on the confirmation of the neutrality status to be held simultaneously with the eventual referendum on the European integration.

On the other hand, for the former mayor of Balti municipality and leader of Our Party (PN), Renato Usatyi, the priority is to change the government. In this regard, on February 28, 2024, he made a public statement in which he called for the organization of snap parliamentary elections in order to save the Republic of Moldova. A few days later, on March 4, 2024, Renato Usatyi provided explanations regarding his further actions: “I have prepared the letter that I will submit to President Maia Sandu and to all the parliamentary groups so that they initiate a consultative referendum on snap parliamentary elections and on whether Maia Sandu should resign... The arguments for this consultative referendum are the economic crisis and the chaos experienced by the Republic of Moldova over the past three years... The latest polls show that about 70% of the respondents want snap elections."

For the sake of truth, it should be noted that the PN leader’s approach is, in fact, the evocation of his own initiative, launched as an ultimatum back on January 19, 2023, when he insisted that snap parliamentary elections be held on the same day as the general local elections, scheduled for November 2023. Currently, the innovative element is that the snap parliamentary elections should be provoked by the citizens’ wish, expressed in a referendum, which he intends to initiate. 

Referendum – ritual to confirm well-known attitudes

According to the legislation, the initiation of any type of referendum implies the Parliament’s support for its conduct. From this perspective, we have already convinced ourselves that both the majority parliamentary group and the opposition ignored the request of the former governor of Gagauzia, meaning that no one showed interest in holding a referendum on the neutrality of the Republic of Moldova. Under the mentioned circumstances, Irina Vlah preferred to remain just a kind of provider of ideas, giving up the implementation of her own approach through a popular initiative. However, she was optimistic, saying that the referendum on the confirmation of neutrality would take place someday anyway.

Renato Usatyi, along with his mates, is close to being disappointed by the impossibility of realizing his intention. In this regard, on March 26, 2024, the documents necessary for the registration of the initiative group for collecting at least 100,000 signatures of citizens entitled to vote were submitted to the Central Election Commission (CEC). It is not yet known how exactly the referendum question is formulated, but from the public statements of the former mayor of Balti we learned that the question would be formulated as follows: Do you want snap parliamentary elections?”, with the answer “YES” and “NO”. The problem here is that, according to the Constitution, “the people can express, by referendum, their will on matters of national interest,” not their desire. The point is that the difference between will and desire is fundamental. The first is a voluntary, conscious act of a subject who knows exactly what he wants to achieve. The second is an inner acknowledgment of a need, which can cause satisfaction or neuroses to the desiring people.

In fact, the referendums that the former governor of Gagauzia and the ex-mayor of Balti municipality want to initiate pursue ritual purposes, confirming existing realities or well-known things. In this regard, Irina Vlah wants additional confirmation, in a referendum, of the neutrality status, which is expressly established in Article 11 of the Constitution. In his turn, Renato Usatyi wants confirmation at the referendum, on a national sample of 2.8 million voters, of the results of opinion polls, which certify, on a sample of about 1,000 people, at a price that is about a thousand times lower than that of an eventual referendum, that 70% of the respondents want snap parliamentary elections.

Delayed and incomplete clarifications

It’s true that for about three months, the citizens had known nothing about Maia Sandu’s initiative - either it went to a consultative referendum or to one to amend the Constitution. Therefore, perplexity appeared as it is obvious that a consultative referendum on European integration can only have the value of a ritual act of compliance with the results of multiple polls, which certify that about 60% of the citizens who are permanently on the territory of the Republic of Moldova want to join the European Union. Indeed, in her address to the citizens on December 24, 2023, Maia Sandu said that: “Our future is in the European family and it is necessary to say clearly - the whole country - what path we choose for Moldova. I call on Parliament to initiate the organization of a referendum next autumn, at which the voice of the citizens will be decisive.”

It was only on March 18,2024 that we learned that Parliament was asked to hold a constitutional referendum: “This autumn we have to go through a turning point - the referendum will substantiate in the Constitution our decision to build peace, welfare and freedom at home”. There was also the explanation regarding the three-month clarification break, which was due to the need to consult representatives of different social segments, with 20 rounds of consultations having been held. Even so, the problem of the text of the constitutional amendments proposed for referendum remains absolutely unclarified so far. Even though the procedures for amending the Constitution were tested in 2010, while Article 75 of the Supreme Law expressly states that “the decisions adopted according to the results of the national referendum have supreme legal power”, a number of important issues remain unclarified. In this respect, the main issue concerns the need to hold another referendum after the accession negotiations are completed. As long as we know nothing about the text of the constitutional changes proposed for the autumn referendum, we cannot have an answer to this question.


The referendum proposed by the former governor of Gagauzia, on the neutrality of the Republic of Moldova, most likely, as Irina Vlah says, will take place anyway. This will happen when the majority of citizens decide that it is time to give up the neutrality status of the Republic of Moldova. Otherwise, it makes no sense to organize a ritual act of confirming a clause that is expressly stipulated in the Supreme Law.

The referendum initiated by Renato Usatyi cannot take place in principle. The point is that snap parliamentary elections can only take place following the dissolution of Parliament. The latter has a mandate, offered by voters for a period of four years. The dissolution of Parliament is a punishment that is expressly provided for by the Constitution, being the prerogative of the President of the Republic of Moldova. Moreover, it is the prerogative of the Constitutional Court (CC) to ascertain the circumstances of Parliament’s dissolution. In this connection, it is worth mentioning that over the years, dozens of CC decisions have been adopted on all real and imaginary cases of dissolution of Parliament, the one regarding the manifestation of citizens’ wishes through referendum being beyond imagination. In these circumstances, the PN leader and his mates could consult the recent experience of Slovakia, where the supreme law prohibits in principle the possibility of dissolving the legislative body, while the intention to amend the supreme law to allow the dissolution of Parliament in certain cases, imposed by plausible circumstances, failed. Taking into account the aforementioned, we could assume that at the decision-making level of the CEC already, there will be found a number of well-founded arguments, such as mixing up of desire with will, in order to refuse to register the initiative group for the referendum on holding snap elections.

As for the referendum proposed by President Maia Sandu, it is impossible to say anything concrete until the text of the constitutional amendments is published. In this respect, the delay in the necessary clarifications is unacceptably long. 

Вы используете модуль ADS Blocker .
IPN поддерживается от рекламы.
Поддержи свободную прессу!
Некоторые функции могут быть заблокированы, отключите модуль ADS Blocker .
Спасибо за понимание!
Команда IPN.