The Constitutional Court (CC) passed a judgment that gives the go-ahead for the appearance of regional parties in the Republic of Moldova. Such a possibility could be used by the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia, where this subject has been discussed for decades. The participation of the local political forces in the struggle for power at the national level could modify the political landscape in the country. The quality of the future changes could depend on the potential and maturity of the regional elite.
Liberalization of legislation
The CC judgment was passed on February 25 following a request made by the initiative group that two years ago presented the documents for registering the party “For People, Nature and Animals” and that met with refusal because it didn’t meet particular conditions specified in the Law on Parties. The law stipulates the obligation for a party to have representative offices in at least half of the districts and at least 4,000 members. These norms were dismissed by the CC as unconstitutional.
The judgment says the legal effects of the decision will start to be applied on July 31, 2020. If Parliament until then does not amend the Law on Parties to include the new changes, the competent department will register the new parties in accordance with the current legislation, expect for the provisions that were declared unconstitutional.
In essence, the CC judgment liberalized the legislation concerning political parties. Even if the legislation does not contain the notion of “regional party” and the Court’s judgment also says nothing about such parties, the exclusion of the aforementioned criteria as mandatory conditions for founding a party points to the fact that theoretically, new groups could be set up by the inhabitants of a district or a town. Which can be the consequences and should the territorial political activities be treated as a threat?
Do parties in Bălți, Comrat and Tiraspol mean separatism?
There is an opinion that is shared in particular by the authors of an article from the publication Time, that the regional parties can cause separatist processes in specific districts.
“Moldova, being a country that faces separatism, cannot allow regional parties to appear. Since this restriction was eliminated, we must be ready that we will have regional parties of Comrat, Bălți, Tiraspol represented in the future Parliament,” said the authors.
The article does not explain how the participation of parties from Bălți or Comrat in the political life of the country correlates with the danger of separatism. We can presume that such fears are generated by the profound regional self-identification (at least in the case of Gagauz-Yeri) and the electoral particularities of these regions. But it would be wrong to treat political heterogeneity and separatism as something equal.
As reasonable is the argument about Tiraspol as we see that this is in favor of regional parties if we analyze it more attentively. The separatism of Transnistria is a reality, not a danger, as the publication Time says. If Transnistria, as a separatist region, agrees to take part in the political life of the Republic of Moldova, this would mean recognition by local politicians of Moldova’s laws and integration of the political institutions from the left side of the Nistru into the Moldovan political system.
In general, the position of the opponents of the regionalization of the political life is rather weak. Among experts, the issue was examined thoroughly and most of the conclusions were in favor of the regional parties. They also take into account the liberal practice of the European countries and the necessity of reintegrating Transnistria. Moreover, Gagauzia can respond to the eventual fears with its own experience of regional parties that worked until the Law on Parties was amended in 1998. For example, the People’s Party “Vatan” (motherland, e.n.) and the People’s Party of Gagauz-Yeri took part in the political events in the country and the region without their activity targeting disintegration somehow.
Development or crisis
The problem of foundation of such parties exists, but its importance resides in something else. Are the regional elites ready to create such bodies? Executive director of the public association “Piligrim-Demo” Mihail Sirkeli noted the passive role of the Gagauz politicians in the episode concerning the CC judgment.
“The CC took a very important decision that I hope will invigorate the political landscape. It’s a pity that the given decision was initiated not in Gagauz-Yeri. However, this does not undermine its importance. It simply points to the absence of a political class in Gagauzia,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
As a matter of fact, the possibility for regional parties to work legally does not matter so much. What matters is the society’s interest in the given activity, the maturity of the financial and local political elites, their capacity to lobby for the interests of local communities at national level. Currently, there are no large public movements in Gagauz-Yeri or in the rest of Moldova, except for Chisinau, which could become regional parties able to fulfill their duties better than the national parties. If the diversification of the new system is reduced to the situation when the cheating of voters and the primitive political practices switch over from national political figures to regional ones, the party system will not follow the path to development, but will enter a crisis accompanied by the loss of people’s confidence that would be amplified by political disintegration.
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.