Moldova. A New Game Change
BSSB.BE jamestown.org 15.03.2016
*A game changing Constitutional Court decision
Announced on a Friday afternoon (March 4) before a four-day holiday weekend, took much of the Moldovan political establishment, expert community and the broader public by surprise. Voters will now be able to elect the country’s president directly.
- The ruling turned back the clock to the year 2000, canceling amendments to the Constitution approved over a decade and a half ago that empowered the national legislature to elect the head of state.
- The Court cited procedural violations during the Constitutional reform of 2000 as grounds for its decision (Constcourt.md, March 4). Namely, at that time, the parliament adopted a modified version of the amendments that had been approved by the Constitutional Court.
- Hence, the Court’s authority to sign off on draft Constitutional amendments was partially infringed upon. This time around, it was the Court that completely sidelined the parliament by, effectively, reintroducing direct presidential elections with no input from the legislature whatsoever.
Even though the decision is highly popular—89 percent of Moldovans support direct presidential elections (Iri.org, September 29–October 21, 2015; Realitatea, November 10, 2015)—the ruling is controversial as it further undermines the legitimacy of the Constitutional Court in light of extreme judicial activism during the past several years.
- Victor Pușcaș, expressed disbelief, while constitutional expert Alexandru Arsene called it an outright abuse of power (Europalibera.org, March 4).
- Whereas, another former Constitutional Court judge and leading scholar Nicolae Osmochescu welcomed the decision, but he struggled to answer what kind of system Moldova has now, saying that the public should care less about the purely academic discussions regarding parliamentary versus presidential systems (Europalibera.org, March 4).
- Court Chairman Alexandru Tanase, on the other hand, explained on a primetime political talk show that the country remains a parliamentary republic despite direct presidential elections, since the president does not gain any new powers (Agora.md, March 4). Romanian political analyst Sorin Ioniță’s reaction probably best encapsulates the event: “the Constitutional Court has taken a mind-boggling decision of such magnitude and creativity that it is unprecedented in Europe” (Independent.md, March 4).
Who is in the game :
- Liberal-Democrats, who had originally submitted the case for constitutional review, heralded the ruling as a fulfillment of their campaign promise (Agora.md, March 4). Lib-Dems may also benefit by having their party leader, former prime minister Vlad Filat, released from pre-trial detention if he decides to run for president, which will give him immunity for the time of the campaign, provided that he is not convicted before then.
- Socialists are probably the biggest winners, as their leader, Igor Dodon, is the default frontrunner in the looming presidential race; Our Party leader Renato Usatii, the actual frontrunner according to polling data, is ineligible on account of being under the age of 40. To add insult to injury, Usatii and his party stand to lose the most since if early parliamentary elections were called—which is now no longer in the cards—
Our Party would have likely won a plurality of seats in the next parliament. Curiously, Dodon initially welcomed the ruling as a vindication of protesters’ demands (Deschide.md, March 4). However, the next day, his fellow colleague, Socialist parliamentarian Bogdan Tirdea, questioned the Constitutional Court’s decision, calling it an anti-constitutional coup.
- Another leading contender for the would-be presidential race, Andrei Nastase, the leader of the Civic Action Platform Party, welcomed the decision, claiming it as a success of the civic movement he had helped mobilize, which has collected about 500,000 signatures for a referendum on that particular issue (Independent.md, March 4).
- Democrats, in the words of Parliamentary Speaker Andrian Candu, conveniently presented the decision as evidence for the lack of state capture (Realitatea.md, March 4). Yet, his colleague Dumitru Diacov questioned the legitimacy of the new ruling. Diacov, the honorary chairman of the Democratic Party, served as speaker of parliament in 2000 and had mastermind the constitutional reform that originally replaced direct presidential elections with an election by the legislature.
- Another strong presidential candidate Maia Sandu welcomed the news, but emphasized the lack of trust toward Moldovan state institutions, including the Court (Agora.md, March 5). Ironically, only the Communists and the Liberals voiced immediate concerns about the ruling.
Both parties lack a feasible candidate for the race. Communists express concern about the legitimacy of the ruling, whereas the Liberals say they worry that voters could be manipulated and corrupted (Pcrm.md, March 5; Independent.md, March 4).
In light of how the decision to reinstate direct presidential elections was made, but also depending on how the campaign goes and who is elected Moldova’s next head of state, direct popular legitimacy can be both a blessing and a curse. The country is likely to face a destabilizing power struggle between the legislature and the new president, particularly if the presumed frontrunner, the pro-Russian Igor Dodon, frames his campaign as a referendum on Moldova’s pro-European course.
Finally, if Moldova’s recent political history is any indication, Speaker Candu’s hopes for an election of a “visionary president” may be futile (Candu.md, March 5). Also, his attempts at downplaying concerns over state capture are disingenuous. If anything, a thorough analysis of developments in Moldova stimulates more not fewer questions of that nature.
Euroscepticism Nations History
- winstonchurchill.org/ – The Truth of “Iron Curtain Speech” – This speech was delivered on 19 May 1986 to the Friends of the Memorial, New York City Branch. When he spoke of the “Iron Curtain” that had descended from “Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic,” Winston Churchill was acknowledging and announcing a truth which so many in the West were so unwilling to admit – the onset of the Cold War. So powerful was the phrase.
- capx.co – A re-divided Germany – Bavarian Governor Horst Seehofer has been extremely critical of Chancellor Merkel’s approach to the refugee crisis. In a SPIEGEL interview, he talks about limiting migration, his relationship with Merkel and why he is upset with the German media. “I am just soberly describing reality. You can run away from reality for a time because it doesn’t fit into your political world view. But then the people will run away from us.”
- icds.ee/ – Baltic Area. Goal for Poland – The Baltic region is an important part of Polish foreign policy. Poland’s member ship in these organisations is the foundation of its security and economic growth. The last few years have seen a gradual strengthening of Poland’s role in European and Euro.
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