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Public Discussion: Broad consensus in Moldovan society: necessity and possibility
on the organization of the debate “Broad consensus in Moldovan society: necessity and possibility”. Developing Political Culture through Public Debates”. Public debates series held by the news agency IPN in its conference room with the support of the German Foundation “Hanns Seidel”
Held on 4 July 2017, Debate 74 brought together MP Valeriu Ghilețchi of the People’s European Group; Valeriu Munteanu, vice president of the Liberal Party; Vladimir Bolea, member of the Action and Solidarity Party; Sergiu Ostaf, director of the Human Rights Resource Center CReDO; Igor Boțan, director of the Association for Participatory Democracy ADEPT; and Victor Juc, deputy director of the Moldovan Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Legal and Politican Research, acting as the debate’s main expert. Although promising to attend, Socialist MP Grigore Novac didn’t show up, and the Democratic Party ignored the invitation altogether.
This topic was chosen in light of the recent recommendations made by the Venice Commission regarding the controversial mixed electoral system bill, which is perhaps the main hot button on the political agenda now. The ‘broad consensus’ recommendation is in fact the only one leaving so much room for interpretation, leading to further disputes between the promoters and opponents of this electoral reform. While advocates claim that consensus has indeed been achieved in Parliament as well as among the broader public, and that the limit of consensus has been reached, opponents argue that consensus has only been feigned, and this means that further debate, honest and fair, is needed to settle the issue.
This debate’s selection of speakers includes both political actors and representatives of relevant civil society organizations.
So broad consensus is considered a prerequisite for changing the electoral system. But is consensus attainable at all given the profound polarization of the political class and the public at large along so many lines?
In this context, Victor Juc, vice director of the Institute of Legal and Political Research of the Academy of Sciences of Moldova, said the problem of a broad or narrow consensus has never been on the agenda of the day in Moldova, while the decisions were taken based on representative democracy mechanisms in Parliament. Consensus generally means that everyone agrees with a particular decision that is to be adopted and implemented, but such an approach is typical of totalitarian regimes.
He noted that in a democratic regime, it is harder to achieve consensus because this is based on the promotion of pluralism of opinions. “This fact does not mean that consensus in a democratic regime cannot exist, but the most important thing resides in the plenary assumption of democratic values given that these exist as a state and as a process. They wanted not a consensus, but a large social and political majority to exist in Moldova, but this formulation is interpretable because the opinions can be different and everyone has the right of option,” said the edition’s expert.
Valeriu Giletski, a member of the European People’s Party parliamentary group, said actions should be taken to achieve a broad consensus on the electoral system change and some of these actions are underway and enable to discuss many aspects of this reform. He underlined the necessity of a correct information campaign given that the people want the change, but not everyone knows what kind of change they want. The discussions between political parties are also important, while the consensus will be ultimately achieved through the vote in Parliament, where the final decision is taken. “I think discussions are needed to achieve a broad consensus and I call on those from outside Parliament to submit proposals for improving the bill for the second reading so that we have an equitable law,” stated Valeriu Giletski.
The Liberal Party’s deputy chairman Valeriu Munteanu noted that in practical terms, the consensus mentioned by the Venice Commission is represented only by the PDM and PSRM and the electoral system change is wanted only by the PDM, while the PSRM pleads for the same cause under pressure and is now trying to find sufficient arguments to refuse to vote in favor in the second reading because the keeping of the current electoral system is more advantageous to the Socialists than its replacement. It is not yet clear if the bill will be put to the vote in the second reading before the end of the current parliamentary session. “There are a lot of amendments and the people do not want to take part in discussions. A number of questions appear as a result. In parallel with political cruising, this is something very negative and counterproductive for the consolidation of the rule of law,” stated Valeriu Munteanu
Director of the Resource Center for Human Rights Sergiu Ostaf said consensus can be achieved as a result of a constant negotiation process and it is important that the sides that want to reach or to build a consensus become involved in this process. “I think the consensus mentioned in the Venice Commission’s opinion refers to all aspects concerned. Consensus is also required in the negotiations on all the technical and legal recommendations and proposals. And this process of building a broad consensus actually refers not only to the achievement of a solution or another, but to the whole range of proposals, from all the players,” stated Sergiu Ostaf.
Vladimir Bolea, the representative of PAS, said the party he represents does not take part in the discussions organized by the government because the PDM and PSRM simulate them and, if the electoral system change is voted, the PAS does not want to form part of the circus called discussions with the opposition. The discussions on the electoral system change should last for at least two years and the debates with society should be based on truthful informing, not untruthful informing as now. “We witness an all-embracing lie and extraordinary manipulation of society. Therefore, we cannot become involved in this game of the power. Therefore, both at national and foreign levels, we say that we have nothing to discuss with this fully nondemocratic system. If we took part in discussions, we would legalize a nondemocratic process, but they want us to take part so as to put a mark on the paper,” stated Vladimir Bolea. He added that society wants the political class to be changed and knows the names of those who should replace the current politicians.
Igor Botan, executive director of the Association for Participatory Democracy ADEPT, said he is not against the replacement of the current electoral system, but this change should not be made now because the Transnistrian conflict hasn’t been resolved and the territorial administrative reform hasn’t been completed. The replacement of the electoral system and voting in single-mandate constituencies now would be in favor of the two rich parties only. “Both the leader of the PDM and the leader of the PSRM have behind foundations that distribute baskets with food products to the population nationwide,” he stated, wondering if those without foundations will take part in elections and if it’s fair to adopt such approaches in the political process of influencing people’s decisions.
“Surely, it is suitable for those who are rich. But I cannot understand why the Democrats pave the way for the Socialists’ victory? Igor Dodon already has 45% of the vote. What goal does the PDM pursue by paving the way for the PSRM’s victory? I have questions, but this can mean that the elections will not be free and fair. If I reach such a point, I have to oppose as a person who deals with electoral systems,” stated Igor Botan.
The Agency published 7 news stories on the debate (see the English version of www.ipn.md): on 05.07.17, “Consensus is necessary, but cannot be easily achieved, IPN debate” - http://www.ipn.md/en/integrare-europeana/84878; “Igor Botan: They suggest reaching consensus so as to see who ultimately loses - PDM or PSRM” - http://www.ipn.md/en/integrare-europeana/84879; “Vladimir Bolea: Ruling parties simulate discussions on electoral system change” - http://www.ipn.md/en/politica/84880; “Victor Juc: Political consensus is impossible if social cohesion is absent” - http://www.ipn.md/en/integrare-europeana/84881; “Valeriu Munteanu: Venice Commission’s appraisal is political-legal in character” - http://www.ipn.md/en/politica/84882; “Attempt to replace electoral system polarizes society, MP” - http://www.ipn.md/en/politica/84883; “Sergiu Ostaf: Moldova experiences foreign interference that amplifies polarization” - http://www.ipn.md/en/integrare-europeana/84884.
IPN promoted the debate before and after the event, in particular the ensuing news stories, using all the available channels, including social networks. Confirmatory materials of deliverables, as well as a media coverage dossier are attached.
Valeriu Vasilica, director of IPN
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