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Public Discussion: Solutions to the crisis following invalidation of Chisinau elections
on the organization of the debate “Solutions to the crisis following invalidation of Chisinau elections”, the 92nd installment of the “Developing Political Culture through Public Debates” Series, held by IPN with the support of the German Foundation “Hanns Seidel”
Held on 25 July 2018, Debate 92 brought together the following experts: Anatol Țãranu; professor Nicolae Osmochescu, retired Constitutional Court judge; Sergiu Ostaf, CreDO executive director; Pavel Posticã, Promo-Lex program director; Valeri Demidechi, journalist; and Igor Boțan, the Project’s standing expert;
This unprecedented case of invalidation of mayoral elections in Chisinau on highly controversial grounds has puzzled the entire society and political class and a lot of effort is still needed to clarify the reasons and find solutions. Despite being expected to be the most concerned about the situation, politicians largely ignored this invitation for a discussion which offers a venue for all existing points of view. Invitations were sent to the political parties PDM, PSRM, PPEM, PLDM, PAS and PPDA. Of all, only PPEM and PLDM representatives confirmed in earnest, while others were hesitant or outright refused communication. This is why this time we decided to invite over to IPN several of the best experts here in Moldova to throw light on this very complex issue and propose potential solutions.
The standing expert of IPN’s project Igor Botan said there is a problem related to society’s concern that the election invalidation situation could repeat. Solutions to this problem are being looked for. It is believed that there are legislative solutions, related to the interpretation of the Election Code’s norms concerning electoral agitation. “There is also another solution-proposal according to which the Constitutional Court could interpret partial notions and could swiftly, elegantly and easily remove any fear that such things could happen in the future,” he stated. According to Igor Botan, there is a bigger political problem related to the dissatisfaction existing in society, among the opposition parties and citizens who protest. Moldova’s relations with the EU are another problem and the resolution adopted by the European Parliament on July 5 this year confirms this and underscores a number of questions. The people’s will is the basis of the state power. This will is expressed by free and fair elections. “For the citizens of the Republic of Moldova, with their political culture, and for the development partners, the elections are a crucial moment because they help realize the people’s will. A mistake was made here and things thus degraded dramatically,” concluded Igor Botan.
Expert Anatol Taranu said the state of democracy in Moldova is critical and there are few experts who could say precisely how things will develop further. In politics, all the moments - legal, legislative, political - are important, but the political interest always prevails. The politicians are always guided by interest. “The answer to the question why the Chisinau mayoral elections were invalidated should be looked for in the sphere of the political interest, which made some of the political players generate this solution. I think those who ordered this legal decision were aware of all the risks and losses that result from such a decision. They ultimately insisted on this scenario and I think it happened because the interest in this scenario was overwhelming and beat all the other risks provoked by this decision,” stated the expert. Society has to only try and understand what that overwhelming interest that prevailed over all the other things was. It is absolutely evident that the solution that was applied in the case of the local elections can turn into a universal one for the electoral system of the Republic of Moldova. “This danger exists and for now nothing shows that this was a single example and we will not experience such risks in the future,” stated Anatol Taranu.
University lecturer Nicolae Osmochescu, ex-judge of the Constitutional Court, said what is stipulated now in the Constitution, the Election Code and other ordinary laws enable to appropriately organize and hold elections. The way in which the norms were interpreted and how a penalty was imposed are a problem. “In this case, all the three courts penalized not the participants in the competition, but the about 300,000 voters who took part in the elections, depriving them of their fundamental political right to choose and be chosen. What happened showed that a norm that didn’t even materialize in the law system and the case law of the Republic of Moldova was interpreted erroneously, extensively,” he stated, adding something like this happened in Europe and probably globally too for the first time as there were no cases when the elections were invalidated for such reasons and with such arguments.
Executive director of the Resource Center for Human Rights Sergiu Ostaf said problems exist in politics and these involve not only political players, but also other players who manifest themselves actively and aggressively in the public sphere. There could be a combination of interests. “We definitely have a political problem. This affects the legitimacy of the electoral institution and we should all be bothered, especially from the perspective of the future impact. There is also a legislative or legal problem as ,in a democracy based on law, there are exact and clear rules that limit the manifestation and influencing of the interest of politicians or other players. If there hadn’t been these ambiguous methods of interpreting the law or a multitude of solutions that can be left to the discretion of those who apply the law, there would have been less space for exerting influence available to different players,” he stated. According to Ostaf, there is also a problem in the interpretation of laws, in the judicial area, as, even if there is an ambiguous law, the judges form a practice that prevails over ambiguity.
Pavel Postica, programs director at Promo-Lex Association, said the supreme legislative body is to blame for what happened. “We have a Constitutional Court judgment of 2016 that obliges Parliament to bring the electoral legislation in order and there are six requests in this regard. Regrettably, even if the legislation clearly provides that these requests were to be satisfied within three months, most of them are directly related to what happened in Chisinau, including the solving of electoral disputes, organized transpiration of voters or electoral agitation on the day of elections. Then the Constitutional Court pointed out particular problems, noting that these should be solved,” he stated. According to Pavel Postica, the judicial system made a mistake and seems to be following an incorrect direction when it is about such a negative phenomenon as selective justice. “We have a problem with the proportional application of punishment and here Parliament should determine who was actually penalized – the candidate who was elected and wasn’t invested or the voters who took part in the elections?”, he said, adding the Central Election Commission’s decision to end the electoral process that should have continued until the election of the mayor is worrisome.
Journalist Valery Demidetskii wondered if the same situation would have been witnessed if the runoffs had involved independent candidate Silvia Radu. According to him, the Constitution during the past few years has been turned into a convenient instrument. There were adopted decisions that were convenient to politicians and all the rules were created based on their interests. “Now that the country is governed by forces called democratic, we see that the Constitution and other laws are disregarded and such a situation could continue for a year, two or three because the current conjuncture allows for this,” he stated.
The Agency published 7 news stories on the debate (see the English version of www.ipn.md): on 25.07.18, „Solutions to crisis situation generated by invalidation of Chisinau mayoral elections, IPN debate” - http://ipn.md/en/special/92593; on 26.06.18, „Valerii Demidetskii: Constitution was transformed into a convenient instrument” - http://ipn.md/en/special/92606; „Sergiu Ostaf: Ambiguous interpretation of legislation allows different players to exert influence” - http://ipn.md/en/special/92602; „Pavel Postica: Election invalidation situation can be overcome by improving legislation” - http://ipn.md/en/special/92600; „Igor Botan: There is concern that election invalidation situation will repeat” - http://ipn.md/en/special/92597; „Nicolae Osmochescu: It’s time to empower CC to validate local elections too” - http://ipn.md/en/integrare-europeana/92607; „Anatol Taranu: Political factor can be normalized by upper-level reform or by revolution” - http://ipn.md/en/integrare-europeana/92601.
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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Public Discussion: Post-electoral scenarios in view of experts in political sciences, electoral systems and sociology