The ruling party is changing the country’s electoral system to suit its needs, using claims of democracy and European integration as a cover
As you know, climbing the mountain is often much easier than staying atop. As in politics, it is not enough to win an election, but it is much more important to retain power in the future. In countries with developed democracies, the winning political force tries to fulfill its election promises and improve people’s lives.
As usual, we go our own way. On the one hand, PAS perfectly understands the principle I described. Its new leader this year, Igor Grosu, has more than openly named party’s three main objectives for the next four years: to win local, presidential and parliamentary elections. On the other hand, the pro-Europeans intend to achieve these objectives not by ensuring the interests of citizens, but through all sorts of tricks. The mono-majority in Parliament allows them to do this easily.
The year of PAS rule has clearly shown that it is rebuilding the state system to serve its own interests. All of the country’s top leaders are from the “yellow team”. Their own people infiltrate key positions in government departments and key agencies. The prosecutor’s office is also controlled by the authorities. The political field is slowly being cleared of the most prominent oppositionists. The media field is “transformed” so that not a single critical assessment or alternative opinion can sneak into it.
So it was only a matter of time before the ruling party got hold of one of the key democratic institutions, namely, the elections. Last September, the CEC announced that it would revise the country’s electoral legislation. This year they presented a draft of quite sweeping changes. It has already been voted on in the parliament in the first reading by PAS deputies alone, which is not hard to guess. The Socialists and Communists spoke out against it, while the SOR members were no longer in the hall at the time of the vote. The government promises that by the time of final adoption, which is expected sometime in October, the amendments will have undergone “extensive public debate”, but it is unlikely to change their essence.
The authorities, starting to amend the Electoral Code, reasoned it by the need to bring the electoral legislation in line with the best European norms, with all amendments supposedly aligned with the international structures’ recommendations. That this is largely a deception is evident from the electoral threshold remaining touched. At present, it is 7% for electoral blocs, 5% for parties, and 2% for independent candidates. This, of course, is not as bad as in Vlad Plahotniuc’s mixed electoral system, but it obviously falls short of European practices. For example, in 2007, PACE recommended that the threshold be set no higher than 3%. And this is not the limit: for example, it makes 2% in developed Denmark, and only 0,67% in the Netherlands.
Obviously, the lower the “passing score”, the wider and fairer the representation in the main legislative body. How important is this? For instance, at the final pre-term elections of last year almost 15% of our citizens votes for a non-passable party or bloc were “annulled”. In this case, clearly, the number of mandates of the parties that passed would have been much lower. So it is quite understandable why PAS decided to turn a blind eye to this moment – for it’s democratic, but not profitable.
But the CEC itself has not been left it untouched. The number of its members will be reduced from nine to seven, they will be made permanent, and the method of staffing will radically change. Now one CEC member is appointed by the president and eight by the parliament, based on proportional representation. That is, the commission must include people from the opposition notwithstanding. Here is what is proposed instead: the president appoints one member and the Government, the High Council of Magistracy and the Parliament two members each. Doesn’t this remind you of, say, the ACC (Audiovisual Coordination Council)? So soon the CEC will also fall under PAS’ control, being staffed only by loyal and reporting members.
Back to “high democratic standards”. The amendments specify that from now on ballot papers will be printed only in Romanian, while “minority languages”, including Russian, will be used only for supporting information materials. Is it something that provides additional protection to the rights of all the country’s citizens or, on the contrary, tramples them? In the last elections, by the way, almost 700,000 out of a total circulation of 3.6 million ballots were in Russian – just for the authorities to take that on notice.
Meanwhile, the authors of the amendments decided not to mention Gagauzia at all, which prompted the autonomy’s justified disapproval. Its National Assembly tried to promote a draft that secured five parliamentary seats for the ATU, but the authorities arrogantly rejected it. The argument was simple – granting seats only to Gagauzia would be unfair to other national minorities living in Moldova. Maybe so, but we seem to have only one autonomy... As usual, out of a pile of options, the authorities choose the most stupid and perilous one. And now the Gagauzians are actually threatening that, should their opinion be not heeded, they will boycott the next presidential and parliamentary elections. As you see, the ground for another internal political conflict was created out of nowhere. And this at a time when relations between the center and the autonomy are already strained, to put it mildly.
Also, there are questions to paragraphs stipulating that in some polling stations the CEC may decide to allow voting to last more than one day, which is immediately seen as room for various manipulations. And, of course, there is a provision that actually will allow even more polling stations to be opened for the diaspora – the main pillar of the ruling party in previous elections.
Yet, the “final argument of kings” could be the e-voting system. There are plans to test it in next year’s municipal elections, and it will definitely be “up and running” by the time the national elections are held. I can only imagine what fraud opportunities will open up before the ruling party, given that the entire political system of the country is in their hands, and Western partners will surely turn a blind eye to any, even the most egregious, violations.