“Extend or Cancel, that’s the question”. What Will Happen to the State of Emergency Regime in Moldova?

Home / Analytics / “Extend or Cancel, that’s the question”. What Will Happen to the State of Emergency Regime in Moldova?
Christian RUSSU
Apparently, the cancellation of the emergency regime in the country is slowly being prepared. However, until then, the PAS intends to find an adequate replacement for it in order to retain the ability to respond promptly to emergency threats to its power
On Thursday, at a meeting of the Commission for Emergency Situation (CES), the government again asked the parliament to extend the state of emergency in the country. In addition to the motivations that have become commonplace, the attention was drawn to the reduction of its term by half than usual – 30 days. On the one hand, this is an understandable desire to close the calendar year with all the associated administrative aspects, but on the other hand, it may hint at the authorities’ preparation for the cancellation of the state of emergency. For a year and a half, the CES has become a kind of a “lifesaver” for the ruling party, through which many decisions with very dubious legal grounds were legalized. However, the presidential campaign that has actually begun and the possible start of negotiations on accession to the EU will certainly require the abandonment of such a convenient tool. Tentative timelines for a return to normal life vary from early to mid-next year, depending on the EU Council’s decision to formally launch negotiations in spring or summer. However, even if Brussels balks, the ruling party will still need to shed the scandalous baggage of the state of emergency by the summer and portray the country’s transition to a new era of law and order - otherwise voters won’t understand. Therefore, a number of issues that will cause PAS many headaches are already surfacing. Despite the existence of a “tame” parliament, trained to issue any number of laws at the right time, the authorities have got used to the fail-safe tool of the CES with virtually unlimited functionality and have frankly relaxed.  The Commission, unlike the government and parliament, can be convened at any time without the need to portray any transparency to the public. Its decisions can be issued 48 hours before the elections, removing inconvenient competitors from the electoral race; it can give binding instructions to any bodies - from the CEC to law enforcement agencies, justifying all this by concern for national security. It is clear that any state machine tends to lag in the development and adoption of certain decisions, which are often “needed yesterday”. Then there is a dilemma: how and when to abandon the CES and what to replace it with, taking into account that emergencies and urgent modes of operation will not disappear. In addition to the loss of efficiency, another major problem in abandoning the emergency regime is the need to replace all earlier decisions, of which there have been many over the past two years, with other legal acts: executive or parliamentary. It will take both time and resources to sort out such debris. Perhaps, among other things, the staff of the State Chancellery is being expanded for this purpose. Take, for example, outlawing Sor’s party structures and all other organizations and citizens included in the formed blacklists. Only the “Magnitsky Law for Moldova”, authored by the former curator of justice reform Sergiu Litvinenco, can serve as an alternative legal basis for the restrictions. Apparently, in the near future, the acting “keeper” Olesea Stamate will submit this heavily revised bill for a vote to PAS deputies. In case of what happens, the law will be updated, as it is understood that the responsible structures in the process of justice reform have lost their already limited functionality and efficiency, so necessary for the authorities. The court proceedings against Sor may go on for a long time. The case against his ward Evghenia Gutul has not even been brought to court yet, and the justification for sanctions measures and ignoring laws, including the failure to include the bashkan in the government, will have to be more than just references to ties with the fugitive oligarch. The next priority for PAS is the Constitutional Court, which has fallen out of the list of controlled institutions. After the resignation of the Constitutional Court’s chair Nicolae Rosca, who is out of the president’s favor, the willful Domnica Manole has regained power in the institution. To counterbalance this, a competition will be held today for the position of CC judge from the Superior Council of Magistracy, which has been vacant for almost three years. The SCM has long been subordinate to the authorities, and from this body, reliable people have been nominated for the competition: the acting president of the Supreme Court of Justice, Viorica Puica, as well as the notorious prosecutor of the anti-trafficking department of the Prosecutor General’s Office, Sergiu Russu. There are also plans to put an end to the issue of the General Prosecutor’s Office’s leadership. Despite the lack of great interest in this position, given both the ruling party’s attitude to such functionaries and the uncertainty with the lawsuit of Alexandr Stoianoglo, there were a couple of candidates ready to pass the Pre-Vetting commission at the last moment. We are talking about the lawyer Ilie Rotaru and the prosecutor Igor Demchukin. The former participated in the competition in autumn 2019, but lost to Stoianoglo, while the latter this year was blamed on working in Plahotniuc’s interests and covering up a criminal case of child trafficking involving the oligarch. According to the authorities’ plans, by early spring the verdict of the commission members will be returned to the Superior Council of Prosecutors for further procedures to elect the leadership of the Prosecutor General’s Office. It is also expected that in December the Pre-Vetting commission will make separate decisions on the judges of the Supreme Court of Justice in order to start the process of “fermentation” there as well. In general, there is open resistance to the justice reform on the part of functionaries in the leadership of the prosecutor’s office, albeit temporarily appointed by the PAS. Ion Munteanu has publicly expressed his fear of the plans to put the prosecutor’s office employees through the filter of the Pre-Vetting commission. It is understandable: Munteanu, who has already settled in the Prosecutor General’s chair, does not want to lose control over the prosecutor’s office, nor to give up his chair to potential changers. Nevertheless, exactly the combination of the government-controlled Superior Council of Magistracy and the leadership of the prosecutor’s office worked last week in the course of the demonstrative execution in the form of searches and arrests of four well-known judges. Apparently, this action was to satisfy the demands of the EU partners to see at least one person from the judicial system behind bars or in the dock for so-called “grand corruption”. Overall, it seems that both the authorities and European officials realize that the justice system clean up is a long-term endeavor. The PAS has prudently set December 2025 as a preliminary end point. The Head of the EU Delegation has also admitted in an interview to the media that the formation of renewed and functional justice structures is a long process. The EU officials do not seem to be interested in all the current outrages and internal disputes, including the Stoianoglo case.