Moldova referendum 2010

A constitutional referendum was held in Moldova on September 5, 2010. The referendum aims to resolve more than a year of political deadlock in this former Soviet republic caused by Parliament’s inability to elect a President even after a normal election in April 2009 and a snap election in July 2009. Since a 2000 amendment, Moldova’s Constitution states that the President is elected indirectly by Parliament, but with a strict three-fifths threshold mandatory to win. The Communist Vladimir Voronin had a huge majority of 71 out of 101 seats in 2001 and while he lost his three-fifths majority in 2005, he was re-elected without much trouble with support from smaller centre-right parties. While the Communists came one seat next to the 61 seats needed for a three-fifths majority in April 2009 and theoretically needed only one dissident vote from the right to assure the election of Voronin’s hand-picked puppet, questions over the legitimacy of the April 2009 election led the opposition to block two successive attempts to elect a President. In these cases, the constitution requires a snap election, which was held in July 2009. The new election only added to the deadlock because while it gave the four opposition parties (widely known as the “liberal parties”) a majority of five over the Communists, the liberal opposition, which became the de-facto government, fell far short of the 61 votes needed to elect its candidate, Marian Lupu, in presidential ballots in November and December 2009. Because two snap elections in one year are unconstitutional, new elections will wait until fall 2010. However, the interim government, formed by the liberal parties, formed a commission for constitutional reform, of which the most important aspect is a return to the pre-2000 system of directly electing the president. The question was put forward to the people in a referendum, backed by the government though the Communists called for a boycott of the referendum. That being said, the government parties led a disconcerted campaign in which each of the four parties went their own ways instead of campaigning as a bloc. Yet, polling and general impression indicated a strong victory for the YES, with turnout generally assumed to be sufficient. A rather low turnout threshold of 33% was set to guarantee the referendum’s validity.

Would you agree with the constitutional amendment, which would allow the election of the President of the Republic of Moldova by the entire population?
Yes 87.58%
No 12.42%
turnout 30.79%

While those who actually voted backed the referendum by a overwhelming margin, as expected, the main facet of this referendum was the extremely low turnout. The low turnout, which has made this referendum  – which passed –  failed, is a severe blow for the government and a major boost for the obstructionist Communists, who have blocked any attempt to give the country a permanent President. Given the extremely low coverage of Moldova in the Anglosphere’s mass-media and the scarcity (and unreliability) of local polling, it is hard to say how much this vote was influenced by the government’s policies since it took office a year or so ago. It was generally assumed that people would look favourably upon better relations with Romania and the EU as well as a fresh IMF loan, but given that Moldova’s economy is still in wrecks and the country lacks a permanent government, voters seem to long for the tough iron-fist leadership of Voronin between 2001 and 2009.

The government now needs to dissolve Parliament for snap parliamentary elections to be held in November, likely on November 14. While it seems quasi-certain that the Communists will still pull a plurality, the question is if it can win a majority (denying the liberals even their right to continue their de-facto governing) or, more unlikely, a 2001-like super-majority which would allow the Communists to elect one of their own to the presidency. Yet, the likelier outcome seems to be further deadlock, in which the Communists and liberals continue their obstruction to the other’s right to form permanent government when the others hold a plurality of seats. The failure of this referendum, which should be blamed largely on the Communists, means that Moldova’s unfortunate political deadlock will continue in the midst of a grave financial crisis. It is hard to think of a worse system of electing a president than Moldova’s post-2000 system.

Posted on September 7, 2010, in Moldova, Referendums. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Moldova’s system is really quite horrid. The only possible explanation is that it was designed by the Communists to prevent the formation of any alternate government, but one would think that an ideology-free government party like the Moldovan Communists could just rig the elections. That wouldn’t be much less democratic than this.

  2. Its really a horrible system, seemingly designed to screw over the liberal opposition, which has always been fragmented and liable to get screwed over. The lower threshold for parliament, which has been reduced from 6% to 4% also makes it harder to elect a President as more parties get into parliament and dilute the largest parties gains – the PCRM’s 2001 super-majority was acheived on just 50.5% of the vote due to 28.32% of voters voting for parties or independents that did not reach the threshold. My quick back of the envelope calculation reckons that a 4% threshold in 2001 would have resulted in two extra parties gaining representation who would have, between them, reduced the PCRM’s seats to 62. However another opportunity does exist for the PCRM in that the lower threshold may allow the Christian Democratic People’s Party to gain seats. The CDPP supported Voronin’s election in 2005, when it had seats in parliament, but lost its seats in 2009. In the first 2009 election it got 3.05%, in the second it got 1.97%. While I would guess its unlikely, it is feasible that the CDPP could gain enough votes to return to parliament and once again lend its support to the PCRM.

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