Post-election takeaways for a transparent governance in the Republic of Moldova. Op-Ed by Mihai Mogildea /// IPN.MD
The comfortable victory of the Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) in the parliamentary elections of July 11th offered to one party the total control over the governing act, which did not happen in the Republic of Moldova since 2001. Although the voting of laws and their passing through the Government and Parliament may seem like an easy task in the current political configuration, it is very important to ensure an inclusive and open dialogue for their consultation and review. The test of credibility and consistency for the current parliamentary majority will also depend on how it will relate to informed and critical opinions from outside the political spectrum. Another aspect will focus on the role given to parliamentary and extra-parliamentary opposition parties by PAS, given that the voice of the opposition has been largely ignored in previous legislatures.
Takeways after the 11th July vote
As in the case of the presidential elections, the results of the early parliamentary elections were not a surprise as such. Credible polls during the election period heralded a potential victory for the Action and Solidarity Party (PAS). The application of the D’Hondt formula for the transformation of votes into parliamentary mandates considerably increased the chances of the PAS to obtain victory, even in the conditions of an anticipated score of 43-45% of the validly cast votes.
The surprise was more related to the proportions of the score obtained by the winning party, the highest as a percentage in the history of elections held in the Republic of Moldova – 52.55%. Rightly, the score obtained by PAS was easily associated with the result of the second round of the presidential elections, reported by Maia Sandu. The transfer of image from the President of the Republic of Moldova to his former party, as well as the decisive role played by the presidency in triggering the early parliamentary elections, tipped the scales in favor of the PAS.
Beyond these issues, the early parliamentary elections reconfirmed once again that the volatility of the geopolitical vote is increasing in the Republic of Moldova, especially in the pro-Eastern party camp. The presence and impact of geopolitical messages has declined significantly recently, even though the Electoral Bloc of Communists and Socialists (BECS), led by former presidents Igor Dodon and Vladimir Voronin, tried to publicize them during the election campaign. The collective “immunity” to the false scarecrows from outside, revived by them, but also the questionable integrity of Igor Dodon in the eyes of the citizens, demobilized the pro-left, “left” electorate. For example, in Chisinau, turnout was about 30% lower than in the first round of the 2020 presidential election, and the BECS score was over 15% lower than in the same election. At the same time, in the Gagauz region, considered to be the traditional fiefdom of the “left” parties, the turnout was about 13% lower in the recent election, and the score obtained by BECS by about 15% lower.
Based on these issues, there are some takeaways that the new parliamentary majority should take into account. First of all, the transfer of image will be reversible, and PAS’s failures in managing the governing act will directly affect the electoral score of President Maia Sandu, even if the presidential institution has limited powers over most policy dossiers. Secondly, the focus of electoral messages on internal issues, such as the fight against corruption and the reform of the judiciary, has led to high and immediate expectations among the electorate, even if their implementation requires a respite of several years. Under these conditions, PAS electoral score could fall next year, amid unfounded expectations about the results of the promised reforms. Last but not least, in order to maintain its high level of trust among its electorate, but also to mobilize the segments of the electorate absent from the last election, PAS will have to turn into a real catch-all party, able to attracts a consistent number of votes from any region of the country or from any ethnic group, in the absence of a clearly assumed ideology. In this sense, the (de) geopolitization of the vote creates certain premises for the emergence of this type of parties in the Republic of Moldova.
The governing act must be transparent
Among the first draft laws voted by the new parliamentary majority were several initiatives related to changing the procedures for electing and / or dismissing the leadership of several legal institutions, voted in first reading at the extraordinary sitting of Parliament on 13 August 2021. These projects were voted without a prior consultation process, and within a short time of registration, issues reported by several civil society organizations in a public call. Even if it was decided to hold public consultations after the appeal, the rush to vote on these bills remains unclear for many.
In the absence of a well-established mechanism for consulting draft laws with representatives of political parties, civil society and the business community, the image of the parliamentary majority will suffer both among dialogue partners and society per se. These leaks will be speculated by opposition parties, but especially by extra-parliamentary parties, which do not have the legislative platform to present their position in committees or in plenary. In the context of a one-color government and holding the leadership of most parliamentary committees, PAS will have to invest efforts in organizing genuine public debates, which could thin their argumentation for certain draft laws, but strengthen the image of the governing act.
Another fundamental element in terms of transparency is the importance of public competitions for the appointment of leaders of key institutions for internal security of the Republic of Moldova, beyond the “temptation” of their direct appointment by the parliamentary majority. Even if public competitions have previously been rightly blamed by society, the parliamentary majority must ensure full compliance with the procedural framework for their organization and the appointment of specialists to public office based on the criteria of meritocracy, professionalism and integrity. The assumption of the governing act does not rely on the judiciary, anti-corruption or electoral bodies, structures that must operate independently from the legislature.
The inauguration of the Gavriliță government represents a new window of opportunity for the Republic of Moldova. The experience and integrity of the cabinet, together with the political stability provided by the parliamentary majority, are the preconditions that can facilitate the successful implementation of the governing program undertaken by the government team. However, the new government will have to pay special attention to the transparency of the decision-making process and the more active involvement of non-governmental actors in the decision-making. The priority given to “cleaning up” and reforming the public system must not omit democratic standards, actively claimed by the parliamentary opposition and civil society during the kleptocratic regimes of the past.
Mihai Mogildea is the Team Leader of Europeanization program at the Institute for European Policies and Reforms (IPRE). He holds a Master of Arts in European Political and Administrative Studies from the College of Europe (Bruges).
This publication was prepared within the project “EaP Cooperation for Stronger Democracy: Georgia, Moldova and Armenia”, as well as as a result of an IPRE partnership with IPN within the “We and Europe” project supported by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in the Republic of Moldova. The “EaP Cooperation for Stronger Democracy: Georgia, Moldova and Armenia” project is run by the Georgian Institute of Politics (GIP, Georgia), in partnership with the Institute for European Policies and Reforms (IPRE, Moldova) and the Analytical Center for Globalization and Regional Cooperation (ACGRC, Armenia). The project benefits from the support of the Netherlands Fund for Regional Partnerships MATRA for regional cooperation in the Eastern Partnership (EaP).