Well, I got my referendum! Actually I got two of them, but we'll come to that later.
The AIE party leaders announced yesterday that a referendum on a new constitution will be held by June 16. The fact that a new document is being proposed, rather than the existing one amended, apparently takes the Constitutional Court out of the picture - their approval is only required for amendments. Given that 5 out of the six judges are still wearing the gold watches Voronin gave them, that's probably not a bad thing.
The leaders also announced that the new constitution would be framed in such a way as to remove the necessity to hold anticipated elections following December's failure to elect a president. The other three leaders appear to have accepted Ghimpu's view that this is the best way to proceed.
I'm not so sure. The absence of anticipated elections opens up the AIE to charges from the Communists and their hangers-on that the AIE is usurping power and is breaching the provisions of the (current) constitution. I think I would have preferred a situation in which a new constitution was introduced and then elections were held fairly promptly once it had been bedded down, say in spring 2011. This approach would largely disarm the communists, as well as producing a parliament in which that benighted party had a much smaller role to play.
Communist leaders and other left wing / pro-Russia groups have been quite hysterical all day long, calling the AIE a 'junta' that has 'usurped power' and undertaken an 'anti-constitutional coup d'etat'. They are also quoting a long list of the AIE's supposed sins, ranging from 'destroying the principle of the separation of powers' (the sacking of Muruianu as CSM president) to 'handing over territory to another state' (the Palanca debacle that was initiated by the Communists themselves). The Party plans to initiate a referendum of its own - a vote of no-confidence in the AIE.
The bottom line for me, however, is that the current constitution (introduced by parliament) has very little democratic credibility. It has never been voted for by the people, so who cares if it is replaced? The new constitution will, for the first time in Moldova's history, be 'of the people', and as such it should be far more credible.
Finally, the argument that holding a referendum is undemocratic or unconstitutional is absurd. Referenda are the highest form of democracy and should be used more often for issues of the highest importance. The current constitution actually says that the will of the people, expressed through a referendum carries supreme legal power in the state, i.e. a referendum decision has the power to override regulations, laws, judicial rulings and even the constitution itself.