Sunday, June 20, 2010

Free and fair, finally

On Friday, parliament got around to sorting out an electoral system which had been much abused by the Communist regime.  Here are the highlights, together with my comments:

  1. The hurdle for parties to get into parliament will be lowered from 6% to 4%.  This is obviously more 'democratic' as it means that fewer votes will be wasted and the spectrum of views held by Moldovans will be more adequately represented.  The counter-argument (that the resulting parliament will be non-cohesive and factious) is partially rendered null by the fact that under a 6% hurdle we already have a parliament that is non-cohesive and factious....  I have to say that my personal theoretical preference, however, is to have a high threshold and allow preference voting, so that there are only a few parties in parliament but they do broadly represent the electorate.
  2. The hurdle for individuals is lowered from 3% to 2%.  It should have been no more than 1%, given that there are 101 seats in the house, and that campaigning is a lot tougher for independents.
  3. Parties can get together and form blocs to boost their chances at the polls.  Personally I'm not a fan of this; I would want to know exactly who I am voting for, and I would want some sort of commitment that the block would stay together once in parliament (given that I put them there, and they are sharing my vote).
  4. The method of deciding how votes translate into seat numbers has been adjusted so that it will be fairer, in the sense that the 'cost in votes' of a seat will exhibit less variance, and the largest vote-winner will no longer be unfairly advantaged.
  5. The quorum for a constitutional referendum was lowered from a 60% turnout to a 1/3 turnout.  I agree that in this apathetic day and age 60% could prove to be tough to achieve, however 1/3 seems too low and somewhat illegitimate.  50% would have been the best solution.
  6. Referendums motions will be passed by a simple majority of those present.  In the extreme, combined with the quorum rule, 16.7% of enrolled voters could decide the fate of the country.  This seems like a bad thing, however in this case we should note that the 50% who stayed away from the poll are effectively delegating their votes to the 50% who did bother to show up, and who seemingly are showing greater care for the future of their country.
  7. A parliamentary majority has been redefined as 51 out of the 101 seats, overturning the idiotic ruling of the Constitutional Court which required 52 votes.  This is quite important when you remember that the AIE only has 54 votes (with MU defector Guznac included) and the the Communists are still boycotting sittings of Parliament.
  8. It will be possible to open polling stations in foreign countries outside of Moldova's diplomatic representations.  This will go a long way in enfranchising the overseas worker community and will probably mean an extra seat for both the PL and the PLDM.
The other point I would have added would be a money-saving move to avoid a second round of presidential elections by asking voters to express their second and third preferences during the first round.

That said, taken as a whole, the moves above will enable the Electoral Commission to more fully comply with the constitutional requirement that every citizen be able to cast a vote which is free, fair and equal.

1 comment:

  1. One remark regarding the Moldovan expats' chance of casting their votes: yes, the move to open polling stations outside the embassies is a step in the right direction. For my Moldovan wife, for instance, the past situation would have asked her to fly from Cologne to Berlin in order to vote. Now there is a chance there might be a polling station closer to our residence.

    However, the biggest obstacle to expats has not been removed: the necessity to register with the Moldovan embassy in the country of their residence. In order to do so, they have to provide, among other documents:

    * a written document, signed off by a notarius, that they don't owe their parents anything - a ridiculous claim to adult persons;
    * a confirmation, issued by the Moldovan tax authorities, that the person does not owe the Republic of Moldova any money - question: are people who do so, and reside in Moldova, excluded from the right to vote as well?
    * a confirmation, issued by their last employer in Moldova, that they did not leave their workplace without permission - sounds like an old Soviet style law to me;
    * proof that they legally reside in their country of residence - easy to provide for many, impossible to provide for those scores of Moldovans who have no legal residence permit;
    * quite a hefty amount of money - the German embassy, for instance, charge nearly 300 € registration fee, relatively easy for us (I work as a senior IT consultant), but quite a lot for construction workers, house maids and other low paid employees.

    Long story short: they should scrap this registration process entirely and allow everyone to vote, as long as they produce a valid Moldovan passport.