Wednesday, February 9, 2011

From the Ridiculous to the Sublime

One of the reasons I am fascinated by Eastern Europe, and Moldova in particular is that the machinations of the institutions of state, which are normally used to grind down the citizenry, occasionally and involuntarily throw out decisions which, though absurd, work to the benefit of the ordinary person.


One such decision came out of the Constitutional Court yesterday.  The Communist Party had taken a case to the Court asking it to set a definite term within which a new President must be elected.  In this way, the Communists were seeking to limit the possibility of two rogue deputies supporting the election of AIE candidate Marian Lupu.  The aim of the Communists was to force new elections where they figured they could win back some seats.  Such new elections would of course cost money, prolong Moldova's instability, deter investment and defer plans for European integration.

As you know, I'm not a great fan of the Constitutional Court.  Many of their decisions have little to do with the text of the constitution and seem to have been designed to keep the communists in power.  That said, yesterday's decision was brilliant.

When I read the headline for the first time, it seemed like a cop-out - "the court is not able to rule on this matter, which is within the jurisdiction of Parliament".   The funny thing is, this time they're right.  Article 90 of the constitution says that presidential elections have to take place within two months of the position becoming vacant.  What the court ruled yesterday is that the transfer of the interim presidency from Ghimpu to Lupu did not constitute a "vacancy".  There are two reasons for this.  Firstly, another article in the constitution describes the circumstances in which the function can become vacant, and election of a new speaker of parliament is not one of them.  Furthermore, Ghimpu did not occupy the office of President; he merely fulfilled its functions.

The bottom line is that we have reached a point in Moldova's constitutional processes where the constitution no longer covers the situation it has created.  There are no instructions on when the next presidential election should be held, and (without constitutional or legislative change) there never will be.  Likewise, there is no imperative to dissolve Parliament, as the only reason for dissolving Parliament is a failed presidential election (which now doesn't need to be held).

That means that the current parliament can continue intact for its intended four year term, and Marian Lupu (or whoever else Parliament decides to elect as speaker) can be interim president throughout the four year term.  Even after elections in 2014, there still won't be any need to elect a new President.  There will just be a new parliament, a new speaker and a new interim President, but the latest "vacancy" will still be Voronin's resignation in 2009.  In theory then, yesterday's decision may have effectively abolished the Presidency.  It's now just something the speaker does in his or her spare time.

The holes in the constitution appear to have left the country in a pretty ridiculous situation, yet the outcome is sublime.  By taking this case to the Constitutional Court, the Communists have made a monumental mistake.  Had they left things ambiguous, the Alliance might have been sufficiently worried that they would have played safe and held the Presidential election within the two month period that the Communists wanted.  The PCRM would have got its election and may even have performed quite well off the back of price rises and AIE-voter apathy.

Now, however, the AIE can govern peacefully for four years, electing a President (or not) at a time of their choosing and in the manner they choose.  If the opposition don't want to play ball and either (a) delegate two deputies or (b) amend the constitution in parliament, it's not a problem - the governing alliance just won't hold an election.

Stability has descended on Moldova, and, in a sense, the constitutional crisis is over.  The country is now open for business and can sail full steam ahead for Europe.  All we need is for the AIE to hang together, focus on the needs of the population and try not to steal too much. 

1 comment:

  1. From what I understood, an election should still take place before September 2011. The most plausible option is that AIE will hold another referendum this summer with the local elections.

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