Igor Munteanu: PSRM could accept a deal with PD on a mixed electoral system
All political parties from both the Government and opposition vehemently oppose the uninominal voting announced yesterday by PD, led by Vlad Plahotniuc. The subject can not be discussed too much on the substance has not been published yet because the bill containing the changes. Therefore, Deschide.MD tried to analyze it in broader scale in a short interview with Igor Munteanu, the executive director of IDIS Viitorul.
— I would like you to express a personal opinion as a citizen and voter in connection with Vlad Plahotniuic's initiative on the uninominal vote. How appropriate do you think is the initiative for Moldova, if we consider the maturity of the political class and electoral culture?
— Firstly, the public is well informed on local PD preferences in terms of material changes to the Electoral Code. Democrat leaders are already talking about 5-8 years about the uninominal system. In theory, also the uninominal electoral system is a system like any other: it has advantages and disadvantages, risks and costs, which can be diluted or multiplied depending on the political context. There is some resistance to this type of electoral system which, according to some political actors would encourage political corruption, using the candidates for election as bowling pins. I do think we should deal with negligence these points of view, given the current political commutation in the Parliament of Moldova, in which we note approx. 26 independent MPs, which continuously migrate between various political parties, especially when they need the opportunity votes. Sure, the majority proportional election system is not a perfect system, and the voters apparently have had enough of certain political parties, of their lists and that there is apparently no connection between the burning desire of the electorate to seek "new faces", upright politicians and the realities in which the same parties impose, through their voter lists, the same people. The current system of political parties damages the representativeness of the political class. As is known, however, any electoral system is a tool that can increase or decrease the participation, alias the political representativeness of the citizens, and the current party system in Moldova generates the political inequalities on conveyor. These inequalities are related both to the low representation of population in regions of the country in the national legislature, as well as by certain systematic shortcomings, that forces or preserves the inequality of politics, such as various illicit financing mechanisms of some political actors, the use of administrative resources, but also of more sophisticated mechanisms generated by a market monopolized by the big media moguls, while existing linguistic and national divisions. The uninominal system will solve these systemic problems? I'm afraid not and, apparently, its authors did not even propose this, which makes a legitimate effort to treat with caution the proposed project, even with a certain kind of skepticism aware, given the concerns expressed by academia, civil society, even by some studies and publications, that attest the facts that lie behind the risks regarding a degree of corruption even higher in a system where the fight will be given for the bags of money in the campaign and, as such, more far from citizens' agenda, their needs and citizen control over how certain representatives of the political class derive their rents, i.e. undeserved money.
— Regarding the promotion of corruption of MPs, to become loyal to one or another political entity. The fact that is desired early dismissal of MPs, it may be a counter-argument?
— Yes and no! In the current circumstances, the Constitution establishes (art. 68) the principle of "any imperative mandate is null", meaning that, once elected, the MPs may not be withdrawn, thus, enshrined, through their choice, a fragment of the sovereignty of the people, represented by legislative body. They can not be withdrawn from Parliament, even when "they fall" from parties that bring them on the seats of MPs, except for situations where the legislature is dissolved (art. 69). Thus, changing this requires constitutional arrangement demands constitutional changes. I can not tell if there are enough votes to amend the Electoral Code, an organic law, under which the citizens would get the right to mobilize themselves, according to the proposed initiative to ask on behalf of the population of constituencies the right to recall the elected MPs, regardless of motives, conflicts or other issues that may enflame the election. Certainly, however, I enounce that the hypothesis of this democratic mechanism could create positive effects, not only labeled as "political responsibility", but also conditions of political instability, fragmentation from strong population of Moldova. Sure, the author of the initiative (PD) can say many appealing things to dissatisfied people with political parties, such as "Members will be put to work", "they will be punished for their behavior, their tricks", "these MPs will be put under control of the people." You must agree: it sounds good. But it is known that the political parties defects concerns and how distorted is doing its job the media subservient to the rich and of the impact, inexcusable big, of foreign media (of the Russian language) on the electorate. We all know very well that some of the electronic media, radio and television stations owned by media mogul who do not pose problems of awareness regarding the violated codes of conduct nor the personal attacks, which some politicians confuse often with "political struggle". How can we avoid the fact that even Mr. Plahotniuc is a media mogul, who contributes with his part of fault to the deformation of the informational space in Moldova, having, apparently far too positive perception about the current state of affairs in the local press. Finally, I should conclude my answer by remarking the fact that through changing the electoral system presumes a certain point of national consensus on the desirability of amending legislation. Beyond any rhetoric, there must be acceptance and dialogue on issues of conflict. Nobody wins by imposing "the fist" in the relationship between the ruling party (PD) and the opposition, even as the political fairs can not guarantee public acceptance and positive agenda. Sure, PD rushes to change the system that is favoring it because you can not change it earlier than a year before the next elections, ie, there is a relatively limited period in this initiative can build the new rules.
— Exactly, especially because in June we have the next meeting of the Venice Commission and, most likely, we will try to obtain an opinion on the draft until then...
— Yes, already an official of the Venice Commission was recently in a visit to Chisinau and gave his opinion. But I should mention that, apparently, the president of the Venice Commission, Buquicchio, was rather in a kind of private visit, i.e. informal one, with all the ingredients that means that some visits are informal, and it is hard to assume that his allegations aired in various electronic publications actually represent the will of the Venice Commission. We can assume, behind these PR actions, that someone would be quite concerned about the lack of a national consensus in the public space on its policy actions and that might not be able to adopt these essential changes to electoral law in Moldova, which could reflect on the proposed electoral chances. But it is also true that this initiative may be adopted - possibly - perhaps all in the first reading as a draft law on amnesty of capital, which ended up being withdrawn eventually.
— But in more technical terms that you think would be the biggest question mark hanging over the uninominal system? For example, one wonders how it will be constituted the parliamentary majority, others - which will be the costs for an election under this new system...
— There are many misunderstandings of concept and implementation. Firstly, it is unclear how will be distributed the guaranteed seats for the Diaspora, as PD initiative promises. In the last elections voted 136 000 persons outside the Republic of Moldova, how many seats will be distributed, already depends on electoral statistics and national register of voters. And here we have another problem: we do not have full results of the 2014 Census, respectively, we can not know how many people is abroad and which population will be allocated to electoral districts. The manipulation of the election boundaries is known in political science as garrymandering and serves, usually, to the parties in power. Do we want to trigger new grounds for conflict between power and opposition, adopt these legislative changes by the authors, without consultation, without analysis of risks and unopposed! I firmly believe that changing the electoral system is not the same thing as changing the tablet on the door of an electoral official nor a single theater actor, even one with a lot of personal ambition. It is a fine chemistry balance between the principle of political fairness and electoral statistics ... At this point, we can not know the cost of the new system proposed by the PD nor what are his alternatives (status quo). We only know that we already have an electoral system imperfect, but there is a sufficient consensus in the Parliament and outside the Parliament on how we change it. This initiative will awaken many types of reactions and I fear that some evil political actors develop a desire to "reign" without understanding how to govern. It is already observed that the reactions will not be easy at the change of the Electoral Code. Thus, if the voices of leadership PSRM said that they will not accept the uninominal voting system in any form, it might, that in the following, PSRM will accept a deal, such as mixed electoral system, as has negotiated and other topics and political positions in the first two months after the inauguration of Dodon. The press is full of speculation in this regard. However, an electoral system should not be changed based on the fairs that are made in the areas dominated by money and vain ambitions, but based on some open, transparent, endowed discussions with rational arguments and credible leaders. Or so far, on the initiative propelled by PD does not exist a favorable current, not even in the civil society. Respectively, it should, be announced firstly a political initiative with trumpets and fanfare, to be a sufficient political maturity, to be weighed and the pros and the cons. Mr. Dodon has already said that the electoral system should take into account the participation of Transnistrian population: this is another saga, which includes abruptly in discussions launched by PD on a new electoral system, which generates, I assure you, not a lot of reasons congratulated. Firstly, how will participate the Transnistrians under the new electoral system: as citizens of Moldova, to whom will be opened, as now, polling stations, on the controlled territory, and we will say that we have a Transnistrian electoral constituency; or perhaps the entire region of the eastern districts will be classified as a constituency of Moldova, but in which only will Dodon and Plahotniuc be able to campaign?... Is it possible to effectively provide or to guarantee sufficient strength the participation of citizens in elections in Moldova in the localities where they are subordinated in the region? I fear that anyone knows the answer. Do we have, truly, the opportunity to open to the candidates, in the upcoming elections in 2018, today's blocked path in the region by the Russian peacekeepers and dozens and hundreds of illegal authorities, funded by the Russian Federation? They will be able to campaign freely, unfettered, as described in the current Electoral Code? In my opinion, it is a fantasy, and the trick is to make us believe that the introduction of the uninominal election system can miraculously solve other problems. It is clear that the borders of the current status quo, the separatist administration will bring to the region so much electoral fog, so the projects of Kremlin could be promoted, in the upcoming election, which we already could partially see on the occasion of the presidential elections in October-November 2016 , the elections in which Transnistrian voters participated organized, committed fraud and have admitted electoral offenses, administered unevenly by the CEC.
— But what do you think will happen with the citizens of Gagauzia, because they insisted a long time ago to be represented in the Parliament from Chisinau?
— It is true. I said that one of the weaknesses of the current proportional-majority system is the domination of political parties in the capital of Moldova and the low representation of population in certain regions. In the context of the initiative of PD it would be possible that Gagauzia would wish to be treated as an electoral constituency and then - to receive some sort of automatic ethnic representation, which would emphasize - not solve - the existing national insulation faults of UTAG from the rest of the country, which is obviously generating an ethnically "canonization", not civic integration and national solidarity. Is this the right direction for Moldova? Of course not! The project authors talk about "perverse" effects they may generate their package of initiatives? I have not heard. Perhaps some Gagauz leaders will applaud the effect of "greenhouse" of the draft amendment to the Electoral Code, proposed by PD, ie Plahotniuc; but this can only serve the deepening of differences between certain areas populated by minorities. Here appears another problem.
— About the political nature of this initiative. Everyone who ruled on this issue seems to be against: the President Dodon, and PSRM, and PLDM, and PL, and PAS, and PPDA ... At the same time, the formulations to which resorted Plahotniuc sent a very clear message: that he wants this and he takes the initiative entirely. What do you think will happen next?
— I see nothing reprehensible when some politicians assumes from beginning to end certain initiatives. That shows courage, character, sometimes with good season. A different problem is: I do not see a fertile ground where is a possible political consensus on the usefulness of the new system and the risks are as great as the benefits to which lingered at the moment "the minds of PD." We have today a majority in the Parliament with variable geometry. The majority fluctuates like the waves of the sea, due to the fact that deserters who were separated from their basic parties are declared for the projects of law based on the benefits they collect and stakes, which is not often enough visible. PD does not have a stable majority, nor sufficiently legitimate to propose and insist on a revolutionary change to the Electoral Code. What should follow? I believe it should follow a credible dialogue between civil society and stakeholders, including opposition parties and extra-parliamentary parties, a dialogue which should analyze more rigorously and trustworthy, the risks and rewards of the proposed system by PD and to what extent this model that gives the Vice President of Socialist International, Plahotniuc, can be better than the one we have today. A sort of Pareto principle applied to electoral realities, namely: his general benefits not worsen the chances of those affected by them, rather than improves.
— As I said, several representatives of PL also have ruled against this initiative. Why do you think it is more "dear" for PD: the project on amending the Electoral Code or the relationship with PL?
— I can not comment the late loves of PD towards PL: both parties are ingenious in to do harm to themselves. It all depends on the tactics to be applied by their leaders in order to survive the next 18 months until the parliamentary elections in 2018. In fact, the interview subject raised by you depends less on the playing style of PL and more on principled positions that can immerse even more the democratic succession in Moldova - a subject on which you should be more vigilant than we were previously. Besides PL, will count and the reactions of other extra-parliamentary parties, some of them on the rise, some stagnating. I refer to PAS, the PPDA, other extra-parliamentary political groups, whose leaders were kept away from elections, such as Renato Usatîi. Each of these parties must engage in this discussion and rational arguments to prevail. But as long as the arguments are shoved by force, I do not think anything good will come out of this electoral experiment.