Moldova’s constitutional court paves way for quick early elections

Moldova’s constitutional court paves way for quick early elections
By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest November 24, 2015

Moldova’s constitutional court ruled on November 24 that parliament can be dissolved and early elections organised if lawmakers fail to appoint a new government within three months of prime minister Vladimir Strelet’s dismissal on October 29.

The ruling clears up confusion over the interpretation of the constitution, and could speed up the process of forming a functioning government in Moldova. It means that if the current stalemate among the five parties represented in parliament is not resolved, new elections could be called at the end of January 2016. This would most likely benefit the pro-Russian parties that have led recent polls.

Under a strict interpretation of the constitution, according to recent comments by politicians, the parliament cannot be dissolved before presidential elections due to take place next spring after president Nicolae Timofti’s term expires on March 23.

However, the court ruled that the fourth paragraph of article 85 of the constitution, which forbids the dissolution of parliament within the six months prior to presidential elections, does not apply under present circumstances.

In a statement published on its website, the court explained that there is a contradiction between the fourth paragraph of article 85 and the first, which refers to the dissolution of parliament if MPs fail to appoint a cabinet within three months.

Early elections could also be called after 45 days if two successive nominations for prime minister are rejected by lawmakers, according to the constitution.

Citing “functional interpretation”, the court ruled that the first paragraph has priority under current circumstances.

The court’s president Alexandru Tanase said that maintaining an interim government until the presidential elections would not help to unblock the current institutional crisis.

The court’s interpretation has already been welcomed by the pro-Russian leader of the Socialist Party (PSRM), Igor Dodon, who has constantly called for quick parliamentary elections.

Polls show that the PSRM and another pro-Russian party, Partidul Nostru led by Renato Usatii, the popular mayor of Moldova’s second city Balti, would dominate parliamentary elections if held at this moment. A poll by the International Republican Institute published by on November 10 indicates the PSRM and Partidul Nostru would take a combined total of 58% of parliament seats.

Meanwhile, the pro-European parties that have ruled since 2009 risk falling short of the threshold to enter the parliament. If current trends continue, this could mean a dramatic change to Moldova’s political orientation. In 2014, the country’s then prime minister Iurie Leanca signed Moldova’s Association Agreement with the EU, and indicated an application for EU membership would be made by 2020.

However, less than a year after the November 2014 general election, two pro-EU governments have already collapsed. Expectations that the three pro-EU parties represented in the parliament would form a new coalition have faded after one of the three, the Democratic Party (PD), backed the no-confidence vote against Strelet in October.

The PD is now trying to form a government but has so far failed to bring Strelet’s Liberal Democratic Party (PLDM) onside.

Parliament speaker and PD member Andrian Candu said on November 24 that the party would attempt to form a parliamentary majority around a new government, reported.

"Fact is that the Parliament can operate very well without a [formal] majority," Candu said. The name of the new prime minister will be announced within a few days, he added. Candu argued that country needs stability and implied that MPs from other parties would agree to the option of a minority cabinet.

However, a minority cabinet supported by an informal majority in parliament would defer early elections rather than than avoid them, since it is hard to believe that an informal majority would be able to secure the support of the two-thirds of MPs needed to appoint a new president in March.