Planned changes to electoral legislation in Moldova prompt mass rallies

By bne IntelliNews June 12, 2017

Tens of thousands of Moldovans took to the streets on June 9 at rival rallies for and against planned changes to the electoral system. 

On May 5, an ad-hoc parliamentary majority formed by the senior ruling Democratic Party (PD) led by Vlad Plahotniuc and the Socialist Party (PSRM), which is close to President Igor Dodon, endorsed in the first reading two bills that would change the country’s electoral system, turning it into a mixed one, a move seen as favouring the two parties in future elections.

According to estimates made by the Moldovan police and quoted by deschide.md, around 2,000 people took part in the protest against the amendments in Chisinau. 

Meanwhile, other rallies were organised in support for the changes in legislation both in Chisinau and in other towns such as Edinet, Cahul and Ialoveni. According to a statement issued during the day by the Moldovan police, a combined 22,000 people rallied in Edinet, Cahul and Ialoveni. However, both Reuters and Radio Free Europe reported "smaller protests”, casting doubt on the official figures. 

These rallies were attended by MPs, ministers and mayors from the ruling Democratic Party (PD). According to ipn.md, the rallies were also organised by civil society. The participants chanted slogans such as “Pro Europe, pro mixed voting” and “People matter, not parties”.

“In any country, things are not made through the will of a man or a group of people. They are made through the will of the entire people. I am calling you to support the mixed voting, the first step towards the uninominal voting and we are making a serious step towards the change of the political class in Moldova,” Culture Minister Monica Babuc said, according to Moldova’s public television broadcaster.

According to a poll carried out recently by Lake Research Partners, more than 60% of the Moldovan citizens are in favour of changing the electoral system in Moldova, publika.md, a TV channel close to the PD, reported.

Meanwhile, representatives of a few NGOs, supported by opposition parties, joined the protest against the changes in Chisinau. Among the parties that supported the protest were the Liberal Democrat Party (PLDM), the Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) led by Maia Sandu,  the Platform Dignity and Truth (DA) and Partidul Nostru, and leaders of the parties took part. 

The protesters carried banners and chanted slogans such as “We will not give in”, “We are not changing the system, we are changing you”, We are united”, “No to the mixed system, no to uninominal system” and “We are the people”, tlr.md reported.

“We have gathered here because things in Moldova are going worse and worse. This government is playing against us, against the country. I urge you that from now on to be united and together find solutions. We should not be preoccupied by electoral systems, but the worries, problems and preoccupations of the citizens, of the pensioners,” DA leader Andrei Nastase said.

The participants, who said they would continue to protests until the draft bill is withdrawn from the parliament, also adopted a resolution which shows they are outraged revolted by “the capture of state institutions by the leaders of the Democratic Party”.

The plans to change the electoral system have also drawn international criticism, with European rights experts commissioned by the Venice Commission to study the proposals reportedly calling them “inappropriate“ and saying they raise significant concerns, claim, Reuters reported on June 6. The experts said there was a risk that the proposed new electoral system would be susceptible to undue influence by political or business interests. 

The European parliament has postponed providing Moldova €100mn in financial assistance until the Venice Commission presents its opinion on the authorities’ plans, an MEP told Hotnews.ro last month. The Venice Commission is expected to publish its findings on the country’s electoral reforms on June 16.

However, Dodon stressed on May 8 that the final decision on changes to the electoral system will be taken by the country’s lawmakers, and not by external actors. 

 

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