On Sunday, Moldova held a referendum to decide whether or not to reintroduce the direct election of the president. The change was not approved.
It seems as if a turnout of 33.3 per cent was needed for any result to be binding. The Central Election Commission is reporting that the turnout was 30.98 per cent. Of those voting, there is a report that the ‘yes’ vote won 87.5 per cent.
The Communists asked voters to abstain. In the end, there were also problems within the coalition, which originally sponsored the reform.
So, Moldova has not returned to semi-presidentialism.
Continuing the theme of countries that may (or may not) enter or exit semi-presidentialism, Moldova has taken a step closer to re-entering the semi-presidential universe.
On 7 July, the Moldovan parliament approved a bill setting a date for the referendum on the direct election of the president. According to AllMoldova, voters will be asked to approve whether or not the president should be directly elected. The precise manner of the election will then be established by an organic law. Seemingly, a two-ballot run-off system is the likely option if the reform is approved.
In the end, the Communists did not approve the bill. So, the referendum is, effectively, a government-sponsored reform. There are indications from other posts on the same site that there is general support for the reform.
In Moldova, the governing Alliance for European Integration (AEI) has officially supported a proposal to directly elect the president. Infotag reports that all 53 AEI deputies have signed a legislative initiative to this end.
A constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds majority in parliament (or 67 votes), even more than the three-fifths required to elect a president. Given the communists hold the remaining 48 seats in parliament, their support is required for any constitutional amendment.
For their part, the communists also formally proposed their own initiative at the end of last week. They proposed a system whereby the president would remain elected by parliament, but where there would be a three-round process with the number of votes required for election being reduced each time until only a simply majority (52 votes) would be required at the third ballot.
So, there now seem to be two competing initiatives, neither of which has enough support to be adopted. It’s unclear what compromise, if any, there will be.
I have not been following events in Moldova. So, it came as a complete surprise to me that the country may be on the verge of adopting a constitutional amendment that would return it to semi-presidentialism.
As I understand it, the situation goes like this. There were two parliamentary elections in 2009. The first, in April, returned a parliament in which the communists had a majority. However, they were unable to win the three-fifths majority in parliament that is required to elect a new president. As a result, the parliament was dissolved and there was a second election in July. This election returned a three-party anti-communist coalition. Again, though, no candidate has been able to obtain the three-fifths majority that is needed to be elected president. The parliament could not be dissolved for a second time in 2009, but there is the potential for a new dissolution some time this year. The problem, though, is that the new parliament will probably face the same problem of being unable to elect a president.
This is where a return to semi-presidentialism comes in. The government has proposed a series of constitutional reforms, one of which would restore the direct election of the president. The opposition communists had opposed the government’s suite of reforms. However, RFE/RL is now reporting that they may support the direct election of the president if the rest of the reform package is dropped. The Infotag News Agency suggests that the communists are not quite ready for such an amendment yet, not least because the likely government candidate for the presidency seems to have moved ahead in the polls. However, it is clear that a return to semi-presidentialism is possible.
I will be following Moldova more closely from now on.