Thursday, April 25, 2013

#Moldova Electoral Surprise

A few days ago, my colleague Cristian Cantir at Oakland University alerted me to a surprising set of developments in Moldova. Parliament quickly and unexpectedly passed a substantial change to the election code, adopting a mixed electoral system in place of proportional representation. Moldova's mixed system will allocate 50 seats to constituencies and 51 to PR, although many details still need to be worked out (e.g., district boundaries, how to manage Transnistria).

The new law was supported by the Liberal Democrats and Democrats, along with some defectors from the Liberal and Communist parties that opposed the new law. Proponents indicate that it will enhance representation by providing constituency-MP connections, and local officials from Gagauzia suggest that it might be a better system for regional politicians. Critics of the change note that the rules will benefit those political forces that can buy votes and that the proposed changes were not evaluated by the Venice Commission. Circumstances have been made even more complicated by today's ouster of the speaker of parliament, speculation about early elections (regular elections would be in fall 2014), and plans to challenge the new election law in the Constitutional Court.

Moldova's adoption of a mixed system follows the re-establishment of similar rules in Russia and Ukraine. As I noted previously, mixed systems permit local officials to establish greater independence from parties and central authorities and provide different kinds of opportunities for malfeasance than PR. While Moldova's change is not a "done deal," it calls for careful scrutiny.