The initiative to organize the pro-EU referendum is a step towards meeting the opposition, Igor Botan claims

The initiative announced by the President of the Republic of Moldova, Maia Sandu, to organize a referendum in which citizens express their opinion on the country’s accession to the European Union is not a surprise. This is the opinion of the project’s permanent expert, Igor Boţan. He suggested that through such an initiative, the head of state went to meet the opposition, IPN reports.

The project’s permanent expert said that if we were to ask the head of state about this initiative, the president could say that it is not a surprise, considering that the main opposition force on December 19 modified its statutory documents and inserted into the party’s program that any initiative for accession, either to the European Union or the Eurasian Union, must be made through a referendum.

“The President could tell us that she went to meet the opposition. On December 19, the congress of that formation (PSRM – Ed.) took place, and on December 24, she came up with this initiative. The initiative comes as a kind of offer or proposal addressed to the Parliament to meditate and see if such a thing is possible. The President did not insist that the elections and the referendum take place on the same day. The Parliament decided: ‘why not?’ and explained why. Elections are scheduled for a year. There is the recommendation of the Venice Commission that changes to the Code should be made in about a year, and the Parliament comes and tells us: why couldn’t we do this now, considering that for several years opinion polls have shown that 55%-60% of citizens permanently in the country plead for European integration, and 80%-85% of citizens abroad usually vote for pro-European parties, and we can admit that they support the European vector. Where would the surprise come from in this situation? On the contrary, we want confirmation and go to meet the opposition,” said the expert.

In his opinion, the government could say the following: “We have pro-European opposition parties that insist on signing an agreement similar to the one in Snagov (the Snagov Declaration is a document signed on June 21, 1995, by the leaders of parliamentary parties in Romania, attesting to the agreement of political forces on the national strategy for Romania’s accession to the European Union – Ed.). However, signing an agreement similar to the one in Snagov means a kind of consensus between political parties. Political parties are not the masters of the electorate, so why not go directly to the electorate and ask them, and then we have all the things that fit into a very logical scheme. Instead of Snagov, here is a referendum where citizens, not political parties, plead for European integration,” said Igor Boţan.

“Moreover, the ruling party can say: ‘Dear opposition, see that we are going to meet you because you were the ones asking for changes to the Electoral Code. For example, you addressed the Constitutional Court regarding the date of the presidential elections in the Republic of Moldova because the new Electoral Code, adopted in December 2022, provided that presidential elections would take place two months after the expiration of the mandate, as stipulated in Article 90 of the Constitution. The majority brought this Electoral Code norm into line with the provisions of the Constitution. You say: ‘no, let it be as it was before,’ although we consider that it was not correct until now. Well, we’re going here to meet your demands. So, I see several things that can be interpreted in a way that tells us that, in fact, the moves made by the government are aimed at consolidating relations with the opposition and responding exactly to the opposition’s wishes. I agree that there is this element of interpretation, in the good sense of the word, speculative, but if we put all things together, the opposition has no reason to be upset,” continued the expert.

Igor Boţan said that, according to legislation, when a referendum is declared, political parties can group themselves into parties that support and do not support it. In Moldova, there are 60 registered parties, exactly half of which proclaim themselves pro-European.

“Maia Sandu can come and say: ‘People, why are we afraid of this referendum? I am an independent candidate, it cannot be otherwise, I have declared this. So, you can, pro-European parties, sit down and on the eve of the elections, record through a document, similar to the Snagov Pact, that in this referendum, you will support the European vector. We combine several things that fit into a single bed, fit very nicely,” mentioned Igor Boţan.

The expert agreed with other participants in the debate that the actions of politicians, especially those in government, should be predictable, but for the average citizen, according to the expert, predictability is boring, so such surprises “electrify society.” Igor Boţan also said that this year will pass under the auspices of debates on the referendum.

The public debate on the topic “Consensus and Rivalry in the Pro-EU Referendum” is the 297th edition of the debate series “Developing Political Culture in Public Debates.” The project is supported by the German Foundation “Hanns Seidel”.

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