V. Plahotniuc: There was Internal and External Pressure to Force Government and PDM to Intervene and Make Judges Validate the Elections
Mr Plahotniuc, non-validation of elections in Chisinau stirred heated reactions. Please tell me first, where does PDM stand with regard to the way these elections were carried out?
As you know, PDM immediately recognized the results of elections in Chisinau. We made a statement and commended state institutions on the way they were organized. We still believe that the elections were free and democratic. There were indeed a number of infringements, committed by both candidates in the second round. They have partly admitted them. Still, no one could suspect the current outcome. Courts at several levels decided not to validate the elections and their decision must be subject to analysis, as well as the legislation it was based on. After this precedent, there may be a need to amend legislation.
How do you assess the political effect of this decision not to validate the elections?
This decision becomes an extremely dangerous precedent for all parties, including PDM. We cannot exclude that in parliamentary elections we ourselves might end up in similar situations, after some individuals appeal against the results in some constituencies and find various provisions in the law, which would allow invalidating the mandates. That is why we have asked our lawyers to begin analysis of laws the courts referred to in their rulings, as well as of the electoral legislation as a whole, so as to allow us understand where the other eventual backdoors are, which would allow to use the law and invalidate elections, regardless of the party or the candidate concerned, and find out how to close these backdoors.
What happened in the elections in Chisinau, in both rounds, must be subject to serious discussions as well. There were violations of electoral legislation, which have not lead to invalidation of election, but are still a dangerous precedent for the upcoming elections. This also requires analysis. That is why I will propose to colleagues from the PDM faction to assess the opportunity of setting up a parliamentary commission that would analyse the infringements committed by candidates in elections in Chisinau and provide conclusions related to clarification of electoral legislation, so that similar situation would not happen again. An example is also the involvement of foreign citizens in the elections in Moldova. Those who proposed to initiate the law have just trampled it. What are we going to do now in the parliamentary election after the precedent that they have created? Will we sit back and watch the socialists’ parade with portraits of leaders from Russian Federation in Chisinau? Because of this infringement, that unfortunately has not been sanctioned, we have a very dangerous precedent for the autumn elections and we must clarify this situation. It is strange that campaigning has been sanctioned, but something, which is in my view more severe - violation of law on the use of foreign politicians in elections -, has been overlooked.
How will PDM and Government manage this difficult situation caused by non-validation of elections?
In this regard, I would like to refer to the way in which some have demanded involvement of Government or Democratic Party in settling this issue. Besides public demands, there were also direct requests or suggestions, also from politicians or officials from abroad. This has happened mostly before the ruling of the Court of Appeal. There were voices that asked PDM and the Government to get involved and make the decision be in favour of validation of elections. It is unacceptable to ask the Government or a political party to do this.
What sort of involvement did they expect?
We have asked all those who requested involvement in this case to say it very clearly how they see our intervention: what is the Government supposed to do? Was it supposed to trample the judges and force them make the requested decision? What is PDM supposed to do? Trample the five boards of judges and require another decision from them? Whom could one ask for something like that? Of course, no one could answer what they wanted from us. We were just told that they expect a decision in favour of validation of elections. Under these conditions, I am asking myself what was the role of these pressures on the Government or PDM. What sort of consolidation of rule of law are we talking about when there is such an approach? Democratic Party is the only party that has really suffered from non-validation of elections in Chisinau, even though we are not responsible in any way for changing the decision one way or another. Thus, there appears a natural question, who stands to gain from this situation? I have been following what some opinion formers have been saying these days, that PDM must solve this situation either by not getting involved, or by getting involved. Just to make it even clearer what the direction in this case was. As you see, at this stage we also have more questions than answers. However, time will come to clear everything and we will understand who the real beneficiaries of this situation are.
There are voices that say that non-validation of elections may lead to external financial assistance being stopped. Is the Government ready to handle such a situation?
I cannot quite imagine such a scenario, as it would defy any logic and reality. It is serious that these days there were such threats that smell like blackmailing. Particularly, the Government was threatened that if courts at higher levels do not rule differently, than Moldova would remain without external financial assistance. This was the most unacceptable way to go beyond the limits and I do believe that those who go for such threats against our country, regardless of the fact whether they are local or foreign politicians, should realize the consequences of their actions against another country. It is inadmissible to punish a whole country for a court decision when the Government has no power to intervene in such situations. If there is a wish to escalate the situation in such a wrong manner, it is a proof of the fact that behind this decision there could be other interests and we would need to intervene firmly with decisions that would settle things back on the normal track.
Will the state budget suffer if some funding from abroad is delayed or stopped?
You know very well that the Government was not supposed to receive large amounts from abroad this year. Since this is an electoral year, we have foreseen that these amounts could be delayed or cancelled, even if there was no issue with non-validation of elections in Chisinau, because we all understand particular political moves and possible interests. We have identified alternative solutions for this funding at the beginning of the year already. Thus, it is not that Moldovans will suffer financially because of such decisions. All projects under implementation will be finalized. However, the Republic of Moldova would suffer because of enormous injustice, as the Government would be punished absolutely wrongly for not having meddled with justice to change the decision with regard to validation of elections in Chisinau. No matter how strange it may sound, this is the reality, as the Government fulfilled all commitments agreed upon with the European partners. Thus, such a decision may only be interpreted from the point of view of such an extremely unfair conclusion. However, we are ready for any kind of decision. As government, we are ready to pay even this political price. We believe that it is still less than what we could have incurred, should we have given in to the incitement to apply pressure on justice. We hope that no one is interested in dangerous escalation of situation in Moldova now, through wrong decisions with unpredictable consequences. This would make things even more complicated.
Still, this is an unprecedented case in Moldova. Isn't it natural to have such reactions as well?
There were cases when courts ruled during elections or electoral campaigns. In 2014 there was a court decisions regarding Renato Usatii, who was excluded from the electoral race a few days before the voting day, based on court decision. Why didn't they protest then? Why didn't they stop funding for Moldova? Why didn't the leaders of pro-European opposition criticize that court decision? How is it after all, do we assess the decision of judges based on the geopolitical or personal interests? There is no great difference between the court decision at that time and the one made now. Both are questionable and debatable. The difference is that at that time the right-wing opposition stayed at home and rejoiced over the exclusion of Usatii from the race, as he was not from their party and they decided that the decision was good. This is the way double standards are applied here. Where was Maia Sandu at that time? She was a minister from LDPM, a party that managed Justice, thus she believed that the judges did a good job by excluding a candidate from the race a few days before the elections. She would not have criticized her party of course.
To make things very clear, I am the last person who would justify Usatii or protect him against that court decision: you know very well his attitude towards PDM. What I would like to underscore, however is the doubtful way in which the pro-European opposition and its supporters from abroad manifest themselves. The absolutely inadmissible way in which the Republic of Moldova is treated sometimes, when double standards are applied.
What is in your view the way out of this situation?
I believe that the way out of this situation is not that simple and cannot be identified in a day or two. First, we must fully understand the basis of the decision; see the legal weaknesses that we have, identify measures to be taken for the future, so that we do not end up in such situations in the upcoming elections. We believe that the situation must not be escalated if we do not want to end up with even greater surprises in our country, as now there are eyes turned to Moldova, waiting eagerly for the spark that would ignite chaos in the country. If the pro-European opposition believes that this chaos will be in their favour, they are wrong. No one is going to make them such presents. Those who could turn this chaos into their benefit do not support the European path of this country.
What do you think about the protests that are happening these days? They are also yelling things against PDM, against you, against the Government.
People have the right to protest freely is they are dissatisfied with something. It is important, however, that they are allowed to express their thoughts and dissatisfaction freely, without being manipulated. I understand why the organizers are turning the message of the protest towards the Government or PDM. It is an electoral year and that is part of their campaigning, distract attention from the problem and the real reason for which the elections were not validated. However, just like in the case of previous protests, people will ultimately understand the intentions of organizers. You do remember that out of previous protests, a party was born, and it turned out that this was the purpose behind the protests.
This time it seems that people are involved in an activity where the parliamentary elections are at stake, and the protest looks like a start of campaign for a three-party block PPDA-PAS-LDPM.
However, even in such circumstances, I do believe that it is important to ensure all conditions to allow people to protest freely, and the institutions must do their job and contribute to good conditions and full safety of these manifestations.
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