Moldovan referendum fails: country remains without president

A Moldovan referendum on whether to elect the president by popular vote has failed due to low voter turnout.

On Sunday, the Moldovans were to have their say on suggested amendments to the country’s constitution and decide if the president should be elected directly, or – as it is now – by the parliament. Even though the majority supported the changes, the referendum was declared invalid since only about 29.05 % of registered voters took part in it. The minimum required turnout is 33.33 %.

The Secretary of the Moldovan Central Election Commission (CEC) Iurie Ciocan told Interfax agency that 792,531 out of 2,631,591 registered voters cast their ballots. “These are the final figures which can change by only a fraction of a percent,” he said. Ciocan added that next referendum on constitutional changes can be held no earlier than in two years.

The ruling four-party coalition – Alliance for European Integration – suggested the referendum in an attempt to put an end to the political stalemate that has left the former Soviet republic with only an interim president for more than a year. The pro-Western coalition came to power in July 2009 following eight years of Communist rule.

However, the new parliament has failed to come to a compromise and gather enough votes to elect a new head of state. Following ex-President and Communist leader Vladimir Voronin’s resignation in September last year, the Parliamentary Speaker and Head of the Liberal Party Mihai Ghimpu has remained acting president.

Meanwhile, the Communists see the liberals’ failure to hold a referendum as their own success.

“The ruling Alliance for European Integration has got exactly the result that they deserve,” Voronin was cited as saying by Interfax. “Their usurpation of power and unwillingness to dissolve parliament has led to total bankruptcy of those politicians.” According to the former president, “voters have proved wiser” and demonstrated their attitude to the current leadership by not appearing at polling stations.

“We hope that now the coalition will come to its mind and act according to law. And the law has been saying for a long time that parliament must be dissolved and elections held. Voters will again decide what kind of government they need,” Voronin said. He added that his faction is ready to take part in amending the constitution by voting in parliament.

The ruling coalition leaders insist that it is the Communists’ fault that the referendum fell flat.

“Communists put pressure on voters,” interim president Ghimpu told journalists. He added that the communists “blackmailed voters” and continued to put pressure them even on the day of the referendum. “We have plenty of reports about such violations from the communists. Their boycott of the referendum developed into pressuring voters through mass media and dirty technologies,” he assured.

The country’s Prime Minister, Vlad Filat, believes the failure of the referendum is the alliance’s fault since they lacked coordination and “everyone was hogging the blanket.” Nonetheless, he sees no tragedy in the events.

“Further actions must comply with the law,” Filat told Interfax. “This means that the existing parliament must be dismissed, and an early parliamentary election must take place…I will insist on the soonest election. We will discuss the issue at the Alliance for European Integration tomorrow,” he said.