How Socialists Flip-Flopped on Formal Coalition and Minority Government
This is a translated and slightly adapted version of an article originally published in Romanian on November 19.
Last week, Socialists and Democrats voted in a new cabinet proposed by President Igor Dodon. Both parties promise this isn’t a coalition and assure us this is a minority, technocratic and non-partisan cabinet. Very well, but the thing is, following the February legislative elections, Igor Dodon and his Socialists insisted that Parliament could only function with a formal majority, and a minority government was out of the question.
What did Socialists say then?
“We insist. My colleagues, the party and I, as its informal leader, insist on this position: a government coalition. We must sit down and discuss the terms. It must be done. An agreement must be signed. How long should this coalition be conceived for? Will it be four years, or maybe you prefer snap elections next year? Let’s discuss it, because triggering early elections is not so simple. But a minority government is definitely a no-go. In recent history, we had the Gaburici Government in 2015, which lasted, what, three months, four maybe? And then it was gone. A functional government [is needed], and I as President won’t accept any minority government,” Igor Dodon was saying in April. Moreover, President Dodon was as resolute as can be: it’s either a coalition with the bloc ACUM or early elections. Democrats, at least openly, were not an option.
Around the same time, Ion Ceban was reading out this statement before reporters: “The Party of Socialists wants a fully functional parliamentary majority, a government and a program fully endorsed by this majority. Further, PSRM does not consider it possible to support a minority government for a number of considerations, but first of all, for political, functional and operational reasons.”
The party’s legal counsel, now Minister of Justice, also insisted that nothing could be done without a formal majority in Parliament. Fadei Nagacevschi said the name didn’t count (as the parties feared the sheer use of the word coalition or alliance would be damaging) as long as it was put down on paper: “It doesn’t have to be an alliance agreement, you can call it a cooperation agreement that outlines what needs to be done, from A to Z.”
Interestingly, this position was seconded by Democrats. Andrian Candu, a top PDM member, said: “There must be parties which agree to have 51 votes, meaning a majority [...] You can name it as you want. You can name it a temporary coalition, a permanent coalition, a parliamentary majority. But you must have at least 51 MPs.”
Back in April, we covered this strange insistence of the President and Socialists in a piece titled “Is the parliamentary majority condition designed to sabotage negotiations?” (RO).
What kind of government do we have now?
And here we are. After so much talk about the necessity of a fully functional government with a formal parliamentary majority to endorse it, Igor Dodon and his Socialists appoint the Chicu Cabinet, which they claim is a minority government supported by no coalition at all. We discussed its professed technocracy and non-partisanship in last week’s article: All the President’s Technocrats in the Chicu Government
The Sandu Government was voted out by Socialists and Democrats, who went on to vote in a new one, and among the new ministers are people associated with both the Voronin and the Plahotniuc rule. Democrats did caveat it with the statement that they would endorse only pro-European projects, but overall they would support the Chicu Government. In reality, we see an informal coalition take shape again between PSRM and PDM (this time with Democrats being the minority partners), as a triumphant Igor Dodon talks about how this cabinet was installed with the greatest number of votes since 2001 and about his hopes of keeping this government going at least until the next regular election in 2023.
But it was exactly this kind of informal coalition that Socialists ruled out in the spring, demanding a public agreement with ACUM. The fact that PSRM insists on a formal accord in one case, while getting by with backroom dealings in the other speaks volumes.
The informal coalition is, of course, more palatable without Vlad Plahotniuc. The oligarch came to embody everything that’s wrong with this country, and Democrats want to make people think that his departure has the power to absolve the party and its core members of all the past sins. President Dodon seems to be playing along. This adds to the criticism that maybe the only thing that Dodon didn’t like about the Plahotniuc regime and Plahotniuc’s authoritarian ways was the oligarch himself.
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După Consiliul republican al PSRM, Igor Dodon se vrea jucător activ la negocierile cu Blocul ACUM, moldova.europalibera.org ↩︎