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Moldova: Referendum on Constitutional Amendments

(July 13, 2010) On July 6, 2010, the Constitutional Court of Moldova approved the constitutionality of the parliamentary decision to conduct a nation-wide referendum in order to pass amendments to the country's Constitution. The parliamentary action was aimed at overcoming a constitutional crisis that has continued for almost a year and prevented the election of the President of Moldova. The referendum, which is scheduled for September 5, 2010, will ask Moldovan citizens if they would agree to the popular election of the President. After adoption of constitutional changes by a referendum, the amendments can be passed by a simple majority of legislators. This extraordinary measure is needed because passage of constitutional amendments ordinarily requires a three-fifths majority vote of members of parliament, but at present no political party has the required number of votes to secure approval of the amendments.

A system of direct presidential elections existed in Moldova until 2000, when a constitutional reform introduced the requirement of election of the President by at least 61 members of the 101-seat national legislature. After the 2009 parliamentary elections, no party was able to form a majority and create a coalition needed to secure 61 votes for the presidential candidate. After two rounds of elections were unsuccessful, the former President, who continued to stay in office, dissolved the Parliament and called for new elections; however, the new parliament was still not able to elect a new President.

Because the Parliament can be dissolved only once a year and because new elections cannot be called in the near future and the former President, following the parliamentary elections, resigned on September 11, 2009, the Parliament's Speaker has been serving as acting President. According to the Constitution, the President is the head of state in Moldova and represents the country in international relations. The President is elected for four years and cannot serve for more than two terms.

The September 5 ballot may also include a question on introducing Romanian as the only official language of Moldova. (Constitutional Court Approves AEI Bill to Amend Constitution by Referendum, ALL MOLDOVA NEWS AGENCY (July 6, 2010),