Before we discuss about the referendum that took place in Gagauzia on the 2nd of February 2014, we need a better understanding of the global context in which this event took place. If The Republic of Moldova hadn’t taken the road toward The European Union, we wouldn’t have talked about this event, simply because it wouldn’t have taken place.
Gagauzia, a region located in the South of The Republic of Moldova, takes its name from the name of the people that live here, and has an economy that is mainly based on agriculture. Gagauzii, unlike the majority of the neighboring state’s citizens, are Turkish ethnics and speak a dialect of the Turkish language. The population of the region represents only 4,4% of The Republic of Moldova population and is mainly concentrated in Comrat and a few villages nearby.
In 1994, 3 years after the region has declared its independence from The Republic of Moldova and after long negotiations with Chisinau, Gagauzia has obtained the juridical status of “special autonomous region”. Unlike the situation in the other separatist region, Transnistria, the relationship between Chisinau and Comrat officials was not marked by major tensions from then on.
The idea of the Comrat authorities to organize a referendum on the theme of the external relations politics of the region came after Moldova has signed The Eastern Partnership with the EU at Vilnius.
Although the referendum was not declared in accordance with the Constitution by the Comrat legal court, and the decision is illegal, the population of the region was called to vote on the matter of the external politics of the Moldavian Republic (the integration in the European Union or in the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazahstan), and on the matter of whether they agree or not that the special autonomous region should declare its independence in the situation in which the Republic of Moldova may lose its sovereignity. This second question was a reference to the so-called “danger of union with Romania”.
The Russian population in the region and those who would like a closer relationship with Russia were unhappy with the close relationship between Moldova and EU, and, instigated by the local authorities, 70% of them came to vote. In this context, the results of this vote show the external politics options of those who live in Gagauzia and serve the interests of the Communist Party who is for the integration of the Republic of Moldova in the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazahstan. Some analists and politicians from the Republic of Moldova consider that the separatist and anti-European movements form Comrat are supported by Rusia, which has warned Moldova in many occasions that it will have problems in the situation in which it will continue to establish close relationships with the EU and will sign The Eastern Partnership, the referendum being only one of the actions that Moscow has planned.
This aspect is also stated in the recent Stratfor analysis which highlights that the most important message sent to the authorities in Chisinau through this referendum was the fact that Russia is maintaining a high level of influence and means of action in the country and any decision taken by the Government of Moldova must take into consideration Russia’s interests.
The politicians reactions considering the referendum are different, in accordance with the political parties they represent. While the Prime-Minister Iurie Leanca claims that the referendum was “an attempt to simulate a separatism phenomenon” and expressed his regrets that the citizens of Gagauzia let themselves be manipulated and participated at a referendum that is considered illegal, the socialists leader, Igor Dodon, wants to organize referendums is other regions of the country also. The parties from the governing coalition have given a common statement in which they condemn the referendum in Gagauzia and state that the responsibility for this situation lies with the Communist Party.
The Liberal Party, through the voice of the party president, Mihai Ghimpu, wants that Formuzal, the leader from Comrat, would be dismissed from his official function of Moldavian Government member. To achieve that, they are going to submit a project to modify the legislation.
As it was expected, the Communists Party has declared that it is satisfied with the results of the vote, considering that the referendum which took place on the 2nd of February was “absolutely legitimate and democratic”.
This subject remains in the public attention, both because of the criminal law case that was opened by the General Prosecution in Moldova on the matter of the referendum, and because of the evolutions that are to take place in the electoral context of the year 2014.