Will the Reforms in the Justice System Affect the Governing Coalition’s Functioning?

Filling the Prosecutor General position could become the hot issue to unglue the governing coalition formed from the ACUM Bloc and the Socialist Party. The Minister of Justice, Olesea Stamate canceled the results of the contest to fill the Prosecutor General position, proposing new amendments to the Law of the Prosecutor’s Office. The Socialists responded by requesting the Minister’s resignation. 

The search for a Prosecutor General began in July 2019, after the then Prosecutor General, Eduard Harunjen tendered his resignation. Since then, the Superior Council of Prosecutors initiated two contests for a new Prosecutor General, having had to cancel the first contest due to new amendments to the Law of the Prosecutor’s Office.  The current contest launched on September 30 brought up 20 candidates, of which 16 passed to the interview stage and four have made it to the final stage of selection. 

On November 6, the Minister of Justice said in a press briefing that she will issue an order canceling the results of the contest for the selection of the four candidates for the Prosecutor General position. 

The Minister declared that the members of the commission did not have sufficient access to some information to verify the integrity of the candidates, and some members disproportionately appreciated some candidates, which led to the influence of the final results.

After the Minister’s declaration the government has assumed responsibility for a new amendment to the Law of Prosecutor’s Office. 

The new changes proposed by the Minister is for the Prime Minister make the pre-selection and submit the candidates’ list to the Superior Council of Prosecutors. Also Minister Stamate proposed a new wording for the procedure of Prosecutor General dismissal. Thus the Prosecutor General may be dismissed from office upon the notification of the President, Prime Minister or Minister of Justice.

The faction of the Socialist Party in Parliament reacted to the Minister’s decision and requested the her urgent resignation. Socialist deputies accused Stamate of total lack of professionalism, apologizing to citizens for not requesting her resignation earlier. The deputies demanded public apologies from Minister Stamate, blaming her for the huge failure in reforming the justice system.  

“We find that we have a tragic end, which brings with it the greatest failure of the current government. The Minister of Justice cancels her own contest, organized as she wished and with whom she wanted. Some political pressures forced her to take this decision, completely discrediting the reform of Justice. (…) Minister Stamate must make the gesture of honor and resign, because she has discredited the whole Government. Olesea Stamate also compromised the legislative changes made with the constitution. We hoped that they would lead to the selection of a competent prosecutor. (…) We honestly believed that we would have reforms, ” Socialist deputy Vasile Bolea said during a press briefing.

The Socialist Party mentioned in a press release that if Prime Minister Maia Sandu will pre-select the candidates, this would mean that the future head of the General Prosecutor’s Office will be appointed by the head of a political party.

“At the initiative of the Action and Solidarity Party leader, Maia Sandu, we can clearly see the real reasons that led to the annulment of the contest for the selection of the Prosecutor General, the fact that this contest was not won by a certain person, who would now be named politically as Prosecutor General. The initiative of the Action and Solidarity Party leader flagrantly violates the agreement signed by the ACUM Bloc with the Socialist Party, where it was clearly mentioned that during the justice reform the selection of the Prosecutor General will be carried out by contest, by a commission, not by a politician. No other discussion existed between the signatories of the agreement to amend this provision, ”, the Socialist Party mentioned in a statement. 

The Socialist Party affirmed that Prime Minister Sandu’s approach has no way of having the support of the Parliament. 

“We cannot exclude that, in reality, the Action and Solidarity Party leader tries to deliberately cause the Government to fall, being still under the emotions generated by the loss of mayoral elections in Chișinău, but also being unable to effectively run the executive and deliver results to the population, “ the socialists added. 

According to Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, the Government may undertake its responsibility before Parliament on an organic or ordinary bill. And if within 72 hours from the moment the Government took responsibility for the Law, at least 1/4 of the deputies in the Parliament don’t submit a motion of censure to the Government, the draft law is considered adopted.

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