Consultations at the Parliament’s Commission for Public Administration of the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova

Several mayors and experts were called on Wednesday to a first round of public consultations in the Parliamentary Commission for Public Administration to discuss the criteria by which a town can be promoted to the status of municipality and the extended powers the administration of the new municipalities might have. The mayors insist that change of name does not help without greater financial autonomy, the right to collect and administer some taxes independently. The discussion coincides with the debate that is now taking place on a possible administrative reform, which would be done before the local elections, reports Valentina Basiul.

Last summer the Parliament voted a draft law by which Orhei, Cahul, Ungheni and Soroca would become municipalities. The discussions that followed awakened the appetite of other urban areas to claim the same status. This led to emergence of Edinet, Hancesti and Straseni on the possible waiting list. Before proceeding to examination of the law in the final reading, the MPs wanted to know the opinions of mayors who led these towns.

There are already five municipalities in the Republic of Moldova: Chisinau, Tiraspol, Bender, Balti and Comrat. How can this interest for the status of a municipality be explained? Almost every mayor has the answer to this question – the new status implies more money from the collected taxes, but also more freedom of action, after a long period in which the role of the so called ‘province towns’ was very small. In other words, the local officials want a real decentralization, discussed for many years in Moldova. It is this aspect that seems to preoccupy the supporters of the possible postponement of local general elections, which normally would take place in June, in order for this reform to be completed before the election, and mayors to gain the autonomy they want.

The Mayor of Orhei, Vitalie Colun, said the town he led wanted to regain the status it had in 1998-2001, when the center of the county had the status of municipality. He also states other reasons for having Orhei included in the list of municipalities:

‘First, I am one hundred percent sure that cities will have development budgets, and once they have development budgets, they will have the capacity to provide public services not only in cities but also in the surrounding villages. Accordingly, the status of municipality gives the ability to negotiate with donor institutions, to participate in regional projects and also gives the urban development capacity’.

When the criteria under which a town can claim the status of municipality were reviewed, the town officials expressed some reproach to the current and the former government. Economic development and a better infrastructure cannot be assured when money from the center is divided based on political criteria, the Mayor of Cahul, Petru Burlacu said:

‘If Cahul does not meet the criteria related to paved roads and white version, we should ask why? Because there were no sources available for this and there will be no sources if the allocation is done by political colors. I suggest better than to change the name of town to municipality, to adopt a law on the per capita allocation of investment and sources from the fund road ‘.

Some MPs from the ruling coalition suggested the law on assigning the status of municipality should be adopted bundled with the potential administrative-territorial reform. The MP from the Communist Party, Elena Bodnarenco had a contrary position. According to her, this reform should not be done in haste, as there are too many unknowns.

A similar view was shared by the Executive Director of the Congress of Local Public Authorities, Viorel Furdui, who stressed that even the politicians in the ruling coalition have no common position: some of them want to optimize the number of rayons, while others want to optimize the number of municipalities or give up rayons in general.

‘There are so many questions about the opportunity. Such complex reforms cannot be made overnight. The very process of conceptualization, development of a clear vision of where we want to get, takes time’.

Lawyers from Promo-Lex, who monitored several elections, recommended the parliament to adopt the decision establishing the day of local elections, thus avoiding speculation on this subject. In their opinion, delays conveyed by some politicians have no legal support and the elections can be postponed ‘only in case of war or a disaster’.