CHISINAU, February 10. /ITAR-TASS/. The authorities of Gagauzia, an autonomy within Moldova, condemned its leadership’s attempts to put pressure on the organizers of the recent referendum, in which the overwhelming majority of voters showed their preference for accession to the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia over integration with the European Union.
In a joint statement addressed to the Moldovan leadership, international organizations, diplomats, and mass media on Monday, February 10, Gagauzia’s People’s Assembly and Executive Council urged Moldova “to give up all forms of pressure on the autonomy’s authorities, organizers and participants of the referendum and stop prosecuting them; and stop political persecution by law enforcement agencies of all members of the electoral commissions.”
The referendum on February 2 showed record high activity of voters: more than 70.4% of people eligible to vote went to the polls. According to the final results, 98.4% supported integration into the Customs Union, with 1.5% having voted against it; 2.5% supported accession to the EU and 97.4% were against it, CEC Chair Valentina Lisnik said.
She said 98.8% of people had supported the idea of “deferred status of autonomy,” which gives Gagauzia the right to self-determination if Moldova loses independence.
Lisnik stressed that MPs from Belgium, Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary and other countries had monitored the referendum and stated that the voting had proceeded in accordance with international standards.
Belgian MP Frank Creyelman, an international observer at the referendum, said the voting had been held in accordance with international standards.
Observers from Belgium, Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary and other countries monitored the voting process at 18 polling stations in Gagauzia’s 10 populated localities.
Dialogue with regions
The Moldovan authorities consider the referendum in Gagauzia unlawful, saying that “the country’s foreign policy is not within the jurisdiction of the local authorities.”
However, Gagauzia’s leader Mikhail Formuzal hopes that its results will influence Chisinau’s dialogue with regions.
“The EU, which the Moldovan leadership seeks to join, has the practice of holding referendums even on less important issues. Our authorities did not ask people’s opinion about independence, foreign policy, language, Transdniestrian settlement or any other vital issue. The plebiscite in Gagauzia showed that there is a large gap between declarations made by the leadership of the republic and real life on the ground. I hope that now the opinion of the people will be respected, and we will start building a truly democratic state,” Formuzal told Itar-Tass.
Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca said the referendum in Gagauzia had highlighted the needs for closer interaction with regions.
“Interaction should be different from what it has been until now. We need to concentrate on the real problems in Gagauzia and the south as a whole. Probably, the status of the autonomy will have to be corrected,” he said.
Customs Union vs. EU
According to preliminary data, over 98.4% of 70.4% of voters who came to the polling stations supported accession to the Customs Union, and about 2.7% voted for integration with the EU.
Leanca noted inadequate work to promote European values in Gagauzia. “Parliamentary elections will be held in Moldova at the end of this year. They will be the most representative referendum on various important issues,” he said and stressed the need to explain to people the benefits of the Association Agreement and Free Trade Area Agreement with the EU.
Some Moldova politicians condemned Gagauzia for its actions and warned that they might divide society. Former Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat urged local authorities to “sign a public declaration in support of the European vector and to condemn separatism.”
Gagauzia urged Moldova to “conduct dialogue free of political and forceful pressure, to show political wisdom and reserve stability in the public and political life of the country.”