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Democracy and governing in Moldova
II year, no. 24, 11 February 2004
Activity of public institutions
Studies, analyses, comments
I. Activity of public institutions
New Parliament session
On February 5, Parliament resumed its activity after an almost one-month vacation. This is the seventh session of current legislature, which would last until mid-summer. During her inauguration speech, the Parliament Chair, Eugenia Ostapciuc, once again reaffirmed that European integration was a strategic goal for the Republic of Moldova and called on all the deputies to dedicate entirely their activity towards that goal.
Moldovan legislators approved several pieces of legislation in the first reading; some of them shall be given a thorough consideration as follows.
Via the Law on protectionist measures against the import of sugar at dumping prices a special tax on the imported sugar was set worth 100-115 Euro/ tone throughout 2004-2008. This tax shall be paid in addition to the customs tax, regardless of country of origin. The move is aimed to protect domestic sugar producers, however on the expense of the consumers who are likely to pay a higher price on sugar.
Via the Law on the Modification of the Law on Local Taxes Parliament abolished such taxes as: salubrity tax, tax for packaging and wastes disposal, as well as state border tax. The latter would deprive local public administration of the border regions from one of their most important sources of income. On the other hand, it reduces the number of taxes due and facilitates the transit of goods and travellers.
Under the modifications to the Fiscal Code operated via the Law on establishing a preferential VAT on delivery of goods a 5% VAT on zootechnical, fitotechnical and agricultural products was established throughout 2004. The amendments are aimed at facilitating the acquisition of natural products by large acquisition networks and cooperatist societies.
Law on the modification of the Fiscal Code in view of enlarging the application of banking cares allows for paying fiscal obligations by means of banking cards, date of payment being considered the day the account was debited.
In addition, Parliament ratified several international acts, namely:
- Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Moldova and the Government of Sweden on the framework and terms of co-operation throughout 2003-2008. The agreement provides for a yearly assistance to the Republic of Moldova by Sweden worth 5 million USD.
- Protocol on European Community joining to the International Convention on the cooperation in air traffic safety.
- Protocol on involving children in the armed conflicts to the Convention on the children's rights. Protocol prohibits recruiting and involving persons up to 18 in military conflicts.
- Protocol amending the European Convention on fighting terrorism. The Protocol is aimed at updating the list of international conventions on fighting terrorism, defining new procedures for monitoring conventions' enforcement, giving a larger mandate to the European Committee overseeing Convention enforcement, etc.
At the Government sitting of February, Nicolae Dudau was appointed Republic of Moldova Ambassador to Italy. Andrei Stratan will replace him as the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Andrei Stratan's promotion from Deputy Minister to the ministerial chair might boost Moldova's efforts towards European integration, which has become a top priority for the Republic of Moldova. This is the more important as Mr. Stratan hold the position of National Co-ordinator of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe and Chief of the European Integration Department.
In a related note, Tudor Cojocaru was ousted from the position of Deputy Minister of Education, Alexei Cemirtan - from the position of Chief of State Treasury, whereas Nicolae Svet - from the position of Director of the National Land and Land Registry Agency. Gheorghe Cojocaru was appointed as Deputy Minister of Finance, whereas Olga Poalelungi was approved to the position of Deputy Director of the Migration Department.
On February 4, Government increased by over 135 thousand the number of beneficiaries of obligatory medical insurance covered by the state. Among others the following categories were added: pregnant women; persons having in care children under 3 years of age; persons having in care first degree handicapped; as well as mothers raising children under 16. According to the Minister of Healthcare the amendment would cost additional 60 million Lei.
The same day, Government established a Working group to devise a Neighborhood Program for Romania and Republic of Moldova throughout 2004-2006. The program is to be completed in three months as indicated in the Program on cross-border co-operation proposed by the European Commission as part of its new neighborhood policy.
In addition, Government approved a draft law on off-shore tax, 15% of the transaction, payable in MDL to the state budget. The following are exempted from the tax: transactions made by state structures subordinated to Government in connection with Moldova's obligations to international organizations, payments made the country residents to repay the bank credits or loans to non-resident natural or legal entities, registered in off-shore.
On February 3, Government, employers and trade unions signed a Joint Convention on wages to the employees working based on individual working contracts. The document provides for a 440 Lei wage for first degree employees working in self sustainable enterprises and organisations and a 360 Lei wage for the same employees working in small enterprises, medical institutions and agriculture. The Convention also provides for a monthly bonus ranging from 75 to 150 Lei to employees working in a dangerous environment.
To evaluate the activity of various Ministries throughout 2003, a number of ministerial sessions were convened, some of them attended by the President. Vladimir Voronin reviewed ministerial activity during 2003 and set new goals for the 2004.
Ministry of Environment, Constructions and Territory Planning
During the January 27 session of the relevant Ministry, President Voronin reviewed its successes throughout 2003 especially in the field of water supply to the population and environment protection. However, President pointed that the "role of the Ministry is to co-ordinate processes, not mere projects. Co-ordinating processes commences with an assessment of the current state of affairs, with setting goals, with developing policies and action plans to enforce them, and mechanisms to pursue citizens and legal entities to abide those policies, and prevent them from violating the norms and rules". Finally, the President indicated that "the Ministry should clearly identify its role and place within Moldovan economy, it should choose, and if necessary even develop, market mechanisms adequate to the modern social relationships so as to co-ordinate the processes in the field and influence them". The top priorities for the Ministry in 2004 include: gas supply to localities, decentralisation of the heating and water supply system, especially in the North and South of the country.
The President was less harsh at the session of the Ministry of Education held on January 29, when he praised the Ministry for its activity in the past year. His criticism was mainly targeted at the universities and institutions, rather than at the Ministry itself. President referred in particular to the high levels of corruption and inefficiency of the private education system.
The President entrusted the following tasks: finalising the classified list of jobs, which are of paramount importance for the national economy; devising an efficient mechanism of youth placement in the labour market, as "great many of the Republic of Moldova's institutions and universities care only for educating lawyers and economists, while the country is in desperate need of craftsmen and truck drivers". In addition President pointed the need to improve the conditions of the secondary schools in rural areas, revive technical schools, decide on the duration of pre-university education, update school libraries, and establish a single education information system.
Ministry of Finance proved to be the most praiseworthy. Its greatest merit resumes to the fact that state budget for 2003 was enforced, which according to the President was an illustration to the fact that the Ministry "is promoting a right policy and strictly abides the law". On the other hand President pointed during January 30 session that "unfortunately, our fiscal and budgetary policy does not seem to be clear-cut, consistent, nor is it viewed with good eyes by the taxpayers". Voronin pointed to the flaws in taxation system and recommended eliminating them. As for the foreign debt, President asked the Ministry to work out procedures for restructuring it.
Mediators meeting in Sofia
The Bulgarian OSCE Chairmanship organised on 26-27 January in Sofia a meeting of the mediators to discuss the issue of resuming the negotiations as well as that of the contents and periodicity of talks. Since the failure by the Moldovan authorities to sign the Russian proposed plan of resolving the Transnistrian conflict in November 2003, the negotiators have not met either in the three-sided format or in the five-sided one, although they have continued to hold bilateral talks. Due to the persisting differences among the mediators on the role of the Russian settlement plan in future talks, the mediators reached the compromise agreement to meet again on 24 February to discuss the comments by the Moldovan and Transnistrian sides on a settlement plan prepared by the mediators and the OSCE last autumn.
William Hill, the Head of the OSCE Mission to Moldova told a press conference upon his return from Sofia that significant progress in the conflict resolution process is not to be expected soon. Therefore the mediators have agreed upon a strategy that presupposes a series of step-by-step actions. The first step was taken by the OSCE who handed in to the Moldovan and Transnistrian sides the draft proposal developed by the mediators and the OSCE last autumn. The parties are to submit amendments to the draft by 17 February. Then, on 24 February the mediators will meet again to examine the amendments made by the parties and eventually adopt a join position on the contents of talks. The date for holding the five-sided meeting will be determined thereafter.
However, the compromise that was reached in Sofia seems to be a fragile one. Both the parties and the mediators have already made a number of contradictory statements that reveal that differences persist on the document to be accepted as the basis for future talks. Thus, when President Voronin met with William Hill to discuss the results of the Sofia meeting, he did not hesitate to raise a number of aspects of an eventually new settlement plan that would incorporate bits of agreements already discussed. On the other hand, Veaceslav Trubnikov, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister said in interview with the Moscow press that because when drafting the Russian settlement plan of last November the parties reached important and real compromises on a number of juridical issues, the plan has to be taken into consideration in future talks.
Transnistria Supreme Soviet rules to close down the Romanian language schools
On 28 January the Supreme Soviet of the self-styled Transnistrian republic ruled that by the start of the next academic year on 1 September 2004 all pre-university institutions teaching in the Romanian language will be closed down. The Transnistrian "education minister" said the move was necessary because none of the schools concerned abides by the Transnistrian education law, none has a licence for activity and "the ideology and contents of the humanities subjects taught in these schools do not fit the Transnistrian education policy." Since the said schools are under the jurisdiction of the Moldovan Education Ministry, the latter has obtained a one month moratorium for legalising the status of these schools before the breakaway authorities proceed with closing them down.
At the same time, the Moldovan Ministry of Education called illegal the decision of the Transnistrian authorities, as the said schools have taught according to the Moldovan curriculum and have used the Latin alphabet since before the outbreak of the Transnistrian conflict. The Moldovan Ministry said the initiative of closing the schools is a flagrant violation of the rights of children and parents to an education in their native language.
Russian Consulate in Tiraspol
The Russian Ambassador to Moldova Yuri Zubakov reiterated during a meeting with representatives of the Russian community in Tiraspol Moscow's readiness to open a Russian Consulate in Transnistria. According to Zubakov, Russia will not make such a move unless approved by the Moldovan authorities, who, he said, do not really have any political argument to oppose such a development.
We would like to remind our readers that in 2002 the Russian State Duma voted a decision instructing the Russian Government to consider opening a Russian consular body in Tiraspol. The Moscow diplomats still think the issue topical, given that about 60,000 Russian citizens currently live in Transnistria. The Chisinau authorities have opposed Moscow's intentions, as they did any diplomatic contacts whatsoever with the secessionist authorities in Transnistria.
III. Foreign affairs
On January 27, a session of the National Commission for European Integration was convened, also attended by the President Voronin. The latter pointed that "European integration is not a goal in itself, but rather a strive to European economic, democratic and social values and standards", and therefore the year 2004 was to become for Moldova "a year of laying the institutional and legal foundation for structural reforms in economy, politics social and humanitarian fields, as well as of connecting to European policies and bringing domestic law in accordance with European standards". In Voronin's view adequate institutional mechanism would be established, among others via a Council established with the Presidency, which would "co-ordinate and settle any issues related to European integration and oversee how the engagements assumed by the country are being carried out. Another new idea voiced by the President was the adoption of a informational governmental programme of European integration of the Republic of Moldova. In a related note, members of the National Commission were briefed about the fact that on January 26 European Commission had submitted to Chisinau the draft Individual Action Plan Republic of Moldova - European Union and that the first round of negotiations was scheduled for January 29. On this occasion, the President once again pointed the importance of "strictly complying" with the previously agreed terms with EU.
First round of negotiations on the Individual Action Plan Republic of Moldova-European Union
The first round of negotiations began on January 29 in Chisinau, the next two being scheduled for mid-March 2004 so as to finalize the document. It is expected that UE General Affairs Council would be approve the document by the of May, after European Commission endorses it. Moldovan negotiations were headed by Andrei Stratan, at that time Deputy Foreign Minister, whereas EU by Hugues Mingarelli, Chief of Department in the Foreign Affairs General Directorate of the European Commission. According to the press release of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, cited by Info-Prim, three roundtables were established: (1) International security, justice and internal affairs issues; (2) Economy, finance, trade, social issues, agriculture and development; and (3) Transportation, telecommunications, energetics, information society, co-operation in humanitarian field. At issue were the structure and elements of the Action Plan.
The results of the aforesaid talks were reviewed during two sessions, one convened by Prime-Minister Tarlev and other by President Voronin. During the first one the head of the Moldovan group of negotiators reported on the process of negotiations and mentioned that "in the nearest future Moldovan side is to prioritise the actions to be taken and come up with its own vision of the document". In this respect Prime-Minister Vasile Tarlev asked Ministries and Department to formulate by February 5 their positions on the document, which are to be co-ordinated with European Integration Department at the national level, and afterwards with European Commission.
At the initial stage, Ministry of Economy would be responsible for the economic and social issues, including environment and healthcare; Ministry of Justice would deal with political reforms and liaison with EU on justice and internal affairs; Ministry of Transportation and Communication would co-ordinate such issues as transportation, telecommunication, energetics, information society; and Ministry of Foreign Affairs would be responsible for maters related to culture, education, scientific research and civil society.
During the second session, President Voronin called on mobilising the efforts of Moldovan officials so as to prepare for the second round of negotiations on the Individual Action Plan, scheduled for February 23 at Brussels. At issue was also the co-operation with the countries members of the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe as well as participation in the EU launched cross-border co-operation initiative.
Free trade agreement
As part of its engagements assumed when associating to the Memorandum of Understanding on the Liberalisation and Facilitation of Trade in South-eastern Europe, on January 28 Republic of Moldova concluded a Free Trade Agreement with Macedonia. The Agreement provides for free trade between the two countries until December 31, 2007.
IV. Studies, analyses, comments
1. Maastricht paradox. Is there a lesson for Moldova?
by Sorin Hadarca
European Monetary Union, represented by the countries that adopted a single European currency - Euro, are nowadays split when it comes to complying with Maastricht criteria. In particular, France and Germany whose budget deficit exceeded 3% of the GDP, are fighting the European Central Bank governor Jean Claude Trichet (until recently the Governor of the Bank of France) and other countries for a more flexible interpretation of the said criteria. Their argument is that in order to comply with the criteria both France and Germany would have pursue tight fiscal policies, i.e. either increasing the taxes or reducing public expenditures. According to them such policies were counterproductive to the economic growth and they might lead to even fewer budget revenues than today. Therefore it would push those countries into a vicious circle: high taxes - economic slowdown; slowdown - low revenues to the state budget; low revenues - higher budget deficit than the current 3%; high deficit - high taxes…?
On the other hand, if allowed to breach the criteria, cutting taxes would boost an economic growth, which in its turn would supply revenues to the state budget and stabilise budget deficit on a mid and long term. The thing is that the countries that today are finding difficult to comply with the criteria, used to advocate the idea in the past so as to protect themselves from the more vulnerable economies of Spain, Portugal, Greece. Ironically the latter register an economic growth with no budget problems to beset them.
That reminds us of the "taboo" put upon the Moldovan budget deficit by the international financial organisations, the "co-authors" of Moldovan economic policies, including the fiscal ones. It is true that in a country where the 1998 crisis and hyperinflation at the dawns of independence still cast a shadow, budget is a rather sensitive issue. The danger here is that, in the eyes of many, budget is associated with a holed sack - no matter how hard you pull, you still get a feeling that there is something there still to come. Unfortunately, once you become addicted to "regular doses of deficit", sooner or later this "chronic disease" will turn into insolvency. This is not our case yet. Germany or France might regard with envy Republic of Moldova's budget deficit. Now the question a Moldovan should ask is - whether such a low deficit is of any good?
Tab. 1 1 Evolution of the budget deficit in Moldova over the last 5 years
1998 1999 2000 2001 2002
GDP (million Lei) 9122.1 12321.6 16019.6 19051.5 22040.0
Deficit -305.2 -395.0 -166.4 -1 -109.7
% of GDP 3.3 3.2 1.0 0.01 0.5
To answer this question one may want to analyse fiscal policy from an austerity perspective. In short, fiscal policies consist mainly of manoeuvring tax burden and managing public spending. Lower taxes boost economy (in Moldova another positive secondary effect would be "legalisation" of businesses, as it would encourage those operating on the black market to go legal); public spending boosts a surging demand, consequently production is set to soar. Therefore, is the low deficit policy a luxury that only growth machine countries could afford?
Still, there are good reasons why low budget deficit is "prescribed" to Moldova. Not so long ago, in 1998 Moldova went through a financial crisis that postponed the prospects of economic recovery for several years. Even before the Russian crisis, which hit almost all the countries that had economic ties with the Russian Federation, Moldova showed the first signs of crisis. In particular, foreign investors were getting rid of their T-bills issued by the Government of Moldova and were repatriating their investments, thus wielding a heavy influence on the interest rates, as well as on exchange rate. At that time, the financial pyramid build up on T-bills issued in ever-growing numbers, so as to cover for the interest rate on previously incurred debts, was falling apart thus revealing the fragility of the Moldovan financial system. Due to National Banks' efforts to avoid an internal default by buying a significant amount of state T-bills, the banking system was flooded with Lei; therefore the financial crisis was headed off from becoming a banking crisis. One lesson Moldova has learned from that folly was that financial pyramid is an extremely dangerous "toy".
Since 1998 T-bills have been issued in amounts equal to redeemed T-bills, and only a net margin growth in the amount of state T-bills in circulation was allowed. As a result, interest payments are made from budget revenues, while refraining from increasing budget deficit so as to avoid falling twice in the same trap of financial pyramids. Therefore, for Moldova low deficit is more of a constraint inflicted by the vulnerability of a state having a higher public debt than it could handle, than a mere luxury, as it may seem at the first glance.
Still, some would insist that according to economic policies, reducing fiscal burden does not necessarily reduce budget revenues. Low taxes would boost an economic growth, thereby enlarging the fiscal basis. However, some fear that those effects would show off too late and that the budget developed on an annual basis would suffer at start, factor to be avoided in cases of huge public debt. That is why we should give the credit to the international financial institutions and keep this economic lever in reserve for the future (hopefully the near future), when the size of public debt would no longer be a challenge.
Even under current circumstances, it is possible to reconcile on paying back foreign debt on the expense of growing internal debt. For a while now, Republic of Moldova has been on the verge of default, each time heading it off with ingenuity, however not in as much as it may want to, so as to be out of danger. This policy has "costed" the country a credit rating, which otherwise would have been a far better one, and a flow of investments so much needed to boost the economic growth. Therefore, Government may consider issuing more internal debt, converting it into hard currency and using it to decrease the foreign debt. 2003 proved to be quite favourable year for such a strategy. The strong Lei would have allowed to pay back foreign debt at an exchange rate favourable to the Ministry of Finance, whereas excess liquidity occurring once in a while in the banking system would have allowed to enforce the strategy without setting interest rates to soar. Common sense tells that it makes more sense to go for such a strategy, than end up with a budget surplus at the end of the year and still face the risk of insolvency.
2. The power of reason
by Igor Botan
Politics in Moldova goes hand in hand with scandals related to the exercise of the citizens' fundamental rights. January 25' authorities decline of Christian-Democrats application to authorise a protest rally that was submitted back on December 3, 2003 - has produced yet another scandal.
a) Insight into the confrontation
It is quite interesting to observe the confrontation between the Christian-Democratic Peoples' Party and Communist Party for several reasons.
Firstly, the President, alias Chair of the ruling party, has reiterated on numerous occasions that joining EU is Republic of Moldova's strategic goal. Referring to the first round of negotiations on the individual Action Plan "Republic of Moldova - European Union" President stated "we should create a favourable image of the country and prove through our actions that joining EU is a top priority of the Republic of Moldova's foreign policy". One month prior to that, he entrusted governmental decision-makers to pursue a key priority - becoming an EU associated member by 2007. This goal is to be pursued by concentrating the efforts on complying with Copenhagen political and economic criteria. These criteria provide for: 1) a viable democracy, human rights observance, rule of law, minority rights; 2) a functional market economy; 3) a legal framework in line with EU standards.
Having said that, the interests of the ruling party and opposition coincide, at least when it comes to declarations. Differences stem from the mistrust and above all, ways to comply with the above said criteria.
Secondly, both ruling party and opposition, including Christian-Democrats, are aware of the fact that joining EU without settling the Transdnistrian conflict first, or without withdrawal of the Russian troops from Moldovan soil, is impossible. And here again the end goals of the two parties coincide, whereas the ways and methods of pursuing them differ.
And finally, both the ruling party and Christian-Democrats are warming up for the parliamentary electoral campaign, supposedly due to begin at the end of the year or early next year. Both parties have already voiced their electoral ambitions. Communist Party wants to preserve the unlimited power it holds at the moment, whereas Christian-Democrats aspire to the role of unified opposition's leader, which strives to "alternate power". However, the resources each of them possess differ a lot. That is why the upcoming elections made political leaders want to try-out the strategies and tactics they intend to employ in political confrontations.
Moldovan experience proves that verbal confrontations and protest rallies staged by the opposition against the ruling party are the most accessible tools employed in political fight, even when the parties seem to have similar strategic goals.
b) Effects of the confrontation between Christian-Democrats and Communists
On the one hand, Christian-Democrats chose political dialogue with would-be partners on the right, centre-right and centre-left in view of establishing a centre-right electoral bloc. Interestingly enough, Christian-Democrats gave up their old aggressive methods of dealing with would-be allies and competitors in favour of the power of reason, so as to convince them to establish a single electoral bloc. On the other hand, the very same power of reason is denied to the Communist Party. Christian-Democrats deal with the Communists in a quite harsh manner, or should we say in a manner they are themselves treated. The thing is that to a certain extend, both parties are interested to present their confrontation as imminent, which stems from sharing different values and could be traced back to the "perestroika" era.
If it is indeed so, then opposition, including Christian-Democrats have won this confrontation. It was the Communist Party that had to give up its strategic landmarks and embrace the opposition ones. Once they seized the power and once all the illusions vanished, Communists shifted: 1) from joining Russia-Belarus Union to joining EU; 2) from building Communism to building "economic liberalism"; 3) from settling Transdnistrian conflict exclusively with Russia's help to internationalising the conflict settlement. Currently, Communist leaders talk revising party program, which does no longer reflect the realities of the day. To put it differently, Communists have to acknowledge that the goals set by the opposition that they fought hard for ten years, proved to be valid and correct and are nowadays embraced by the Communist Party, at least when it comes to rhetoric. There is no doubt that Communists would never acknowledge such a thing, on the contrary party moguls and governmental press claim that the only thing opposition did was to voice certain goals and did nothing to pursue them, whereas Communist Party has already registered some success in this respect. Considering that throughout 1992 - 1998 the Agrarian Democratic Party, labelled by President Voronin as a party "friendly" to the Communist Party, was in power; while throughout the unstable 1998 - 2001 it held enough levers to wield a heavy influence on the political course of Moldova, one may easily figure out which party had opposed the European integration course as well as the internationalisation of the Transdnistrian conflict. An illustration to this effect is the political and electoral program that brought Communist Party to power in 2001.
The irony is that Communists stole opposition's best tunes once they won 2001 parliamentary elections, though before elections Communists promised their electorate completely different strategic options from the ones they share today. They did promise socially oriented programs, a foreign policy oriented towards Russia, which in its turn was to provide Moldova with fuel and gas at lower prices, as it was the case of Belarus. Thus, Communist moguls proved to be adroit at exploiting the "mentality inertia" of the former soviet citizens, who heard from the Communist Party what they wanted to hear, i.e. pledges of assistance in resolving their daily problems. For those people democratization prospects, would-be welfare based on free enterprise, European integration etc - mean nothing when compare to their daily struggle for survival. Those people do remember that during the soviet times when the Communist party was in power their living standards used to be much higher, and that is exactly why they cast their vote in favor of Communists.
Once in power, after none of his expectations (i.e. to drop the prices on fuel and to settle Transdnistrian conflict) came to fruition, President Voronin announced a shift in the strategic priorities of the Republic of Moldova and embraced those of the opposition, albeit the old goals have been preserved in the party statutory documents.
From this perspective, the President breaches the Communist party goals, which according to paragraph 4 of Chapter 2 are binding to each party member. That is why, more than a year ago Communist party moguls declared that it was necessary to revise the party program and statutory goals, in order to bring them in line with the socio-political and economic realities of the Republic of Moldova and set the framework for a would-be integration. This is to be done during the next party congress.
It's hard to estimate the likely impact of any transformations within the Communist Party. The truth is, that a good portion of the electorate totally ignores the "ideological flexibility" among parties and the metamorphosis of their goals, fact confirmed during the recent local elections and by opinion polls. Communist party rating did not suffer any change after the party shifted its values. For great many voters what really maters is that the ruling party does not stop talking about raising salaries and pensions, economic growth, and their constant care for people.
Opposition and analysts see the Communist Party evolution as quite opportunistic and revisionist. Many when asked in how far is Communism still reflected in the Communist Party's activity, would answer - not at all, or at best - in rhetoric. One thing is for sure, the only communist left outs are the means of reaching the ends, which are nothing but authoritarian ones. They resume to taking under control everything that might bring some political, economic, financial or informational dividends, and proved to be quite efficient in keeping the country under total control and quite inefficient when it comes to the image the country is projecting abroad.
That is why the confrontation between Christian-Democrats and Communist Party leaves a wide berth for manoeuvres to the so-called centrists. Several democratic parties having a certain electoral weight have agreed that exploiting anti-Communist rhetoric is counterproductive, whereas establishing a single anti-Communist centre-right electoral bloc is not likely to enjoy a full-fledged support of the electorate. Those parties, Democratic Party and Social-Democratic Party in particular, clearly distance themselves from the Christian-Democrat's initiative to have a single opposition bloc. "Our Moldova" Alliance shares the same opinion, preferring to highlight Communist authoritarian means, which could be fought only with the help of international organisations. Challenging Communist rhetoric falls within the scope of the so-called left-wing opposition, which at the time is still quite weak, however is able to revive if granted necessary support from abroad (Russia) from those who used to support the Communist Party in previous elections.
Therefore, parties outside Communist Party - Christian Democrats' antagonistic axis may want to exploit the difficulties Communists encounter once their leader lost the support of Russian authorities (as a result of shift in foreign policy and refusal to sign Kozak Memorandum), as well as credibility in the eyes of EU institutions (as a result of the policies employed at home, fact confirmed by the European Parliament Resolutions, statements of international financial institutions and Western academics).
c) Effects of discrepancies between words and deeds
An illustration of the discrepancy between pro-European words and deeds of Moldovan authorities was the prohibition of the protest rallies mentioned above. As grounds for refusal Chisinau Deputy Mayor cited some "verified data confirmed" by competent authorities that "calls to war and aggression and instigation to national hatred and public violence will be made during the protest rallies".
Christian-Democrats appealed in Court of Appeal the decision. The later ruled in favour of the Deputy Mayor on the grounds that the flyers published by the Christian-Democrats contained such text as "Away with Voronin's dictatorial regime", "Away with Putin's occupation", which only confirm "the attempt to infringe on constitutional regime and instigate hatred of Russian people". Christian-Democrats appealed that decision in the Supreme Court of Justice.
Even if the legal aspect of the confrontation between the two parties is important, still in the last two years domestic and foreign public opinion got used to the fact that in emergency cases European institutions intervene via: resolutions, "permanent round tables", memorandums, moratoriums, etc. From this perspective, it would be far more interesting to assess the power of reason.
On the one hand, Christian-Democrats argue that the rallies staged by them were legal and they protested against things hard to contest, such as: 1) Russia did not comply with its engagement to withdraw the troops and munitions from the Eastern region of the Republic of Moldova; 2) Moldovan authorities and international organisations can not influence Russia to observe the deadline, therefore, there is no other way to draw public attention to that issue other than by means of protest rallies; 3) Russian military presence on the soil of the Republic of Moldova is an incentive for the breakaway regime controlled by the Russian citizens, who do not make a secret of the fact that their ultimate goal is to represent Russian interests in the region. This jeopardises Republic of Moldova's future and its prospects to achieve the strategic goal - European integration; 4) any approach in settling the conflict, whether a yielding one based on concessions, or a harsh one such as the exchange of customs seals or "telephone war", have no effects whatsoever as long as separatist leaders enjoy a full support of Russia; 5) solutions put forth by Russia, such as synchronizing munitions evacuation with the conflict resolution, the idea of a joint state, or Kozak Memorandum are solely targeted at subduing the Republic of Moldova; 6) at the previous protest rallies, regardless of whether authorised or not, Christian-Democrats never allowed for actions that served grounds for declining of their application.
On the other hand, there are clear signs that Moldovan authorities really understand and even agree with the arguments brought up by the Christian-Democrats. An illustration to this effect is the governmental press featuring articles and documents proving that opposition's arguments were valid, but which come from super-powers such as EU or US. It was interesting to read the European Parliament's Resolution related to the Republic of Moldova on the pages of the governmental press one-month after its release. Despite the fact that the Resolution was not exactly praiseworthy of Moldovan authorities in as far as economy or democracy are concerned, and could have tarnished authorities' image, it was still published. The main reason is that it reads that Russia failed to come up with adequate solutions for settling Transdnistrian conflict, as it had its own interests and was itself involved in the military conflict on the Dniester. This was yet another reason for President Voronin not to sign the Kozak Memorandum, and for the document to be published. Even more curious was the recent publication in the governmental newspaper of an article entitled "US demands Russia to treat its neighbours fairly". The article reads that during his meeting with Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Colin Powell "once again demanded the withdrawal of the Russian troops from Georgia and Transdnistria … observing the sovereignty and inviolability of the neighbourhood countries territory". Therefore one may rightly wonder why the citizens of the country are not allowed to do the same thing, however through the means available to them - protest rallies? The fact that international press has lately featured articles about separatist regimes encouraged by the Russian military presence in George, and also made reference to the state of affairs in Moldova - is mainly due to the protest rallies of Moldovan citizens.
Going back to the question, the answer is well known. Russian authorities demanded Moldovan authorities to put an end to the "anti-Russian" rallies. Therefore, it is plainly clear that Moldovan authorities would like Russia to be under the pressure of the international structures and at the same time avoid Kremlin's anger. As a result, the ruling party rejected opposition's initiative for the Parliament to adopt a declaration calling, in a diplomatic manner, Russia to comply with its engagements and withdraw its troops from Transdnistria, and at the same time denied its citizens the right to rally.
That is why, albeit protest rallies were not sanctioned, Christian-Democrats went ahead with their plans of staging the rally on January 25. President Voronin reaction was quite harsh, he dubbed Christian-Democratic Peoples' Party a "fascist group" which is to be "neutralised". Moreover, Information Service and Ministry of Internal Affairs thwarted the rallies by setting the police dogs on the crowd. As usual, journalists got to suffer when trying to record the clash on tape.
In fact in a country like Moldova one may come up with an endless number of reasons and explanations. Nevertheless, the metamorphosis to follow in governors' attitude towards Christian-Democrat staged protest rallies, has raised a number of eyebrows. One week after the protest rallies President Voronin stated in an interview to the "Trud" magazine that from that time on Christian-Democrat staged protest rallies would no longer enjoy that much attention from the law enforcement forces, as they had much more important things to take care of, than escorting a screaming crowd having fun.
This attitude towards Christian-Democrat revealed much of the Communists' manners and power of reason. On the other hand, Moldovan citizens who did agree with the reasons cited by authorities for not sanctioning the rallies, might feel they were done an injustice by authorities' decision to no longer protect them from "fascist elements" that pose a threat to the "constitutional order". On the other hand, Moldovan citizens who did not agree with authorities' reasons, have all the reasons to believe that these were indeed false, once the law enforcement forces decided to leave the protesters alone. Under those circumstances, it would be at least odd to mention the independence of Moldovan judiciary. It remains to be seen to what extend this reasoning fits the Copenhagen criteria, which Moldovan authorities pledged to abide.
The conclusions are quite sad, the only funny thing in the confrontation between the Communist Party and Christian-Democrats are some article titles in right-wing and left-wing press alike, "Communists compromise dog's image" and "The face of Moldovan democracy with a grinning cur".