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Fall political seazon

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September 2, 2002
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On September 1 the fall political season began. Given upcoming local elections to be held next May, the major concern of political parties right now is getting ready for elections. During the National Voters’ Assembly (NVA) it organized on September 1, Christian-Democratic Peoples’ Party faction in Parliament voiced its position “against communist stupidity, antichrist atheism, poverty, corruption, denationalization, censure, as well as federalization of the Republic of Moldova (RM)”. Furthermore, Christian-Democrats criticized Moldovan authorities for obstructing citizens residing outside Chisinau to attend the NVA by employing Information and Security Service, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Education, etc. That explains the relatively low turnout (some agencies reported that 4,000 people attended the NVA, however organizers insist on 25,000 participants). Also, the NVA organizers announced that one of the immediate actions to be undertaken by the party would be to brief Council of Europe raporteurs on the Republic of Moldova who are due on a visit in mid-September, that authorities have so far only mocked the enforcement of CE Parliamentary Assembly’s Resolution. Christian-Democrat leaders claim that the persecution of the organizers and participants to the anti-Communist protest rallies of January 9 — April 25 are ongoing despite Council of Europe recommendations. In addition, they claim the Communist authorities did not observe the moratorium on revising educational policies related to language and history study as they promote a policy of “Russian-izing” the education. It worth mentioning that anti-CIS and pro-NATO slogans were heard at the Voters’ Assembly.

It goes without saying, that authorities’ intention to settle the Transdnistrian conflict via federalization, based on draft Agreement between the Republic of Moldova and Transdnistria developed by OSCE and guarantor countries Russia and Ukraine, has even further instigated the protest rallies. In this respect it was decided that the next NVA would be held on October 6.

Federalization issue has taken the center stage. It’s very likely that the electoral coalitions in view of 2003 local elections shall be formed around opinions shared by relevant parties with regard to Republic of Moldova federalization. One may say several political groups have been formed that took a stance with regard to the said issue. The first one includes center-right political parties, which openly oppose federalization. According to them Tiraspol regime is a criminal one and entering in federation with it would mean to recognize and legalize it. Some of the parties that oppose federalization include Christian-Democratic Peoples’ Party, Liberal Party, Social Liberal Party as well as other small parties. Noteworthy, Christian-Democrats stand out among other parties opposing federalization. Thus, Tara reflecting Christian-Democrat values advocates for a union of states, i.e. the Republic of Moldova and Transdnistria, similar to that of Serbia and Montenegro, rather than for a federation, which might result in a diminished national identity of the indigenous population of the Republic of Moldova (RM).

The second political group, which unequivocally supports the federalization of the RM, includes political parties in governing between 1994–1998, namely Agrarian Democratic Party, Socialist Party and Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova. The last two used to be part of the Internationalist Movement “Edinstvo” (Unity) until its dissolution.

The third political group includes political parties that used to revolution around the former President, Petru Lucinschi, namely Social-Democratic Alliance headed by the former Prime-Minister Dumitru Braghis and Centrist Union. They support the federalization of the Republic of Moldova based on the OSCE draft, however they believe some of its aspects should be more detailed. Furthermore, leaders of the said parties claim the number of the would-be federation subjects should be extended so as each administrative-territorial unit to become a federation subject.

And last but not least, there is the Communist Party. The governing party saluted the federalization initiative, however the party leaders insinuated that the draft should revised, but refrained from commenting what exactly should be revised. In fact President Vladimir Voronin has already started accelerating the negotiations with Transdnistrian leaders. In this respect on August 1 he established the National Commission for Republic of Moldova Reintegration, later on he addressed to the mediators and Tiraspol administration with an initiative to resume to negotiation process. Needless to say the negations would be tough. Tiraspol leaders are obsessed by the idea of equality of the negotiation parties, they went so far as to deny Chisinau at least the right to set the negotiation date. In this context, they viewed President Voronin’s initiative as an act destabilizing the negotiations formula of the five parties (Moldova, Transdnistria, OSCE, Russia, Ukraine). Tiraspol’s intentions are best illustrated by the words of Valeri Litskai, head of Transdnistrian diplomacy, namely that the negotiations would continue for many-many years.

Although both conflicting parties saluted OSCE draft on the federalization of the Republic of Moldova it is still unclear how the Agreement provisions would be enforced. In the case of the Republic of Moldova, this is even more complicated. Federalization is imposed from outside. That is why, the guarantees to the stability of the would-be Moldovan Federation should be also from outside, exactly as was the case of Bosnia. This somehow justifies the fears of the Moldovan opposition that Republic of Moldova would loose its sovereignty by accepting federalization as a solution to the Transdnistrian conflict.

Furthermore, the opposition warns Communist governing that federations established according to ethnic and ideological criteria fall apart sooner or later (an illustration of this may be USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia). Succeeded only federations where the great majority of the population supported the unification and its symbols. This was possible in the countries characterized by ethnic homogeny, like Germany, or by a homogeneous distribution of heterogeneous elements, like United States of America, which had a cultural, language, and religious homogeny of the governing elite. There were a series of other factors which contributed to the strengthening of the American Federation, such as a unifying war against colonization (followed by a long period of peace) and the rich natural resources are not to be neglected as well.

If we are to compare the factors known as generating stability in a federation to those known to generate instability, one may find out that the balance is not in favor of Moldova’s federalization. Indeed, let’s only consider the following: it is expected that Moldovan Federation would include subjects formed according to some ethnic criteria; one of the goals of the governing party striving to reunite the country is to build a communist society; guarantor countries which contributed to the edification of the breakaway Transdnistrian regime do not hide their interests in that territory; and after all the country is to be reunified after a war, which is still perceived differently by the citizens of both sides due to propagandistic efforts of Chisinau and Tiraspol.

The conflict between Chisinau and Tiraspol deepened last year at the time the big western powers headed by USA and Russia engaged into a global fight against terrorism and proliferation of nuclear weapons. It seems that both Moldovan and Transdnistrian leadership accepted the federalization recommended for the fear not to displease big powers. Probably, the risk that the propaganda war between Chisinau and Tiraspol might degenerate into a full-scale war determined US to get actively involved in this conflict resolution. There is no question that it was the US involvement, which accelerated the elaboration of a draft Agreement. Although, US decision to support federalization took Moldovan opposition by surprise, US had all the grounds to adopt such a decision. Firstly, the draft Agreement clearly defines the “joint state” notion, which Republic of Moldova engaged to jointly edify with Transdnistria as back as 1997. Secondly, Smirnov regime has proved its sustainability and is probably seen by US administration as a party equal to Chisinau at the negotiation table, in fact as the aforesaid Memorandum provides. Thirdly, it’s clear that the new strategic partners Russia and US make mutual concessions to each other in the former soviet region, and this stands true not only for Middle East and Caucasus but also for the Transdnistrian conflict settlement.

Still Moldovan opposition believes it was not fair for the country leadership to accept federalization right from the beginning, without even trying to convince guarantor countries that there are other ways of settling the conflict. If we are to admit that the conflict resolution greatly depends on the position of big powers, then Republic of Moldova should have undertaken an upscale diplomatic effort to convince them that the Spanish model of settling the conflict between the center and its provinces is far more adequate for the Republic of Moldova. Spanish Constitution adopted in 1978 makes no reference to federalization; rather it refers to “the state of autonomies”. And this, in order to discourage any attempts of future separatism, although experts in the constitutional law claim Spanish provinces enjoy the same rights as the subjects of a federate state.

Another reason for the tension between opposition and Communist governing is that Communists turned the discussions on federalization into a propaganda campaign aimed to denigrate the opposition by labeling as anti-State. However, upon a would-be federalization the arguments brought up by the opposition are not to be neglected at all. The fact that one of the Governing party goals is still rebuilding the federation of the former soviet republics and their electoral promise to adhere to the Russia — Belarus Union run counter to their own declarations on the edification of an independent Moldovan state. This contrast deepened even further when Communists accepted federalization based on a draft Agreement adapted after the model of Constitution of the Russian Federation. Noteworthy this year State Duma of the Russian Federation adopted a special law on accepting new subjects into the Federation. It seems that the law is already applied, as during the meeting Vladimir Putin had with Alexandr Lukashenko, Belarus was invited to become the 90th subject of the Russian Federation. Thus, opposition suspects that favorable conditions are set for the Republic of Moldova integration along with Belarus into the Russian Federation.

All above said coupled with mutual suspicions of the governing and opposition only perpetrates the conflict into the new political season.

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