The aforesaid gain a special importance on the eve of upcoming local elections. Furthermore, electoral campaign shall be launched at the time Communists would celebrate a two-year anniversary of their victory in parliamentary elections. This would be another occasion for their political opponents to assess the way ruling party had kept its promises. This is the more important as President Voronin stated he would be guided by three major goals in exercising his mandate: a) fighting poverty, b) fighting corruption, c) settling Transdnistrian conflict.
Currently, ruling party is criticized for “yielding” to World Bank and IMF, previously viewed by Communist Party (CP) as “the tools of the American Imperialism”. The Communist Party yielded given its lack of qualified personnel to implement its electoral program. The fact was mentioned during all the previous CP Plenary sessions, which seem to do nothing more than acknowledge the existing state of affairs. Lack of qualified personnel also accounts for the frequent Government shifts. However it is not the only problem Communists are facing. Last year President stated that CP has no strategy for the country future development. And this despite their political and electoral Program and the Government program they adopted: Economic recovery — rebirth of the country. Under the pressure of foreign debts and lack of professional personnel Moldovan authorities had to balance between implementing their electoral program and resuming the policies promoted by the previous Governments. Finally the ruling party decided to obediently follow the advice of World Bank and other financial institutions and engaged to elaborate the National Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRSP). PRSP concept has already been made public and the final version is to be developed by spring 2003, then it is to be implemented within the next 3–4 years. At the Forum hosted jointly by Moldovan Government and World Bank, President Voronin stated that the strategy is aimed at: sustainable economic development and boosting small business; social guarantees; enhancing the efficiency of the public bodies and the quality of services provided. Prime Minister, Vasile Tarlev, and Minister of Economy Stefan Odagiu publicly stated that PRSP should become a cornerstone document in Government activity, whereas public officers should take PRSP very seriously. Consequently all the other strategies developed by the current and former governors should all be subordinated to PRSP. In his turn, Luca Barbone, World Bank Regional Director stated that the institution he is representing would organize next spring a Donor’s Forum to raise the money for the Strategy implementation. According to some preliminary estimation Strategy enforcement would require $ 200 million. Consequently, Communist authorities would have no grounds to begrudge World Bank and IMF. Furthermore, the strategy provides for fostering democratic institutions and civic participation in the elaboration of the strategy. The advantages are obvious, in exchange for authorities’ cooperation World Bank and IMF would aid them in restructuring or even canceling Moldova’s foreign debts to the Paris Club. It seems Communists have made the right choice to cooperate with the “instruments of the American imperialism”, instead of implementing their own electoral programs, venture which anyhow is deemed to fail.
Foreign policy itself suffered some major changes. Communist authorities became increasingly involved in the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe and declared “European integration” one of their foreign policy key priorities. To cite only the two extremely important documents issued in November. Namely the PRSP concept and Presidential Decree on establishing a National Commission entrusted to develop the European Integration Strategy. Both documents refer to the European Integration. Under the two documents, Republic of Moldova is to become first an EU associated member and later one a full rights member. So far, discussions centered around the special status Republic of Moldova would enjoy, given its vicinity to EU borders, once Romania joins EU in 2007.
However, one should be very cautious with regard to authorities intention to joint EU. For instance the leader of the Communist Faction in Parliament stated Communist Party had strong intentions to join EU, however Moldova’s main economic interests lie at the “East”. If we are to consider the fact that Stepaniuc represents the orthodox wing of the party and last year he attended the Congress of CIS Communist Parties where at issue was rehabilitate Iosif Stalin, and that he continues to idolize Vladimir Lenin, we may conclude that EU integration wasn’t a benevolent choice of the Communist Party. Once Lenin was saying “politics is a concentrated expression of economy”. If the main economic interests lie at the “East”, than it is very unlikely long-term political interests to lie at the West. Another illustration is lobbying Russia’s interests in privatizing strategic economic units. On the other hand, pro-European policy may bring immediate benefits in settling the foreign debt problem and Transdnistrian conflict.
The latter is of special importance as all the European dignitaries visiting Moldova lately, besides discussing possible technical assistance to the Republic of Moldova, inquired on the progress registered in settling Transdnistrian conflict. This seems to work in favor of Communists. They accepted the draft on the Republic of Moldova federalization submitted by OSCE and endorsed by EU and US. The latest actions of the Transdnistrian authorities, which disagree with the OSCE draft, have presented them not exactly in a favorable light. Chisinau may view as its diplomatic achievement the fact that an OSCE commission including diplomats from 15 countries inspected the customs offices at the Moldovan Ukrainian border. Obviously, Transdnistrian authorities didn’t allow the commission inspection. All the aforesaid gives Moldova some chances to settle its tensed relations with Ukraine with the help of EU and US institutions. Noteworthy, Ukraine is not exactly in its best position, due to allegations of selling anti-radar munitions to Iraq. A year ago EU and US summoned Ukraine for allowing the transit of Transdnistrian goods on it territory, despite the old customs stamps used. Chisinau viewed the transit as smuggling. Under the pressure of European institutions and US Ukraine might yield and comply with the international regulations on the transit of goods from Transdnistria. In its turn, this might determine Tiraspol leaders to be more cooperative in negotiations with Chishinau. And that’s where European orientation priority comes from.
Nevertheless, there are clear signs that the middle level party members disagree with the opportunistic foreign policy promoted by the party leadership. There are more and more articles in the Communist press referring to class structure of the Moldovan society, reviving working class and its fight against capital. Lack of understanding between the top leadership and middle level structures may result in a party scission. Domestic analysts believe there are clear signs of growing tensions within the Communist Party, namely the President didn’t attend the last Party Plenary session, he also didn’t attend the celebration ceremonies dedicated to 85th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. If true, Republic of Moldova may found itself in a very difficult situation as it is a parliamentary republic and the lack of stable parliamentary majority may result in a breakup between Presidency, Parliament and Government. However, this scenario is very unlikely. Currently, there is no other political leader within the Communist Party able to equal Vladimir Voronin and to overtake the party leadership. The fact that Communists obediently continue to vote even if there are disagreements is another illustration to this effect. Furthermore, to reply to orthodox wing accusations of opportunism and deviation from Marxism-Leninism, Communist leaders demonstrate their friendship with China. Although Moldova’s trade with China accounts only for 0.3% of the total foreign trade, high rank Moldovan and Chinese delegations exchange official visits enabling Moldovan authorities to learn the “positive experience” of combining capitalist economy with authoritarian politics.
Some analysts believe a portion of the Communist Party electorate, especially the Russian speaking one, disappointed by the party’s opportunistic policy on the one hand and by the tough policy adopted in relations with Gagauz Yeri and Transdnistria on the other, would rather vote for the two socialist parties and “Ravnopravie” (Equality) Movement. The latter claim to defend the rights of Russian speaking population of Moldova. Another portion of the Communist electorate is expected to migrate to the Social Democratic Alliance (SDM) headed by the former Prime-Minister, Dumitru Braghis, who chose an equidistant approach towards CIS and EU. All the aforesaid could lead to a decreasing Communist Party rating. Furthermore, although fighting corruption was declared one of the top priorities, during the Communist governing no major case was investigated or brought to justice. As for the smuggling, it wasn’t halted either, fact confirmed by the Prime Minister himself. According to the media outlets, Communists’ activity resumed to redistribution of private property into the hands of groups close to the Communist Party. Furthermore, key figures in the Communist Government have become the key actors in corruption scandals, namely Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev, Parliament Deputy Chair, Vadim Misin, Moldova Ambassador to Russia, Vladimir Turcanu, etc. It is expected that on the eve of elections President Voronin would get rid of some of those officials damaging the Communist Party image, including Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev. However, it would be difficult for the President to justify such shifts in Government. On the one hand, Tarlev Government claims to have secured a 6% GDP growth, so it wouldn’t be logical to get rid of “such a good Prime Minister”. Furthermore, ousting Tarlev on the grounds of illegal operations would raise the question on how the Communist selected him.
There are two options for the Communist Party to prevent the migration of Communist electorate towards above-mentioned forces. The first one is to compensate the would-be loses via administrative levers. Communists already tested this method during the recent Bashkan elections in Gagauz Yeri when the entire administration machine electioneered in favor of the Communist candidate. As for the second one, Communists accepted Christian-Democrats’ initiative to amend the Law on Political Parties in view of raising the minimum number of party members required for the party registration from 5,000 to 15,000. The Communist faction has already voted the amendment in the first reading. If adopted in the final reading, then all the political parties would found themselves in a rather difficult situation on the eve of local elections. Instead of devising their electoral strategies they would have to recruit 15,000 members. Half of the 26 existent parties wouldn’t be able to comply with the new requirement, otherwise 20% of the citizens entitled to votes would become party members. The two socialist parties as well as many others to whom the Communist electorate might migrate, are among those having scarce chances to recruit 15,000 members. Indeed, in the short run only the Communist Party and the Christian-Democratic Peoples’ Party are to benefit of the amendment. The Christian-Democrats would win on the expense of the other center right forces and they are ready to pay this price, otherwise they wouldn’t came up with the initiative. The Communists would benefit by eliminating their would-be competitors. Christian-Democrats’ scenario proves to be almost perfect. They recommend raising the minimal number of members to a number the Communist already have; consequently no further efforts would be required. In the long run, the initiative would strengthen center-left and center-right political parties, which are likely to become Christian-Democrat’s opponents in the future.