Alegerile parlamentare din 2021 în Republica Moldova -

Is opposition consolidating?!

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January 28, 2003
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After 2001 parliamentary elections, which brought the Communist Party to power, it became clear that the opposition would have a major role to play in the Moldovan politics only if it consolidates. Immediately after elections Moldovan opposition emerged in three different state: parliamentary opposition, latter on labeled as “intransigent” represented by the Christian-Democratic Peoples’ Party; “constructive” opposition represented by the Braghis Alliance; and extra-parliamentary opposition represented by the democratically oriented parties which failed to pass the 6% threshold of representation (mainly the parties formerly known as the Alliance for Democracy and Reforms in power in 1998).

After parliamentary elections the three components of the opposition behaved each in its own way. Christian-Democrats focussed on legislative activity and appealing, in the Constitutional Court the constitutionality of several legislative acts. Among others they wanted to establish if the President of the country may simultaneously hold the position of a Party Chair. Constructive opposition “Braghis Alliance” was looking for common grounds with the new Communist authorities, but after a series of denigrating articles about its leaders in the governmental press, all the hopes for a fruitful cooperation have been scattered. As for the extra-parliamentary opposition in May 2001 it established the so-called Democratic Forum of Moldova so as to take a joint stance towards Communist ruling. The funny thing is that the parties representatives in the Forum began adjudicating their role in the upcoming elections and the top places on the would-be candidate list, despite the fact that none of them managed to pass the 6% threshold of representation. Right from the beginning it was obvious that such a political structure would not last for long time, fact confirmed at the end of 2001.

2002 started with protest rallies staged by the Christian-Democrats, which lasted until the end of April. The grounds for protests were governors’ intention to revise the policies on languages and history in schools. Later on, however, authorities acknowledged that this was a haste reaction from their part. After Communists’ absolute victory in parliamentary elections the last “bastions” of the defeated opposition were the national language and history. Authorities’ intention to impose their own visions both on history and language was interpreted as an assault on the “national values”. This was a huge offence to the national feelings of numerous citizens. If the Christian-Democratic opposition hadn’t reacted to the governors’ actions, it would have lost it’s “raison d’etre”.

However, language and history were not the only issues raised during the protest rallies. Latter on the other issues surfaced in the PACE Resolution on the functioning of democratic institutions in the Republic of Moldova. To address those issues European officials recommended the establishment of a Permanent Round Table (PRT), a framework for political dialogue between authorities and opposition.

After the end of the Democratic Forum in 2001, several leaders of the opposition parties, especially Liberal Party, hoped that the PRT would consolidate the “three Moldovan oppositions”. However, this was never meant to happen for several reasons. Firstly, PRT was established for totally different reasons. Secondly, opposition could have formed a joint front only if the ruling party had provided them an occasion to do so. Communist Party ignored PRT sessions, rather focussing on enforcing certain PACE Resolution recommendations. However they were enforcing them in such a manner as not to damage in any way their strive to hold control over everything that might bring political or informational capital. In the absence of the Communist and other parties’ representatives, who conditioned their attendance on the participation of the ruling party, PRT sessions at times became as boring as ordinary seminars. This made several parties voice their skepticism with regard to the efficiency of the PRT.

In 2003 when it seemed likely PRT would have the same fate as the Democratic Forum, several events lead to a consolidation of the opposition and brought to light a new function of the PRT. Among the aforesaid events one may mention the following: adoption in late 2002 of amendments to the Law on Political Parties; obstruction of the referendum on changing the electoral system initiated by the Social Democratic Alliance headed by the former Prime-Minister Dumitru Braghis; as well as obstruction by the Central Electoral Commission of the Christian-Democrats’ initiative to hold a consultative referendum on joining EU and NATO.

The said events are the more significant due to the fact that they took place several months prior to the electoral campaign in view of local elections. Probably under the constraint of approaching electoral campaign, opposition felt the need to consolidate in order to jointly defend its corporate interests. The recent declarations of the PRT participants are an illustration of this. The declarations read that the most important task of the opposition parties, members of the PRT, is to raise the awareness of the domestic, but most importantly, of the international public opinion on the harassment political parties are subjected to on the eve of local elections, namely they have to prove every year that each of them includes at least 5,000 party members. In this respect, opposition parties threatened the ruling party to boycott local elections, which would thus be declared anti-democratic, repressive and without an alternative. In such a case Communist Party might claim that independent candidates would be an alternative to the Communist ones. However, this argument wouldn’t be too convincing and it still would greatly damage the party’s image reminding of the soviet-time slogan about the “tight alliance of the Communists and those who are not party members”. This threat has probably scared Communists, as the President of the country and Communist Party Chair, Vladimir Voronin, himself promised to attend one of the PRT sessions. This is the very important as American President, George W. Bush, praised his Moldovan counterpart precisely for the way elections had been conducted in the last 9 years in the Republic of Moldova. Recently, US Ambassador to Moldova Pamela H. Smith reassured Moldovan authorities that they could count on US support provided they continue promoting reforms and the democratic processes.

The only problem is the PRT participants temporarily suspended the sessions so as to take part in the protest actions against the incumbent governing. Leaders of the parties participants to the PRT decided to picket the Parliament and protest against ruling party’s obstruction and violation of opposition rights on February 6–7, when the Parliament convenes on the spring-summer session. Furthermore, Social-Democratic Alliance leader, Dumitru Braghis, stated that his faction would boycott the Parliament plenary sessions for an indefinite period because the latter failed to fulfil its constitutional obligation, i.e. to declare a referendum on changing the electoral system, after the Central Electoral Commission validated the number of signatures required for initiating a referendum. On the other hand, Christian-Democrats resumed protest rallies on January 19, 2003. And finally, participants to the PRT are considering the possibility of hosting on February 23, 2003 a joint protest rally to mark the 2 year anniversary of the Communists’ in power. The slogan of the rally is likely to be “Solidarity day of the democratic and reformatory forces”. This would be a symbolic action aimed to demonstrate the ruling party that the “three oppositions” have consolidated against the “anti-democratic Communist ruling”. Noteworthy, democratically-oriented political parties which are likely to support the protest had gathered about 47% of the votes in the last elections. Their performance is comparable to the result scored by the Communist Party, 50.07%.

While opposition is protesting, Communist Party is getting ready for local elections. Local elections are supposed to crown the efforts in building the so called “vertical of power”. Right after elections Vladimir Voronin announced that it would become one of his priorities. Last year Communist press announced that the party was recruiting people having leadership skills and enjoying the respect of people in different localities. The reports made public in the Communist press indicate that the campaign has been successful. On the other hand, state press and TV has already started reporting about the charity missions of the Communist ministers and started a denigration campaign against the leaders of the opposition. Opinion polls indicate a high rating of the Communist Party, which coupled with the administrative levers to be employed, offer high chances for the Communist Party to overtake the control over local government.

Under given circumstances the only threat to the Communist Party might be posed by the “consolidated opposition”. On the one hand the ruling party acknowledges that all its efforts to improve the country economy greatly rely on the support of international monetary organizations and western countries. However the latter would provide their support only if the ruling party continues economic reforms and observes democratic principles of governing. On the other hand, the intention to edify the “verticality of power” no matter what, indicate that there is a chance that party elite would follow another path, thus joining the figures with shabby image like Lukashenko and Kucima. From this perspective the recent statement of the Parliament Speaker, Eugenia Ostapciuc, about resuming the efforts to enter Russia — Belarus Union are not surprising at all. And this despite the fact that only a month ago President Voronin was trying to convince the entire European community that Republic of Moldova’s strategic goal is joining EU. It’s true in the last two years the country leadership has made similar statements with regard to joining EU together with Russia — Belarus Union and even, CIS.

Undermining the integrity of the electoral process A new political crisis