Alegerile parlamentare din 2021 în Republica Moldova -

What did Walter Schwimmer really said?

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February 7, 2003
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After the opposition engaged in a series of protest rallies, authorities launched a denigration campaign against them employing the entire range of mass media controlled by the state. This is a defense reaction of the ruling party, otherwise it would have to acknowledge that there is a serious political crisis in the country.

There is no doubt the ruling party may easily turn any political problem into a farce. Especially as a series of newspapers supportive of the opposition were closed for financial reasons, whereas the radio and TV sharing other opinions that those of the ruling party were closed under administrative procedures. This is the case of “Vocea Basarabiei” (Voice of Bessarabia) Radio Station, and ORT-Moldova. Under those circumstances state run mass media, especially TV, which authorities pretended to had turned into a public institution, still remains the most important means of promoting the Moldovan variant of the “political pluralism”. National TV has a peculiar way of covering the activity of the ruling party, as if their spectacular activities had an impact not only nationally, but at the regional level as well. On the other hand, opposition actions are covered in a bantering and mocking manner, portraying opposition leaders as “political vagabonds” (as Vladmir Voronin himself labeled them), who only obstruct the governors’ good intentions. This is a classical scenario perpetrated in the entire NIS region.

This fact surfaced upon return of the Republic of Moldova representatives from the PACE winter session, when they engaged in debates on Walter Schwimmer’s, Council of Europe Secretary General, recommendations on how to overcome the political crisis in the Republic of Moldova.

It doesn’t take too much to guess why the ruling and opposition parties behave in such a manner. On the one hand, ruling party claims there is no political crisis in the country and protest rallies are nothing but ill-indented reactions of the loosing, fragmented and helpless opposition, which “advocates” in the international forums its interests and denigrates the ruling party. On the other hand, opposition claims the country is undergoing a deep crisis, triggered by the ruling party, which violates access to information and freedom of speech, autonomy of the judiciary and substitutes democratic practices with voluntary actions. Under given circumstances, Moldovan opposition has no other choice than appeal to Council of Europe to demand the ruling party to comply with the engagements Republic of Moldova undertook when joining Council of Europe in 1995. However, representatives of the ruling party view the recommendations of the CE Secretary General as mere suggestions, which may either be followed or rejected, whereas for opposition the very same recommendations bear a much greater significance. Because of the difference in opinions, ruling party prefers to point on the “distortions” made by the opposition representative in interpreting Secretary General recommendations. State Television has made considerable efforts to convince the public opinion that besides being unpatriotic when exposing the “dirty laundry” of the home affairs to the entire Europe, opposition also falsifies the data on the “detergents” recommended by the European officials to “clean that laundry”.

Secretary General reaction followed shortly after. He stated that would provide the recommendations in a written form so as to avoid any misinterpretation. However until he does so it is worth analyzing and making public other documents, which might give us a clue on what really Walter Schwimmer said. We might suppose that he reiterated the recommendations of the previous two PACE Resolutions, namely on the functioning of democratic institutions in the Republic of Moldova. As for the controversial issues, which generated the new crisis, we might suppose that Walter Schwimmer called on settling them in compliance with the legal provisions and generally accepted standards. In addition, we may assume that the recommendations made by Council of Europe experts during the seminar held in last November for the leaders of parties participants to the Permanent Round Table (PRT) were reiterated as well. Back then, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, who presided the seminar referred to the experience of the Central and Eastern Europe in drafting the criteria for the functioning of a mechanism similar to the PRT. Experience shows that the existence of a PRT is an indicator of a deep political crisis and that it is seen as a means of problem solving via the dialogue between the power and opposition. Secondly, Mazowiecki recommended identifying a set of problems of paramount importance, whose resolution would allow for the settling the political crisis. Consequently in order to overcome the crisis in the Republic of Moldova two things are important: a) criteria for the functioning of PRT; b) debates on the issues related to the functioning of democratic institutions as stipulated in the PACE resolutions.

All this has been once again proven during PRT session held on February 5, when the representative of the Secretary General, Jorgen Grunnet, stated that Republic of Moldova lacks a “political will” in order to solve the problems, which generated the crisis. Mr. Grunnet added that the PACE recommendation on turning State TV into a public institution were not enforced. In this situation, instead of being debated in TV studios, problems or paramount importance are taken into the streets. As for Walter Schwimmer’s recommendation that President Vladimir Voronin attend PRT, opposition interpreted it as directive. That’s because in the Republic of Moldova only one “political will” counts, that of the Communist Party leader and President of the country, Vladimir Voronin. Indeed no one could force the President of the country to act in a certain manner. However past experience shows, conflicts are only solved when President gets involved. The most recent illustrations are the cases of the Union Fenosa and Cirrus Airlines. If economic problems may not be solved without the interference of the President, then President’s influence is even more important in solving political ones.

The only problem is that parties participants to PRT focus on a broad spectrum of problems, some of which are indeed important but too specific. However a top priority for CE and for the country as a whole is to ensure normal functioning of democratic institutions, namely mass media and judiciary.

The aforesaid issues as well as many others related to the human rights, which had been brought to the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) may not be debated at the PRT simultaneously with other on-going processes. And there is a very good example in this respect. Although supported by only few political parties the registration of the Bessarabian Church was made possible based on the ECHR decision. Similarly, the two unsuccessful initiatives to conduct a referendum may be at issue on the agenda of the PRT only after all the judiciary methods fail.

Political parties perfectly understand this. Furthermore, small parties that failed to gather 2–3% of the votes opposed Walter Schwimmer’s recommendation to limit the number of parties participants to the PRT, in order to make its activity more efficient. According to Schwimmer PRT should include parties represented in Parliament and another 2–3 major parties. And the reasons for this are very simple. To avoid undermining parties’ equality and to ensure the efficiency of the dialogue, major parties should form a “module”, whose mission would be to represent the opposition while debating on the issues of paramount importance for the society. The rest 20 parties could either endorse the “module” or disagree with it.

The dissatisfaction of the small parties with the establishment of the dialogue “module” may in its turn displease the strong parties. Their representatives already indicated they had no longer objections to the amendments to the Law on Political Parties stipulating that parties should yearly confirm they have at least 5,000 members. Nevertheless, the would-be consolidation of opposition parties is already shaking, and things would continue to aggravate in the future. The expulsion of the representatives of small parties from the “Braghis Alliance” for the failure to comply with the party discipline is an illustration to this effect. Consequently the illusions nurtured by some analysts that the opposition would manage to consolidate and form a single political block are vanishing. Those who insist on the consolidation of political parties based on shared doctrines might have a point. Under this scenario small parties would simply disappear as a result of the Government restrictive measures and as a result of their failure in the upcoming local elections.

A new political crisis Mega-initiative of the President Voronin