Until now, the features of the political style of the current government, i.e. their manner of being, acting and behaving manifested to a certain degree only in the field of foreign policy. That style was could be summed up by one of our President’s statements: “Moldova will be wherever it has interests”. In practice, this slogan was translated in the Moldovan leaders’ option for simultaneous membership of the Community of Independent States, the Russia-Belarus Union, the Eurasian Customs Union, the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, the European Union (EU) etc. without specifying the priorities.
Lately, it has become obvious that the Moldovan authorities indulge into a very similar behaviour when it comes to domestic policies, and the recent local elections have shown that the same is true for their ideological stance. A number of curious developments have occurred as a result, which simply cannot be overlooked.
Indeed, one can observe that the tenet “to be everywhere where we might have an interest” has been extended (consciously or not) to the electoral offer of the Communist Party of Moldova (CPM) in the local elections of 25 May 2003, which starts in the following way: “The Communist Party of Moldova is the party of the people…”
Here we have come to the first curiosity, which is the fact that an objective written into the electoral manifesto of the CPM goes much farther than the one written into the political programme of the CPM, as it was adopted at the Party Congress of 22 April 2001, and which starts as humbly as this: “The Communist Party of Moldova is the party of the working class, peasants and intellectuals”.
What could it mean that the CPM declares itself the “party of the people”? Probably, one thing — the right to speak on behalf of the people. At least, there can be no other rationale behind such claim. Certainly, upon a closer examination of Articles 2(2), 5(2), 41, 77 of the Moldovan Constitution, a number a questions arise. However, after in 2001 Constitutional Court refused to adjudicate on whether the President of the State can at the same time be a party leader, there appears to be no way one can determine whether the party led by the President of Moldova is in the position to declare itself “party of the people”, given all the associated consequences.
There seems to have existed another factor that has prompted the “party of the people” claim. In the 2001 parliamentary elections, the CPM received 50.07% of the valid votes, and it could be that the 0.07% over the limit of absolute majority has encouraged the CPM leaders to make such claims. If this was really so, then the second curious thing is that in the recent local elections, both at the district level and at the level of village and town councils, the CPM received less than 50% of votes. This, however, is not likely to influence in any way the behaviour of the ruling party.
The first sign of CPM pretence to “the party of the people” could be the fact that the President of Moldova got directly involved in the electoral campaign, and made extensive agitation for the CPM candidates. A second sign could be the fact that the state mass media, electronic and written, electioneered overtly for the CPM, despite the fact that the Electoral Code includes specific restrictions in this sense, whose violation has been noted in the report of the OSCE and Council of Europe Observation Mission. Another curious thing has been the authorities’ bewilderment at the fact that one can regard as abnormal that a TV channel owned by the state campaigns for the “party of the people”. The third manifestation of this phenomenon consists in the ideological expansion that the CPM pursues in an effort to represent new social groups and even classes. Thus, the CPM pretends that at present it represents not only the workers, peasants and intellectuals, but also the businessmen, farmers, or, put in Marxist terms, all those who make up the bourgeoisie.
The latest novelty in the behaviour of the CPM seems to have been inspired from the “theory of the three representations” of the Chinese Communist Party. This can partly explain the frequent contacts registered lately between the Moldovan and the Chinese dignitaries. However, one is inclined to believe that it is not simply about “theoretical borrowings”. These “borrowings” are destined to justify a state of affairs, which is that the communist elite or the members of their families have long been part of social groups that are ideologically opposed to those sharing the Marxist-Leninist theories.
Thus, we can notice that it is logical for the strategy of “interests wherever” to be promoted by a “party of the people”. The Moldovan realities show certain inertia in changing mentalities and attitudes of a major part of the Moldovan population. This inertia is determined by the overwhelming poverty that has struck Moldova in the so-called transition period, but also by the lack of any clear prospects for a better future. As a consequence, citizens vote massively for the party that promotes the ideology of the immediate past — communism. The vote of this majority legitimates the power of the government. It is observable that the communist materialists know very well the laws of conservation and transformation of energy. Indeed, why would the force of inertia not be used to throw the CPM onto a modernist political wave? In consequence, the response of the CPM shows in their new promises to raise wages and pensions, launch new programmes of social assistance and the like. The opposition acts in competition with the CPM claiming that there are not so many financial sources to feed nostalgic expectations and cover the new social programmes and it loses.
Beyond doubt, in the CPM there are enough pragmatic people who would not like to see their future undermined because of counting on an ideology of the past. The international political and economic circumstances, as well as the interests of this pragmatic governing elite determines it to carry forward such strategic objectives as the liberalisation of the economy, the promotion of the privatisation of the state property etc. This is the new wave that the CPM wants to catch in order to have access to foreign loans and to attract foreign investments etc. Certainly, these things might seriously undermine the ideological foundations of the CPM. That is why, the inspiration from the Chinese experience serves as a protection shield against the dogmatic ones. Thus, to achieve its “interests wherever” the CPM continues to maintain the monopoly over the communist ideas, and at the same time expands its political discourse by speculating with liberal values. It is only natural for this to happen in a country where more than 70% of GDP accounts for the private sector.
The recent local elections have shed light on how the CPM propaganda puts into practice the said strategy, trying to capture the interests of all social groups in Moldova.
The CPM has not hesitated to embrace practically all the ideas which might have a certain weight in the Moldovan society, regardless of whether these have any resonance with their declared ideological principles. Thus, the CPM has stepped forward as the sole European integrator of the Republic of Moldova, and has accused the rest of the Moldovan political forces that in the 10 years of Moldova’s independence, apart from the pro-European phraseology, they have not done anything serious to take Moldova closer to integration into the EU. Of course, the CPM propaganda people pretend to forget that the CPM, which had the largest and most influential faction in the previous Parliament, harshly opposed the very reforms that were essential to brining Moldova closer to the EU standards. They also pretend to have forgotten that two years ago, immediately after their victory in the 2001 parliamentary elections, the CPM leaders showed ready to turn Moldova into a “European Cuba” if the West had tried to hinder in any way their intention to restore communism in Moldova. They are as forgetful of the fact that two years ago the new elect communist authorities hesitated to join the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe (SPSEE) on the grounds that the “barrels of NATO tanks” are hidden in SPSEE’s backyard. Now they demand the EU institutions to treat Moldova as a South Eastern European State in order to catch an eventual third wave of EU enlargement to the Balkans. At the same, during the electoral campaign, the Speaker of Parliament Eugenia Ostapciuc announced that the CPM has not given up the idea to integrate into the Russia-Belarus Union. The CPM might have adopted the pro-European rhetoric, but it is not ready to give up the monopoly of the idea of Eurasian integration either. Looked through the prism of “interests wherever”, it is probably only natural for them to act so. For the time being, it is not known how circumstances might change.
Another field whereupon the CPM has extended its influence is the religious one. Odd things have happened here. Experts have qualified to sheer propaganda the brining of the Sacred Flame from Jerusalem on Easter eve at the proposal of President Voronin. This can be easily demonstrated, given that the task to bring the flame has been assigned to the Minister of Transports and Communications Vasile Zgardan, who is also the CPM candidate for the position of General Mayor of the Chisinau Municipality. What happened later, though, was in the view of many experts completely extraordinary. During the religious procession on the night of Resurrection, the Head of the Moldovan Metropolitan Church passed the Sacred Flame over to President Voronin, who then passed it on to other high church figures and believers. This happened in conditions when President Voronin had confessed in a TV show that he was not a believer. For many Moldovan citizens the religious rituals are nothing more than simple expressions of traditions. Yet, for the true believers the passing of the sacred flame through the hands of a non-believer may be interpreted as a discontinuity in the transmission of the Holy Grace. All the more so as the President is the leader of a political party, which shares the Marxist-Leninist theories that claim that “religion is opium for the people”.
This expansion of the CPM over to the Christian values has been evident in the campaign, promoted also at the proposal of President Voronin in the state media, to collect funds for the restoration of the Monastery of Capriana, the symbol of Orthodox Faith. It is probably no accident that the televised marathon for the collection of funds was organised on the international day of museums. This move would have supposedly satisfied both the Christian Orthodox, who put a religious meaning in the action, and the Communist orthodox, who saw the action as one intended to recover an architectural monument. The important thing is for the “shepherd to keep control of its flock”.
What conclusions could be drawn from this omnipresent behaviour of the representatives of the ruling party? First of all, it is obvious that the political and ideological eclecticism practised by them is intended to consolidate the power of the current ruling party and open up new opportunities for expanding its electoral basis according to circumstances. Secondly, the results of local elections have demonstrated that the level of civic, political and religious consciousness of the majority of Moldovans to a certain extent favours such behaviour. The weakness of the fragmented opposition is yet another factor that allows the ruling party to create havoc on the former’s “electoral fields”. Thirdly, it has been observed that practically all initiatives in the social (the legislation on veterans, pension and wage rises etc), political (European integration, the attempts to improve relations with international creditors) and ideological (the rebirth of the orthodox spirituality) fields are attributed exclusively to President Voronin. It has been observed that President Voronin, in his turn, often likes to appear as a tough prosecutor and a merciful judge, as when he accuses publicly the members of Government of being thieves and corrupted (the former Governor of Gagauz Yeri autonomy, the former minister and current deputy minister of economy, the former minister of transports) forcing them to quit, and then offers them, as compensation, posts of ambassador and other high positions. Obviously, one can talk about the need to set up in the Republic of Moldova the institution of “scapegoats”.
These very practices were invoked when the campaign of denigration of some candidates in the recent local elections was launched, including the current mayor of Chisinau who was accused publicly by the state media of corruption and mafia activities. Such accusations could be true, all the more so as Moldova has the reputation of the most corrupt state in Europe. However, when it comes to the involvement of the state media, arguments and evidences should precede accusations. As suspicious is the frequency of court cases opened up during the period of the electoral campaign. Also, it is strange that those supposedly corrupt are only sought among the ranks of the political opponents of the ruling party, despite the cases, otherwise confirmed by the Court of Accounts, of notorious figures from the ruling party and even Government being involved in corruption scandals. The proponents of such practices say that they are necessary to build the “vertical axis of state power”. If one adds to these the fact that over the past two years the legal experts have constantly warned that the Moldovan judicial system is being deprived of its self-management mechanisms and is subject to the control of the executive, what results is the complete set of defining features of an authoritarian style of government. Such a style tends to stress the supremacy of the will of the leader, including through the suppression of the will of those who might be of a different opinion.
When the political message becomes confuse, and the ideological foundations are demolished, the authoritarian style becomes the last resort in the fight for holding on to power. It was probably for this that the “vertical axis of power” needed to be built so that it can then be used to achieve the “interests wherever”.
Although things do not look very optimistic, there are still chances for President Voronin to use his authority to get the CPM to accept the pro-European orientation. The practices that the CPM has used in the recent electoral campaign have marked a clear distancing from the European values and a step backwards in terms of democracy, as mentioned in the OSCE and Council of Europe observation report. Differently put, European integration requires progress both in the economic and in the democratic development fields. Giving up the abusive practices would be a first sign that the pro-European option is a determinant one for Moldova. In this sense, the CPM could find more common points with the opposition parties, most of which are seeking the same aim of European integration.
Otherwise, the ruling party risks going through challenges that might bring down its high rating. Firstly, the recent visit of World Bank representatives to Moldova has demonstrated that the social programmes, including the promises made by the current minister of transports and candidate for Chisinau mayor, are only an obstacle to lifting the blockade of foreign funding and restructuring Moldova’s foreign debt. Secondly, the Moldovan authorities have been getting ever more insistent demands from Moldova Gaz and RED-Nord (electricity distribution network) to increase prices on gas and electricity to avoid the losses incurred by the two enterprises. Thirdly, it seems that, unfortunately, the agricultural year 2003 has been partly compromised due to unfavourable weather conditions. At last, the Government will need considerable financial means to cover the expenditure related to the reversal of the local public administration reform. These factors taken together create new challenges for the fulfilment of the current government’s promises that have raised the expectations of people related to the improvement of their living standards. If one adds to these the stalemate to which the Commission for Drafting the new federal Constitution has arrived, one can expect that the government will not be able to handle things without the minimal co-operation and understanding on behalf of the opposition.
It appears that whatever the government does, there is no alternative to the democratisation of the Moldovan society. In circumstances of an eventual crisis in our relations with the international institutions, the option of changing the pro-European rhetoric with a pro-Eastern one (as Lukashenko and Kuchma did) does not seem an appropriate one. The pro-Eastern direction could bring advantage only to the main political opponent of President Voronin, the leader of the secessionist regime in Transdnistria, Igor Smirnov.