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Out of the former soviet republics only the Baltic states have gone along a consistent direction, which would eventually bring them to EU. On the other hand, Russian Federation has made it quite clear that it has no intention of becoming an EU member, probably viewing itself as too big and too important so as to comply with the decisions taken in Brussels. However, once the first accession wave has became almost a reality, a more of a question than a problem arose, what should EU do with its new neighbors? Those who have an opportunity to talk with EU officials, would say that this question envisages only Ukraine. Belarus has no chances whatsoever to become an EU member. As for Moldova, it draw EU’s attention only due to the threat it might pose once it becomes EU neighbor in 2007.
Last month abounded in pro-European declarations made by the President Vladimir Voronin. European integration has not only taken the center stage in domestic media outlets, but also became a kind of fashion of the day, which might lead an ordinary citizen to believe that EU is dying to have Republic of Moldova, as its stands now with a “Marxist-Leninist” party in power, with its human trafficking, with its unsettled Transdnistrian conflict, etc, within its members. Though it is plain clear for any country that European integration means a strong long-term effort, even sacrifice, backed up by a consensus not only among political elite, but also society as a whole. Only this coherence in the state of mind and emotion might ensure a consequence in adopting European values by the society, regardless of the ruling party orientation. Now, let me once again cite the Baltic states, which were the first ones to consciously break away from URSS, and were supported in their endeavor by their own Diasporas, by NATO and EU member countries, etc. It took those countries 40 years to get to EU. On the country, in the Republic of Moldova the suspension of the Communist Party activity on August 27, 1991 was followed by their spectacular come back to power ten years later, this time, however, via democratic elections and with an antidemocratic, xenophobe and populist message. In other words, it is not clear where did we head in the last ten years since we had found ourselves independent in 1991.
Having said that it would be interesting to assess in how far the pro-European rhetoric was present in Moldovan political life.
For the first time European integration topped on the Government action plan in 1997, when the Parliament demoralized by the fight between Mircea Snegur (President at that time), Andrei Sangheli (Prime-Minister), and Petru Lucinschi (Chair of the Parliament), all engaged in the electoral race; voted in the first Ciubuc Government and its program. Nevertheless, European integration idea was totally inconsistent with Parliament membership at that time, when 84 out of 104 seats belonged to “Agrarian” and “Interfront” deputies.
European integration was included in the action plan of the Government, headed by Ion Ciubuc, as a tribute to the external developments, rather than to the changes in Moldova per se. Therefore, this task in the Ciubuc-1 action plan had not been implemented.
1997 political year began with feverish preparations for 1998 parliamentary elections. At the first glance, their outcomes seemed to indicate a slide towards the “right” in the voters’ preferences.
After the March 22, 1998 parliamentary elections several scenarios of alliances were possible. The position of the For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Movement was decisive. The Alliance for Democracy and Reforms formed by For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Movement, Democratic Convention of Moldova, and Party of Democratic Forces had 61 seats in Parliament. The Alliance proclaimed itself as reformatory and anti-Communist. Theoretically, the Alliance had enough votes to efficiently rule until the end of its mandate. In reality though, it had the same fate as the previous two legislatures elected in 1990 and 1994 respectively. Fight for personal interests, rather than those of the society at large, eroded the Alliance and overturned the balance of power in the legislative body. As a result, three Governments changed within three years. Out of the three, only the one headed by Ion Sturza promoted an independent policy from that of the President, which resulted in tensions between President Lucinschi and Alliance for Democracy and Reforms. Moreover, Sturza Government was the first to take conscious steps towards accession to EU. As a result the split within the Alliance and severe attacks from the Communist faction, Sturza Government was ousted with 58 votes on November 8, 1999. In ousting Sturza, Communist majority was backed up by their greatest enemies, Christian-Democratic Peoples’ Party, and independent deputies who fled For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Movement and took a pro-Lucinschi stance. The next Government, headed by Dumitru Braghis, was elected by the very same majority.
2000 was marked by the battle for the Presidency. Being aware of his declining popularity, President Petru Lucinschi came up with the initiative of modifying the Constitution. The reasons cited by the President were quite simple — he failed to fulfil his electoral promises because Constitution did not granted enough powers. His initiative was accompanied by a propaganda campaign of denigrating the Parliament. Political parties preferred not to fight with Lucinschi in the open, but rather change the Constitution. On July 5, 2000 Republic of Moldova became a parliamentary republic, with the President elected by 3/5 of the MPs, i.e. 61 votes. Amendments to Constitution were backed up by all the parties represented in Parliament, except for the independent pro-Lucinschi MPs.
However, this short-term consolidation vanished once it came to the election of the President. The fight for the Presidential seat lead to the dissolution of the Parliament. On December 31, 2000 President Lucinshi issued a decree dissolving the Parliament as of January 12, 2001 and setting the date of early parliamentary elections for February 25, 2001.
Moldovan society was deeply disillusioned and frustrated with the outcomes of the “reformatory” and “anti-Communist” Alliance’s activity. Such notions as “democracy”, “reforms”, “market economy”, “pluri-party system”, etc gained a bad connotation with many citizens. Communists’ dexterity contributed to it as well, after 1998 elections they somehow managed to avoid taking any responsibility, blaming the “democrats” for what had happened in the country in the last ten years.
2001 electoral campaign started with negotiations between political parties on forming alliances, so as to pass the 6% threshold of representation. In the end 17 contestants were included in the ballot paper. The traditional “party of power” was also among the contestants. This time “Braghis Alliance” played this role. The Alliance included several insignificant players and was headed by the Prime Minister Braghis. Communist Party went in elections exploiting the nostalgic feelings of the population, especially revanchist feelings of the ethnic minorities (i.e. joining Russia — Belarus Union, Russian language — second official language, etc). Other parties, former members of the Alliance for Democracy and Reforms, ran separately. Out of them only the Christian-Democratic Peoples’ Party had a clear-cut message — fighting corruption. This message was backed up by the figure of police general, Nicolae Alexei, former head of the Department on Fighting Corruption and Organized Crime. As for the other former Alliance partners, they had a rather vague electoral message and exhausted leaders, etc.
At the first glance election outcomes may seem quite a surprise. Only three contestants managed to pass the 6% threshold, namely Communist Party, Braghis Alliance and Christian Democrats. They got 71, 19 and 11 seats respectively.
Is Moldova indeed a Communist country? To answer this question we need to take a closer look at the election results of 2001. It is worth pointing that 794,808 citizens cast their votes in favor of the Communist Party, or 33.4% out of the total number of voters. Consequently, in 2001 Moldova wasn’t much more Communist than in 1994, when 1,157,173 (49.1%) citizens cast their votes in favor of the parties having a similar message. Moldovan electorate didn’t vote the Communist Party demagogue platform, but rather it voted against the ruined “democratic” parties. One thing is for sure, for now on Moldova is definitely not a democratic country.
Going back to the experience of Baltic states and the long way, almost 40 years, it took to reach EU, one may conclude that Republic of Moldova’s short history is that of lost opportunities. Vladimir Voronin’s disillusionment with CIS does not necessarily mean a conscious step towards Europe. Transdnistrian conflict is still a trap for Moldova’s statehood, whereas incumbent governing party is exhausted and is sliding towards sacrificing the country sovereignty. Shortly, Moldova would engage in another electoral battle and for a short time European integration would be one of the many other electoral slogans. One of the candidates to the “party of power” role is “Moldova Noastra” Alliance. Communists will still be present in the next Parliament. But who will take us to Europe?