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In Favor of a Coalition Government in Moldova

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Ilian Casu / February 26, 2004
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Hardly anyone would dispute the fact that the policies of a winning party in democratically held elections matter, yet more important is the style with which they are enforced. An authoritarian and unilateral reform style defines the majoritarian government formed after the accession to power of the Communist Party in February 2001. The largest majority of changes effected by the communist majority are practically imposed on society in a top-down manner without any substantial consultations with representatives of either political parties or civil society in the country. As a result, this government’s reforms lack consensus — a very dangerous practice for the health of Moldovan democracy. Moreover, a majoritarian government is even risky for a multiethnic Moldovan society. In contrast, a coalition government would force its partners to negotiate and compromise on policy proposals. Such type of government would offer more access opportunities to the decision-making process, especially to the members of the civil society. This succinct analysis highlights the deficiencies of the majoritarian government and stresses the appropriateness of a coalition government under a parliamentary regime in Moldova. Such analysis holds considerable practical value, notably in a situation when the results of the next parliamentary elections scheduled for February 2005 might dictate the formation of a coalition government.

Although any type of government, be it majority, minority, or coalition, has its deficiencies, the majoritarian government run consistent with the scenario of the Communist Party is detrimental to Moldova’s democratic future. It generates only arrogance towards parliamentary as well as extra-parliamentary political actors; unilateralism and secrecy in strategic policy proposals for the country’s fate; and, disdain for any sort of negotiations and consultations of policy reforms with the members of the civil society. Changes engineered by the communist majority are, generally, deprived of societal consensus. A regrettable practice since consensual reforms constitute the essence of democracies members of the European Union (EU). The absence of such an important democratic element in the mechanism of power management by the communist majority, not only dampens Moldova’s EU membership chances, but also significantly hampers its efforts to secure an associative status.

The luxury of having a majority allows any party irrespective of political color (be it communist, liberal, or social-democratic) to totally ignore the opposition, likewise governing unobstructed in between elections. Most notorious reforms enforced by the country’s communist government neatly capture this practice. For instance, the return to the Soviet-era administrative units (raions/districts) envisaged to ’get the state closer to the people’, only augmented the bureaucratic costs of the local public administration. Relatedly, the authorities rejected without any meaningful reasons all the criticism put forward by the civil society (e.g., social partners, think tanks), as well as international organizations (e.g., the World Bank). This lack of transparency in financing the administrative reform with public money was made possible by the communists’ total control of the state institutions. Also, the results of the pilot project involving mandatory health insurance (MHI) in the district of Hancesti throughout 2003, have not been as normally required, publicly debated. The extension of MHI coverage to the rest of the country effective January 1, 2004, was not preceded by a sustained information campaign on the essence of reform. The absence of such a campaign has posed serious challenges to the successful implementation of reform, and may even lead to its failure. Neither did the communists take into account the recommendations developed by the specialized departments of the National Academy of Sciences when adopting the Concept of the National State Policy (CNSP) in December 2003. The rejection by the authorities of the civil society’s proposals can only exacerbate and hardly solve the problems CNSP intends to tackle. Finally, the secrecy surrounding the drafting of the so-called ’Kozak Memorandum’ (named after Dmitri Kozak, deputy head of the Kremlin administration, who crafted the document on Russia’s behalf at Moldova’s behest) designed to settle the Trans-Dniester conflict, produced fierce resistance on the part of Moldovan opposition (the swift formation of the Committee for the Defense of Constitution and Independence of the Republic of Moldova), and sustained street protests. The opposition strongly condemned the unilateralism of the authorities, who ultimately refused to sign Russia’s conflict resolution plan fearing an escalation of protests within the country. These reforms enforced without consultations with either the political opposition or civil society are likely to be scratched or significantly modified by succeeding governments.

Perhaps, the need for a majoritarian government based on a strong executive (Voronin’s regime) was justified at the start of transition. Then the supporting institutions of the market economy had to be introduced in short time periods through executive decisions, without lengthy deliberations in legislative for a dominated by conservative forces. It was this factor coupled with a political culture based on unconditional loyalty to a despotic leader that facilitated the establishment of superpresidential regimes in Russia, Belarus, and the former-Soviet Central Asian republics. At the current stage of the transition process, however, the urgency nature of reforms has considerably diminished, in a way that makes economic and social reforms contingent on thorough parliamentary deliberations. More to the point, the political context in the ex-socialist region, including Moldova, has radically changed and is defined by an enhanced capacity of the civil society for producing alternative reform proposals. A coalition government possesses that compromise mechanism that facilitates the influence of civil society actors on reform process, hence effecting consensus-based changes.

Although Moldovan communist authorities look up to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) for governing models, ordinary Moldovans, as well as many followers of the Communist Party, regard the achievements of the Baltic states as an example worth replicating. This is absolutely normal. Being parts of Soviet communism, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, managed, while Moldova failed, within a short transition period to practically secure NATO and EU membership; moreover, to raise the level of average pension to over $100. Neither better conditions at the beginning of the transition process, nor their geographic proximity to the Scandinavian countries, not even their relative mono-ethnic structures, are responsible for the comparatively successful reforms in the Baltics. The most contributing factor is that all the Baltic states have been ruled (and are still ruled) by coalition governments. This government type not only permitted key political forces to negotiate reform proposals within the legislative for a, but also crated an effective mechanism to combat corruption in state institutions. The coalition government constitutes the key to success of the leaders of post-communist transition, like Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. Only a coalition government can help Moldova overcome its current state of crisis.

Of course, the merits of the coalition government should be viewed critically because Moldova has already had such an experience during the tenure in office of the Alliance for Democracy and Reforms (ADR) during the period of 1998–2001. Inertia and endless squabbles among coalition partners for high-rank positions to the detriment of policy priorities that sometimes characterized the ADR rule (unquestionably negative traits but typical of all coalition governments regardless of democratic consolidation), can be eliminated through a portfolio distribution pact signed by all parties at the start of the mandate. And this only if the lesson of ADR algorithm coalition is taken into consideration.. Because the ordinary citizen can sanction governing authorities only once in four years on an elections’ day, the majoritarian and unchecked power powerfully corrupts! The coalition government contains an effective mechanism to stamp out, or at least lessen corruption through a reciprocal surveillance of constituent parties. Essential for the Moldovan democracy is the governing style based on negotiations and compromise, and hence consensual reforms. Moldova possesses the institutional support, i.e., parliamentary regime, and in case of a coalition government following February 2005 elections, strong premises for democratic consolidation.

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