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What’s happening with Social Democratic Party of Moldova?

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Gheorghii Sergheev / March 10, 2004
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With almost one year left until the 2005 parliamentary elections, there is an abundance of initiatives calling on uniting opposition forces in a single, or two or three electoral blocs. On the one hand, Christian Democrat Popular Party leader Iurie Rosca launched the idea of a single “anticommunist” electoral bloc that would ensure power alternate, on the other hand Moldova Noastra Alliance, rejecting Christian-Democrat’s initiative, came up with its own one — to establish an electoral bloc that would bear the name of “Moldova Noastra” Alliance and would steer Moldova to the “third way”. Negotiations already started in this respect, with Democratic Party and Social-Liberal Party joining the negotiation table.

Out of all political parties having a more or less significant rating (2–3%), has so only the Social Democratic Party far been left out the negotiation table. And this because Social-Democrat leaders believe that they cannot be part of an electoral bloc presenting itself as an “anticommunist”, solely because in such a poor country as Moldova is, such a bloc stands no chances whatsoever. And this because great many citizens have never experienced anything but Communism in their lives that would have given them a decent living. Therefore, Social-Democrats strongly believe that only a positive program bearing no “anti” and clearly outlining modern social-democratic principles as well as foreign policy principles would bring political parties together in an electoral bloc.

On the other hand, Social-Democrat leaders believe Moldova Noastra’s initiative lacks the very same principles outlined above. Moreover, “the third way” recently presented by one of the Moldova Noastra’s leaders, Serafim Urechean, merely concealed the lack of clear-cut founding principles for the bloc. An evidence to this is the fact that negotiations on establishing Moldova Noastra bloc started by talks on criteria for drawing candidate lists. Supposedly, 6:2:2 (Moldova Noastra, Democratic Party, and Social-Liberal Party) algorithm for drawing the candidate lists is based on each of the parties election results in the previous electoral campaign, party rating in the recent opinion polls, party contribution to large scale events in the recent years, and number of parties that joined each of them in the last 3 years. Although in principle any kind of algorithm may lay the foundation of an electoral bloc, the one proposed by Moldova Noastra Alliance has a number of drawbacks. Firstly, the 6:2:2 formula significantly decreases the bloc’s flexibility to accept new members. Any 2–3% eventually brought to Moldova Noastra Alliance by other parties might prove decisive in establishing majority faction in Parliament after elections. Secondly, the criteria on the number of parties that previously joined the three main parties due to form Moldova Noastra Alliance shows that the three are still very much fragmented and dominated by former political “clans”, which might pose a threat to the stability of the would be governing. Under those circumstances it is not the core principles outlined in the program that do prevail, but rather the interests of the “clans” that succeeded each other in power. They call this political pragmatism. One might close his eyes on this, if it were not for the bitter experience of the previous three electoral cycles. At that time we had “political clans” in power promoting their own corporate interests, rather than political parties pursuing their value-based electoral programs. As a result we ended having what we have today.

There is no room for the Social-Democratic Party in this scheme. That is why the party was left out the negotiations on establishing Moldova Noastra Alliance. Albeit it was never represented in Parliament, Social-Democratic Party of Moldova always has had a clear stance on the major socio-political developments in the Republic of Moldova. Social-Democratic Party of Moldova, which is as old as political pluralism is in Moldova, has sworn allegiance to its core principles and values and any deviation from them might tarnish its image.

Political pluralism in the former Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic started with national issues being brought to limelight by “public movements” such as People’s Front of Moldova, Internationalist Movement “Unitatea-Edinstvo”, Gaguz Halki and “Vozrojdenie”, against the decline of the Communist Party of the URSS. While the last two, representing Gagauz and Bulgarians operated at the regional level — at the south of the country, in Chisinau political pluralism came down to confrontations between Communist Party joined by “Unitatea-Edinstvo” Internationalist Movement, and Peoples’ Front. After the first wave of enthusiasm and phobia brought up by the 1989 linguistic legislation, calmed down, the two camps represented only narrow segments of the population, whereas the rest of the people remained disoriented and depressed. At the same time the message of the Peoples’ Front, associated at that time with the “national liberation movement of Romanians from the occupied territories”, ruled out any remote possibility of consolidating the society on both banks of Dniester. Moreover it was abusively employed to consolidate the anti-state separatism in industrial megalopolis to the left of Dniester and Bender.

In the autumn of 1989, the materials of the Stockholm Congress of Socialist International reached Chisinau from Estonia and did stir up a lot of debates among those dissatisfied with the political realities in Moldova. As a result, on 13 May 1990 the founding congress of the Social-Democratic Party of Moldova convened. That was the first party to promote the values of European social democracy. The program adopted at the Congress included rather innovative provisions for that time. For the first time ever during soviet times, it was declared that Republic of Moldova should become a sovereign state, that only private property was able to really free the citizens from the state, and that all the citizens of the country regardless of their ethnic origin should be equal under law and Constitution. Noteworthy, that at the beginning the party was headed by five co-chairs. The idea was to establish a party pursuing democratic values, and in doing so, resolve other problems, including interethnic relationships.

In fourteen years, the social-democratic values have gone astray from the post-totalitarian realities. Social-Democratic Party was very active before 1994 when the first elections on party lists were held and it didn’t miss any opportunity to make constructive propositions. Noteworthy, in 1990 Parliament voted the privatisation plan recommended by the Social-Democrats. Also it was the only party that tried to head Republic of Moldova off the armed conflict trap in 1992. Afterwards the party came up with the scenario of adopting a New Constitution and convening Constituent Assembly.

Social-democrats’ 3.66% in the 1994 elections did not get them to Parliament. A major crisis within the party followed, as many party members sought to get closer to power, namely to former Chair of the Parliament Petru Lucinski. At least under the ruling of Anatol Taranu, on the eve of 1996 presidential elections, Social Democrats were the only ones to openly support Petru Lucinschi.

This internal crisis culminated in 1998, when Gheorghe Sima group left Social-Democratic Party. The old team headed by Oazu Nantoi took over the party leadership. Those changes in the party leadership, coupled with rumours about scission in the party, tarnished the party’s image and impeded its access to potential voters.

In early 2000 the party adopted a strategy to prepare for parliamentary elections due in 2002 and designated its own candidate for December 2000 presidential elections. The party staked its future on Oazu Nantoi, whose participation in presidential race was to boost the party rating. Nantoi’s resignation from Government in March 2000 and the VII Congress of the Social-Democratic Party were just the first steps towards launching its own candidate.

However, we all know how the 2000 presidential race ended — “democrats” together with Communists amended the Constitution, thereby the president was no longer elected by people but rather by the Parliament. Falling themselves in the trap they set, the Parliament was dissolved and anticipated parliamentary elections were scheduled for February 25, 2001. It’s not a secret any more, that back then Democratic Party refused to run together with the Social-Democrats. The efforts undertaken by the Social-Democratic Party to establish a “large and strong” bloc to be headed by Serafim Urecheanu failed also. The 2.48% votes cast for the Social-Democrats saved the party from imminent death and did not help to the party consolidation on Moldova political landscape either.

Long debates and search of the party’s role and place culminated at the VIII Congress of the Party held on February 1, 2004. It was clear that unless Social Democratic Party changed its image and adopted a new approach in reaching out voters, the Party was doomed. For that particular reason Oazu Nantoi came with a proposition for Ion Musuc (famous businessman in telecommunications) to take over the party leadership and refused he himself to be designated. As a result, the Congress brought about the consolidation of the party.

It should be mentioned that Ion Musuc was not new to the party. Back in 1999 Social Democrats insisted on his candidacy for the position of Mayor of Chisinau Municipality. Later on, Ion Musuc worked closely with Social-Democrats, however without making a big deal out of it.

One thing is for sure, Social Democratic Party of Moldova is running short of time given that there is only one year left until the next parliamentary elections. Nor does the political context play in its favour. On the one hand, once again there is a strive to establish an “anticommunist” coalition that Social Democrats cannot join. On the other hand a Moldova Noastra alliance is being founded on criteria far from being based on the values shared by the Social-Democrats. Under those circumstances Social Democratic Party has finally got a chance to break away from the traditional schemes “Communists versus anticommunist” or “let’s win the elections first and then decide what is to be done” and provide the society with a real alternative — a consistent, predictable and doctrinaire party.

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