MonitoringPoliticsCommentaries

Chance of democratisation of the Republic of Moldova

|print version||
Igor Botan / March 23, 2005
ADEPT logo

Revolution vs. evolution

1. Premises for “orange revolution”?

The March 6 parliamentary elections in Moldova did not become a catalyzer of an “orange revolution” aimed to eliminate the “red spot in the orange ocean”, in spite of the many statements and expectations. The initiative of “change” or “orange revolution” launched by the Christian Democratic People’s Party (PPCD) stemmed from the example of Ukraine or that of Romania from December 2004.

There were a number of factors that made many national and international observers presume that the PPCD would prefer the Ukrainian version of change:

  1. to create advantages for itself the ruling party committed a number of abuses in the pre-election period, during electoral campaign and even when it established the election date, provoking retaliation measures of the opposition;

  2. the opposition, in particular the PPCD, reacted to abuses of the ruling party, adopting a suggestive conduct (the electoral symbols and messages) which rather invoked an Ukrainian-style “change” (orange colour and the main electoral poster featuring PPCD leader Iurie Rosca and the leader of the Ukrainian revolution, Viktor Yushchenko) etc.;

  3. with one month and half before elections, PPCD received the permission from Chisinau Mayoralty to organise non-stop rallies of the voters for two weeks immediately after the March 6 scrutiny, and this was interpreted as an intention to follow the Ukrainian scenario, though PPCD leaders promised to turn the meetings with voters into protests only if the authorities gerrymander the results of elections;

  4. several political parties participating in the electoral campaign, including the Democratic Moldova Bloc (BMD) and the Social Democratic Party (PSD) said or hinted that they would support eventual post-election rallies PPCD against conduct of elections.

2. Why the “orange revolution” did not take place?

Nevertheless, “orange revolution” never happened. Local mass media and observers invoked a number of explanations in this regard:

  1. Moldova has specifics which differentiate it from Ukraine and Romania, here abuses and anti-democratic skidding took place on background of a very high rating of the ruling party. The explanation for the high rating is that the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCRM) returned to the power in 2001 after a series of political, economic and financial crises provoked including from outside, and its comeback took place on background of a relatively favourable political and economic context, both internally and externally.

    The PCRM had successfully used this context, withe the price of renouncing at of own ideological principles. It managed to maintain and even improve somehow the social-economic situation. On the other hand, the opposition failed to persuade the most of citizens that a communist government is conjugated with essential “lost opportunities”. Such efforts had no chances of success, as the absolute majority of Moldova’s population, particularly in villages, has no other relatively satisfactory social-political experience but the communist one. In addition, the ruling party had built the “vertical of the state power” and took over the control on key mass media with quasi-total coverage of Moldova’s territory. Under these conditions, a wide and lasting support of citizens for opposition-held protest demonstrations was impossible;

  2. initiatives on foreign policy launched by President Vladimir Voronin in full electoral campaign made the opposition, especially the PPCD, recognise that they aim to fulfil the “national interest”. The visit of Romania’s President Traian Basescu to Chisinau, with one month and half before elections, at the initiative of his Moldovan counterpart Vladimir Voronin, brought hopes that the Moldovan-Romanian relationship would be improved. The visits of President Voronin to Kiev one week prior to elections for a meeting with President Viktor Yushchenko, and of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili to Chisinau a day later were regarded as a reply to abusive meddling of the State Duma of the Russian Federation in Moldovan elections and its threats to introduce economic sanctions against Moldova, as response to the “economic blockade” that the latter set up against the Transnistrian separatist regime. The talks between President Voronin and his Ukrainian and Georgian counterparts focussed on the following topics: struggle against separatism; diversification of energy sources; rebirth of GUUAM for a joint settlement of regional problems; coordination of efforts for European integration; convocation of the GUUAM summit in Chisinau on April 22, 2005. All these facts could not remain without a positive echo in appreciations of the PPCD. In this regard, the PCRM chairman attracted one part of the “revolutionary” aura of leaders of “rose” and “orange revolutions”;

  3. international observers described the March 6 parliamentary elections as “were generally in compliance with most OSCE and Council of Europe commitments and other international election standards. They did, however, fall short of some key commitments, particularly regarding campaign conditions and media access” Thus, formal reasons for protests, the way it happened in Georgia and Ukraine, were almost absent;

  4. with about one week before elections, the PPCD, as the “engine” of the eventual “orange revolution”, hinted that it could not hold protests, if no massive frauds are registered on election day. PPCD said that certain circles in the Russian Federation and Transnistria, which brutally meddled in the electoral campaign in Moldova, intended to use the “peaceful manifestations” in order to infiltrate agents and to challenge the authorities and protestors to a “bloodshed”, in a move to compromise both the authorities, and the PPCD in favour of a “third pro-Russia force” ready to resume the negotiations with the Transnistrian leaders. Under these conditions, PPCD refused to see its supporters, participants in protests becoming “cannon fodder”.

PPCD allusion to the BMD was far too obvious, which, the first said, became the favourite of certain Russian political circles aimed to replace the PCRM as the main pro-Russia political force in Moldova. In this respect, PPCD invoked as evidence the support of Moldovans who created the Patria-Moldova Association in Moscow, with the assistance of Russian authorities, as well as the invitation of Transnistria’s authorities to citizens in the breakaway enclave to elect the BMD. In addition, BMD leader Serafim Urechean said that the Communists massively used the visits of Basescu and Saakashvili to Chisinau and of Voronin to Kiev, and this was a meddling in country’s interior affairs. BMD leader was “disappointed over verdict of foreign observers who said that the elections were generally in compliance with most of European democratic standards,” and underlined that “the West backed the PCRM because it likes its assaults on Russia.” These statements of the BMD leader make a wonderful correlation with declarations of the Russian Foreign Ministry, which accused the international observers of “using double standards” in judging Moldovan elections.

3. Does the “orange revolution” has any substitute?

From the very benning there were not too many optimists over a “change” in Moldova through opposition’s victory at elections, the way it happened in Romania. The statements of PPCD leader Iurie Rosca served as evidence in this regard, as he said with about one year before elections that the future parliament will be “of transition” and the “minimum goal” of opposition was to garner at least 41 mandates in order to block up the election of president, who needs 3/5 of votes of parliamentarians, and to provoke early parliamentary elections this way, in line with Constitution.

The “minimum goal” was fulfilled after elections — the PCRM garnered 56 mandates compared with 45 mandates of opposition. Perhaps this was one of arguments why no protests took place. There is no doubt that PPCD treated this version with much seriousness. A year ago, the parliamentary faction of this party had worked out and proposed to the parliament for examination a draft amendment to the law on election of Moldovan chief of state, so that the new legislature will elect the president. Otherwise, the PCRM would not face any problems, the old parliament in which it holds 71 mandates could elect the chief of state which mandate expires on April 7th without any special problems, and in the newly elected Parliament PCRM holds enough mandates in the new legislature to choose the parliament’s administration and to name the executive.

Thus, the new elections, which the opposition in Georgia and Ukraine obtained through “revolutions”, can take place in Moldova on a constitutional way, if the opposition blocks up the election of the chief of state. However, such a scenario could be avoided if the PCRM and the opposition negotiate a compromise, which certain analysts have already described as a possible “change” or “orange evolution” in Moldova. Anyway, this version is better than the ongoing one in Kyrgyzstan, especially because the PCRM gave up the own communist principles and declares goals which are absolutely compatible with purposes of opposition.

Stability vs. destabilisation

1. What are the possible “developments”?

President Voronin told a news conference immediately after the March 6 elections that the PCRM would not make up any coalitions with any of the two opposition parties. He was sure that it would not be a big problem to attract the missing five votes of opposition parliamentarians for the election of the president, making very transparent allusions that such actions happened in the precedent parliament as well. The chief of state called on the “civic spirit” of opposition lawmakers who will have to participate in election of the new president of Moldova.

It seems that this is the simplest and most natural approach of the problem. The negative side is that opposition leaders regarded this attitude as a proof that the PCRM is ready to resort to “blackmail” and “political corruption” in order to accomplish its own interests. As a result, both the PPCD, and the BMD said publicly that their factions would not participate in the elections of the chief of state and they would provoke early parliamentary elections this way.

These standpoints demonstrate very clearly three possible scenarios of developments following the parliamentary elections: blocked election of the chief of state and provocation of early parliamentary elections; “purchase of votes” from opposition by PCRM, so that to ensure support for election; negotiations between the ruling party and the two factions of the parliamentary opposition.

2. Blocked election of the chief of state is probably the worst version. It can be implemented if the PCRM gives up negotiations with the other two opposition factions which remain consolidated in turn and do not participate in election of president or vote against the Communist candidate, if they take part in voting.

The PCRM faction holds 56 mandates, but it needs 61 mandates to elect the chief of state. Under Article 78 of Constitution, the Moldovan president is elected in two rounds and a candidate must garner at least 3/5 of votes of parliamentarians. Repeated elections take place if the lawmakers fail to choose the chief of state. If the chief of state is chosen nor at repeated elections, the acting president dissolves the parliament and announces early parliamentary polls.

Perhaps the early parliamentary elections could seriously destabilise the political and economic situation in Moldova. There are several factors which could turn the early parliamentary elections into an adventure with sad perspectives:

3. “Buying votes” by PCRM seems to be the most likely solution, and it could be implemented if the PCRM “persuades” a part of opposition parliamentarians to support its candidate by calling on “civic consciousness”, no matter if leaders of opposition factions decide not to participate in election of the chief of state or decide to vote for an alternative candidacy.

The PPCD does not have the minimum number of 15 lawmakers to propose its own candidate, and therefore it could do what it had done at the 2001 elections: not to participate in voting. It is hard to say under what conditions the PPCD would participate in election of the chief of state, in absence of a consensual candidacy, once it had maintained and continues to maintain an anti-communist rhetoric.

On the other hand, forgetting what it had earlier said, the BMD stated that it could participate in the presidential elections in case of a non-communist or own candidate. Thus, the key decision to participate in the secret voting, which offers the opportunity to BMD parliamentarians to vote contrary to what their leaders say, though the latter announced that “the BMD lawmakers had assumed moral obligations not to elect a communist candidate,” is important.

Therefore, the effort of the PCRM to “buy” at least five votes from opposition seems to be meaningful. However, this solution could have very risky consequences, in particular, to challenge eventual crisis situations later:

  1. The PCRM is being “modernised” in line with an order of its leader Vladimir Voronin. The PCRM avoided the “modernisation” at the December 2004 congress, in order to shun an eventual splitting before electoral campaign. On the other hand, this successful tactic at a first glance could mean that the list of candidates of PCRM, as well as the “Trojan horse” have brought the danger of an eventual outside splitting inside of the new faction of PCRM. Thus, the former “monolith” of the Communist parliamentary faction could challenge dangerous cracks including in the polling booth during the secret election of the chief of state. “Fishing votes in the dim relations of opposition,” the PCRM could see how one part of its lawmakers could disappoint it. Indeed, a number of analysts believe that the PCRM leader had included only loyal or controllable persons in the list of candidates. However, such a scenario could not be excluded since the PCRM is not anymore a political organisation based on an ideology which moulds clear references of internal and external policies. The only trump of the PCRM, which holds the crew of party altogether, is the charismatic image of its leader who enjoys the biggest trust and support of Moldova’s citizens and demonstrated that he can ensure a victory at elections. However, the PCRM leader had become the target of assaults of certain political circles and mass media in the Russian Federation. The intensity, periodicity and coherence of these assaults aim to persuade one part of Moldovan public opinion, especially the so-called Russian-speaking citizens, that Vladimir Voronin is allegedly promoting an “anti-Russian” policy.

  2. “buying votes” of certain opposition lawmakers would dramatically undermine the opportunity of principle of a conciliation with the PCRM for promotion of the “national interest”, even if the latter would successfully finish its announced “modernisation” by accepting a new name. This way, the proverb “the wolf sheds his fur but not his nature” would become true. The PCRM would lose the credibility which could be very useful when it could invoke the need to join the forces in order to fulfil the “national interest”, especially for eventual continuation of foreign pressures from the Russian Federation. The reforming wing of the PCRM should think about the need to “ensure shelter” in case the PCRM would split under pressures of foreign circles, since the director of the CIS Institute, Constantin Zatulin, member of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, had said that “Russia will make those who do not love it at least to respect it.” Obviously, the Russian politicians understand the love for Russia as love for what they like, including the Transnistrian regime. President Voronin “does not love” the Transnistrian regime and therefore he was libelled as anti-Russian politician and he could be obliged to “respect Russia”, which will continue to threaten with “economic sanctions”. This happens in spite of the fact that Voronin “loves” Smirnov much more than, for example, Putin and Russian politicians “love” Yandarbyev and Mashadov. This is not an use of double standards, this is only an irrational “love”;

  3. the recent developments related to arrest of former defence minister of Moldova Valeriu Pasat, former director of the domestic security service SIS in the acting cabinet of ministers of Premier Vasile Tarlev, and advisor for the Russian giant RAO “EES Rossii” manager, Anatoli Chyubais, on March 11, with a couple of days after elections, as well as the arrest of some people who had reportedly bribed functionaries of the Chisinau City Hall, are regarded as attempts to split and isolate the BMD components and BMD leader Serafim Urechean. Chisinau Mayor Urechean is being accused of participation in grave corruption-related actions and abuses for three years. In spite of lots of accusations and arrests of a number of city hall functionaries, the justice did not receive any evidence of his guilt. Urechean voiced his claim to replace Vladimir Voronin in the presidential post during the electoral campaign. Press reports affiliated to the ruling party said that Valeriu Pasat was an organiser of the Patria-Moldova organisation of Moldovan internationals in Russia, which openly supported the BMD. Even more, it was presumed that Pasat was a contact link between Urechean and Russian circles which supported the latter. It is difficult to indicate the truth and gossip in this situation, but President Voronin said on March 1, 2005 in an interview with the 35th issue of the Moscow-based publication: “We hold information that certain forces in Russia prepare an attempt against me, as they do not like a person who brings closer the Transnistria settlement through his efforts.” That’s why the arrest of the former SIS head arouses a special interest and the arrest of Pasat and electoral developments in Moldova seem to be very coincidental. Eight years had passed since Pasat, as defence minister of Moldova, had carried out the transaction related to the sale of 21 MIG-29 aircraft from the National Army’s patrimony to the United States. Two special parliamentary commissions had investigated this issue since then, while the Moldovan authorities said that they have no pretensions against the U. S. This case is so confused that conclusions could be wrong. However, this case had irritated more certain influent circles in Russia and the splitting of BMD and attraction of a number of votes by PCRM are risky, and a more lasting solution is required.

4. Compromise — an ideal version?

However, an ideal but unlikely version is possible. Paradoxically, the existing situation offers an extraordinary chance both to the opposition, and to the ruling party not to slip to an eventual impasse with unfavourable consequences for Moldova. Even more, a solution could be found to a number of strategic problems faced by Moldova by accepting the so-called “national consensus”. An eventual compromise should strengthen the democracy and develop the European integration process.

There are premises for such a solution. All the three parties which succeeded to the newly-elected legislature had almost the same offers in their electoral programmes: development of economy on basis of market principles; improvement of social assistance, creation of new jobs, higher salaries; European integration. These parties could get rid of antagonistic enmities if their leaders accept to judge their political adversaries on basis of facts, not on basis of stereotypical tags used for mutual defamation propaganda purposes. Evidently, guarantees against eventual anti-democratic skidding are absolutely needed.

It seems to be an illusion that the opposition parties and PCRM could create a “government of national unity”. The PCRM garnered enough mandates to rule alone. The opposition parties should announce very clearly their conditions for participation in the election of the chief of state. These conditions could be based only on very clear values and arguments, so that the ruling party, international organisations and common citizens of Moldova could understand them. This is necessary, so that the opposition parties which care about their image and want to influence the political life in Moldova in continuation, keeping the perspective to reach the power at further campaigns, be able to provide convincing arguments why they gave up their intention to block up the presidential elections.

These are:

  1. insistence on election as chief of state of a person who is not member of any party or would commit himself to stop such a quality immediately after election in this post. There are several arguments in this regard. Firstly, the Constitution of Moldova says that the Moldovan president represents the state and guarantees the unity of the country. The spirit of constitutional norm saying that the chief of state is elected with the vote of qualified majority of “3/5 of the number of elected parliamentarians” indicates to the “compromise nature of the chief of state.” Voting in this case is a simple affirmation of the compromise between parliamentary factions.

    Secondly, the constitutional competences of the chief of state, as well as the tasks provided by law, are wide enough, and require their fulfillment for the “national interest” alone. Thus, the chief of state holds exceptional constitutional competences in the areas of foreign policy, defence, appointment of chairmen and deputy chairmen of courts, etc. The state security law names the chief of state as head of the Supreme Security Council, which brings together all the law enforcement bodies of Moldova. The law obliges all these institutions to fulfil their tasks on basis of political non-partisanship principle. Or, the presidential experience of the past four years of Vladimir Voronin had demonstrated the danger of anti-democratic skidding when the chief of state is also a party member: creation of the vertical of the state power on structure of the PCRM; participation in the 2003 local elections in favour of the Communist candidate and against other bidders, etc;

  2. the opposition parties should negotiate the compromise on participation in the presidential elections through agreement of the ruling party to accept the revision of normative documents aimed to ensure the independence of justice and mass media, local public administration, etc. Indeed, the election of a chief of state who is not member of any party would be a guarantee in this regard, as the president has the right to veto and the right to legislative initiative;

  3. the opposition should try to persuade the PCRM to accept an appeal to the Constitutional Court to find out whether the chief of state can be party member. The PPCD had requested the Constitutional Court in this regard four years ago, but the latter turned down its appeal saying that this issue does not rest with its competence. On the other hand, the Constitutional Court, as political-juridical institution, had demonstrated that it accepts to examine the appeals of lawmakers in dependence of political juncture. As for example, the Constitutional Court had accepted three appeals on terms of enactment of laws, decisions of the cabinet of ministers, parliament, but it refused to pass a decision on enforcement of the scandalous parliament decision on date of parliamentary elections. Thus, the support of the PCRM for examination of the political-juridical problem regarding the party membership of the chief of state is very important. So, the Constitutional Court could decide to pass a decision on this problem, in particular, because the problem of election of the chief of state permanently generates political crises after amendment of the Moldovan Constitution in 2000, if no party holds the needed 3/5 majority, and this happens not too often.

    A court ruling in this regard would be a guarantee that the chief of state would moderate the political processes with participation of political forces with their typical interests. A consensus on this issue would be the appearance of a minimum mutual confidence between political forces, which would call on the need to join the efforts in order to accomplish the “national interest” in case of crisis.
Post-election reflections Presidential elections