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Igor Botan / November 7, 2005
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Elections with multiple meanings

New elections for vacant mayoral offices will take place in 13 localities of Moldova, including the Chisinau municipality, on November 27, 2005. Besides the appointment of mayors to administrate these localities till the May 2007 general local elections, the elections have also an important significance for estimation of development trends of the party system in Moldova, as well as for testing of effects related to the July 2005 amendments to the Election Code.

In spite of the special meaning of elections for the Chisinau general-mayor post, the absenteeism danger is paradoxically gliding over them. The last summer local elections in Chisinau failed because of the low turnout below the mandatory level of minimum one third of the number of electors. As a rule, the turnout of electors in Chisinau is by about 10–15 percent lower than on the country. This time a complementary factor will be registered — excessively frequent elections, which can amplify the factor of “traditional” absenteeism of Chisinau residents.

To avoid the danger of absenteeism, the candidates participating in the electoral battle should put efforts worthy of attention of electors and mass media, with the latter playing a decisive role in success of the local elections in Chisinau. It can be said in this context that if the politics is regarded as an art of the possible in general, then Chisinau is an electoral polygon for different kinds of political manoeuvres and testing, as it holds new mayoral elections for the third time in only five months.

List of candidates for the Chisinau mayor-general post

Although the list of the eight candidates participating in the electoral race for the Chisinau mayor post seems to be excellent due to absence of some very known names, it can impart a political intrigue to these elections worthy of attention and co-participation of citizens, especially because the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCRM) and the Christian Democratic People’s Party (PPCD) are indirectly involved in these elections.

The list of the eight candidates can be examined on basis of certain criteria:

  1. three candidates including Dorin Chirtoaca, representative of the Liberal Party; Eduard Musuc, representative of the Social Democratic Party; and Oleg Cernei, representative of the Green Alliance Ecologist Party create the category of young politicians. They are on different segments of the political scene — from the right to centre-right. All of them have a political experience, participated in electoral and political campaigns as candidates or leaders of reference. As regards professional training and financial resources, their potential is different. In the classification of Jean Blondel the parties of the four candidates can be described as very small with a rating on country below 5 percent. Anyway, the potential of these candidates can be estimated due to their precedent direct involvement in political and electoral battle.

    Dorin Chirtoaca became the revelation of the July 10 scrutiny, ranking the third place in the top of candidates immediately after favourites of competition. After the March 6 parliamentary elections, when Eduard Musuc was the most active candidate of Social Democrats, he demonstrates a perseverant effort to keep his place in politics. However, municipal councillor Oleg Cernei, who was elected at the May 2003 local general elections on behalf of the Our Moldova Social Liberal Alliance, is the most experienced bidder among the young candidates for the Chisinau mayor-general post. His electoral offer outlines very good knowledge of Chisinau’s problems. Of course, this triplet can outline the distinctive features of the new generation of politicians, but also give elements of intrigue and political show to electoral debates.

    The candidate of the Social Liberal Party (PSL), Olga Nicolenco, is not part of this group from several reasons. However, the party she represents is the result of an effort to launch youths in politics four years ago, with all trumps and inherent shortcomings. In this regard, the experience of PSL is the connection between two efforts to launch youths in politics. They would have what to learn from each other under conditions of goodwill.

    This campaign is an opportunity for these candidates to manifest themselves not only for scintillating effect in mass media and to capture attention as politicians capable to help their parties to climb at least one place in the rating of parties. The phase of “turbulence” faced by system of parties in Moldova, caused by migration of reference points which dominated the political life in Moldova the past 15 years and explicit absence of fist-ranking competitors, seems to offer the best opportunity for relaunching of young leaders in “big politics”. These candidates can demonstrate one more time that the entry of youths in politics is not a consequence of goodwill of known politicians, but rather a result of courage of direct involvement based on certain virtues for sure. In addition, they enjoy the occasion to demonstrate ability to help their fellows to defeat absenteeism, speaking an accessible language, especially because one of these candidates, Dorin Chirtoaca, is the author of the solution to the problem of the “vote of students” in Chisinau, accepted and included in the Election Code.

  2. duet Valentin Krilov, representative of the Patria-Rodina-Ravnopravye bloc (made up by the Socialist Party, Party of Socialists, and the Republican Social-Political Movement Ravnopravye), and Gheorge Sima, representative of the Labour Union Patria-Rodina, create the segment of candidates with clear leftwing options. Both candidates are experienced politicians, and former parliamentarians, while Gheorghe Sima was education minister in 2002–2003. Their electoral offers focus on an eventual support of the Russian Federation in solving the problems of Moldova, if they become mayor of Chisinau. Both candidates represent very small parties, but they may progress especially after the Russian authorities have threatened Moldova with commercial and economic sanctions. Although both candidates represent parties with pro-CIS visions, or rather pro-Russian, there are some misunderstandings between them regarding the right to use the label Patria-Rodina.

    Thus, one of real goals of the two candidates is to clarify what of parties is more credible in promoting the pro-CIS political vector. The second goal of these candidates is to benefit from electoral stand, it means access to mass media, in order to try to consolidate the electoral segment with leftwing versions by criticizing social phenomenon that generates social unfairness, but especially by pleading in favour of a pro-Russian political vector, which would contest the present interior and foreign policies of Moldova.

  3. the duet Vasile Ursu and Mircea Rusu is part de facto of the same political party — Our Moldova Alliance (AMN), and even more, of its leading bodies. However, Vasile Ursu, ad-interim mayor-general of Chisinau, is an independent candidate, while Mircea Rusu represents the party. There is a ground to suppose that the main electoral battle will be Ursu vs Rusu, or vice versa. The supposition is based on two factors: AMN remains in category of relatively big parties, despite of the recent splitting; candidates enjoy an implicit or explicit support of the most important leaders of Moldova who are in a permanent political conflict for more than three years.

    Thus, according to the newspaper Komsomoliskaya Pravda v Moldove, chief of state and PCRM leader Vladimir Voronin hinted that the ruling party would support the independent candidate for the Chisinau mayor-general post, Vasile Ursu. President Voronin clearly stated to the same paper: “The central administration will cooperate with any person elected in this office. Anybody can realize that the constructive cooperation is productive…” As a result, accomplishments based on cooperation between central administration and ad-interim mayor indicated by chief of state are part of the electoral offer of candidate Vasile Ursu, who also focuses on “constructive relations with central public authorities and Chisinau Municipal Council…”

    The transfer of authority from holders of the highest rankings in the state to certain electoral competitors, as well as their support by ruling parties is a naturalized practice in Moldova for quite a long time. Former mayor Serafim Urechean also benefited from this practice at the 1999 local elections in Chisinau. At present, the innovation rests exclusively with behaviour of PCRM and its leader that supported candidates to the post of mayor-general of Chisinau in 2003 and last summer who were not PCRM members. The effect of this support was overwhelming, though these candidates could not obtain the post they wanted. This was the explanation of the PCRM to the innovation to support an “independent candidate”, who is actually a member of a political party headed by the main opponent of President Voronin.

    To get through competition with a candidate supported by the ruling party, Mircea Rusu will need a similar support that only AMN leader Serafim Urechean, whose rating in Chisinau should remain very high, can support him. However, it is hard to suppose what methods of “transfer of authority” could be used in this regard. As for example, President Voronin was participating in 2003 in meetings with electors besides PCRM candidate to the Chisinau mayor post Vasile Zgardan. Of course, the press affiliated to PCRM infers such a support from Urechean for Rusu, taking into account the negative experience of PCRM, and namely the fact that the party media had vehemently criticized Zgardan with a couple of years before the PCRM supported him, The parallelism is observed now in the Urechean-Rusu relationship, with the latter being the most virulent opponent of the first during the 1999 elections for the Chisinau mayor-general post.

    These details demonstrate that the political intrigue related to the mode of support of the two candidates persists and may have an important impact on development of the system of parties in Moldova. In this regard, AMN has three candidates in these elections. Its third candidate is Oleg Cernei, who requested a temporary suspension of AMN membership in order to bid on behalf of the Green Alliance Ecological Party. This detail outlines two things: AMN managed to attract a large human potential in two years of existence; now AMN has to solve the problem of management of this potential in its quality of intransigent opposition, a problem developed by the recent withdrawal of the Social-Democratic group headed by Dumitru Braghis from AMN and participation of AMN members in elections as candidates or with support of other parties.

    In this regard, the eventual victory of one of the two candidates would serve as an implicit answer to the question: what would be better for AMN: to promote a centrist policy of cooperation with the rightwing or leftwing in dependence of situation, or to maintain its present policy of migration to the rightwing of political scene?

    Of course, if Ursu wins the elections, his victory could be used against AMN as proof of correctness of the centrist line compared with the right line. Even more, Ursu could be encouraged not to leave AMN but to become leader of an eventual centrist current in AMN. An eventual victory of Rusu would have an opposite effect, but the winner would become an extremely strong opponent for other bidders to the top posts within the party. This is one more proof that the political intrigue in these elections persists abundantly.
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