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A branch of “orange evolution”?

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Igor Botan / December 19, 2005
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Year 2005 — year of elections

The political year 2005 was unquestionably a year of elections, both regarding number of elections and their impact on the social-political situation.

The parliamentary elections scheduled for March 6, 2005 generated expectations related to cardinal changes in the political life. However, an eventual “orange revolution” has been discussed with much scepticism, knowing the parameters of revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine, held by movements that: a) ranked the second place at the electoral competition at a very short distance from the party or candidate of the power; b) did not recognise the results of elections because of flagrant frauds of the same power; c) had former insiders as leaders (Mikhail Saakashvili was justice minister during presidency of Eduard Shevardnadze, while Viktor Yushchenko was prime minister during presidency of Leonid Kuchma). The leaders of chromatic revolutions were motivated to risk in order to “gain everything” unless they run the risk to lose everything. The decisive role of former insiders in the chromatic revolutions was also confirmed at elections in other CIS states, which took place after the parliamentary scrutiny in Moldova. Thus, Kurmanbec Bakiev, former prime minister during presidency of Ascar Akayev has become one of leaders of “revolution of tulips” in Kyrgyzstan. The revolutionary perspective has determined Azerbaijani President Ilkham Alyev to take preventive measures (but it doesn’t matter if these measures were or were not grounded in this case) against an eventual “chromatic revolution”, holding certain members of the government (insiders) before the October 2005 parliamentary elections. Obviously, the further attention must focus on the case of Kasyanov from Russia.

As regards the existence of technologies needed to hold chromatic revolutions, we should presume that the Democratic Moldova Bloc (BMD) could organise such a revolution in Moldova, because: a) it ranked the second place after the Moldovan Party of Communists (PCRM) at elections; b) was led by a former insider, Serafim Urechean, member of the Tarlev Government as mayor of the capital, who was eliminated later through modification of the law on status of the Chisinau municipality in 2002; c) refused to recognise the legality of the March 6, 2005 parliamentary elections.

The expectations that the Christian Democratic People’s Party (PPCD) could start an eventual “orange revolution” under these conditions, as it has assimilated revolutionary symbols and rhetoric before elections, and BMD could join it later were groundless. BMD became for PPCD an opponent with much more vague intentions than those declared by PCRM in the conjuncture before elections.

As a result, PCRM has managed to channel the “revolutionary elan” into an evolutionist riverbed, proposing the opposition to join the “Declaration on political partnership for implementation of European integration objectives.” The unanimous voting of the declaration on “national consensus” at the first sitting of the new legislature, including by those who did not recognise the results of elections, has disqualified any further pretensions of BMD to overturn the PCRM by blocking the procedure of election of the chief of state by Parliament and organisation of early parliamentary elections. By contrary, the subsequent events related to election of the chief of state and distribution of leading offices in the legislative body took place within “consensus” but without participation of the Our Moldova Alliance (AMN) faction headed by Serafim Urechean after collapse of BMD.

The confusion related to the expectation of “change” at the national level was reproduced through a confusion related to the “change” at the level of the Chisinau municipality. A series of attempts to elect a new mayor have failed after AMN leader Serafim Urechean decided to step down from the post of Chisinau mayor and “last bastion of democracy in the Republic of Moldova” in favour of the post of lawmaker and leader of the AMN parliamentary faction, and this fact justifies the naming of 2005 as “year of elections”. However, a novel political phenomenon has appeared in Moldova from an electoral confusion like the chaos develops into order.

Impact of elections in capital city

Objectively, the positive or negative consequences of the “orange evolution” that took place within the “national consensus” will be visible after a longer period. The immediate results are not relevant because you can change and improve a set of laws rapidly, adjusting them to the highest standards, but you cannot immediately combat the inertia force of conduct of reforming institutions related to behaviour of their staffs.

However, the immediate consequences of “national consensus” have outlined after the four elections of the Chisinau mayor. Two things related to these elections have captured the attention of public: their invalidation because of the turnout of electors below 1/3; distribution of votes for electoral competitors. Thus, the absenteeism phenomenon stirred interpretations and speculations, including of propaganda nature, because of the lack of surveys. The causes of absenteeism included among others: a) the inadequate period for organisation of elections; b) the mandate of only one year and half of the new mayor, which has generated the disinterest of strong parties and candidates; c) meddling of central authorities in affairs of local administration in the capital; d) loss of confidence of the electorate in the political class; e) too often elections (five elections in the Chisinau municipality in only nine months); f) the “April 4, 2005 vote” of a part of the opposition (PPCD, Democratic Party (PD) and Social Liberal Party (PSL)) in favour of re-election of the PCRM leader as chief of state, etc.

It is important to take into account the fact that the absenteeism phenomenon is also present in developed democracies, where special studies demonstrate a deep correlation between turnout and: a) the attitude of citizens towards the institution for which the elections take place; b) the electoral offer of competitors in a certain context (the context can generate the interest or disinterest through itself); c) the way the competitors are received (their quality). Thus, the turnout at legislative, regional (local) elections and for the European Parliament in a number of states of the European Union, almost in the same general political context has the following rates: 80–70 percent; 55–45 percent; 45–35 percent. The participation in local elections in the CIS area is usually very low. As for example, the average in Russia is 20–30 percent.

Resuming the absenteeism problem in Moldova, all the causes invoked above taken altogether give a right image of this phenomenon. From that reason, making evident one of them mispresents dramatically the state of things and this was especially visible in the opposition press that supported the AMN. Thus, the invoking of the “April 4 vote” as main cause of the absenteeism neglects a series of other factors related to distribution of votes in favour of candidates. The “April 4 vote” should disgust only the voters of the three opposition parties who supported the re-election of the PCRM head, the electors of the latter could not be misled by fact that the party and the leader that they back seize the entire power in the state with the support of a part of opposition, avoiding a political crisis. But why the number of votes for the PCRM candidates at the mayoral elections had declined almost proportionally with the number of participants in elections? At the same time, the percent of PCRM candidates remained in the limit of “norm” of expectations for this party related to the results of the 2003 mayoral elections.

Indeed, the “April 4 vote” had a decisive impact on distribution of votes for opposition candidates rather than on absenteeism. The biggest surprise for promoters of the idea of the negative impact of the “April 4 vote” should be the fact that the candidate of PPCD, which faces the most ardent criticism for this vote, has lost about 1/2 of the percentage of PPCD in Chisinau (compared with the March 6, 2005 elections), while the AMN candidate lost about 2/3 of this percentage. The results of PL and PSL candidates were not relevant and they fit the limits of “norm” of expectations.

The apparent conclusion is that the “orange evolution” and the permanent dispute between supporters of AMN and PPCD in connection with accusations and justifications regarding the “April 4 vote” disfavour both parties, but in a different measure. The dissatisfaction of electors related to these events goes to a new direction. The protest is expressed through “leaking” of votes of these parties to the deputy chairman of the Liberal Party (PL), Dorin Chirtoaca, who participated in three out of four failed elections and garnered 7; 25 and 35 percent of valid votes.

The phenomenon Dorin Chirtoaca (the “DC” phenomenon further on) is novel for Moldova. Being only 28 years old, he has almost no deep relationship with the present political class of Moldova. Although he is part of PL and used the name of the party, this helped him only to avoid collecting 10,000 signatures needed to register an independent candidate. From this viewpoint, the “DC” detached from PL (like the new ballot from counterfoil) may be compared to a new branch, a co-lateral product of the “orange evolution” (the branch is a subdivision of the “political regna” superior to the class. The Moldovan “political class” has the system of political parties based on three pillars as support: a) the Party of Communists, which is considered and it is successor of the Communist Party of MSSR that dominated the political life in Moldova in the past 50 years with very short breaks; b) PPCD, which is considered and it is the only successor of the People’s Front that appeared 17 years ago and developed by contesting the domination of PCRM; c) parties — emanations of the power in the period when the PCRM was not a ruling party. All other more or less significant political parties are emanations and fragmental combinations of the three mentioned categories of parties. Only PCRM and PPCD have deep roots in the Moldovan political soil like thesis and antithesis (while the “national consensus” is a kind of synthesis). From that reason, the PCRM and PPCD manage to lead the top of domestic political life. Respectively, the recoil of sympathies for PPCD is easier to recover in principle than in the case of AMN. Even more, PPCD assumed a risk through the “April 4 vote” that could be finally justified, while AMN, which does not have “roots in the political soil,” except for the plots in the Chisinau municipality, has produced a series of confusions, including unrecognising of results of the March 6 elections without the chromatic revolutionary logic and leaving the “last bastion of democracy” without battle, and this leaves few chances to recover. Perhaps, this is the origin of the unexpected recoil which is deeper in case of AMN than of PPCD.

The “DC” phenomenon has chances to perpetuate like an alternative firstly of what does not have “deep roots”. The percentage that “DC” has garnered under very special conditions which are not typical to campaigns with very important stakes reflects only a new but very strong trend on the centre-right political wing. The big advantage of the “DC” is that it cannot be reproached with anything for the time being, and hopes and not only optimism can be invested in him. However, it will be hard to maintain and develop this promising trend without branched territorial structures, without financial, logistic, and other resources. To cut it short, there are a lot of hopes and expectations about “DC”, but it would be very difficult to avoid being included in the Red Book of the Moldovan “political regna”.

It should be also mentioned that a “leaking” of votes of protest to the Patria-Rodina-Ravnopravye is observed, and this bloc promotes a pro-CIS message and hopes to succeed the electoral threshold at the future parliamentary elections.

Expectations for 2006

If 2005 was the “year of elections”, then 2006 will be unquestionably the year of manifestation of consequences of “monetisation” of relations between the Russian Federation and the CIS members, including with the Republic of Moldova. Of course, the consequences will affect the ruling party above all from political point of view. Under these conditions, the continuation of the PCRM governing is a kind of “moment of truth and justice”. In 2001, PCRM has reached the power in a favourable conjuncture: its predecessors implemented unpopular but necessary reforms; they eliminated the negative consequences of the August 1998 financial collapse in Russia which dramatically affected Moldova, landing their rating. In addition, the constantly increasing inflow of remittances of Moldovans working abroad favoured the PCRM governance. Now, holding the mandate of citizens and ruling in a period of radical changes of the political-economic conjuncture, PCRM is the most indicated party to apply the experience it has obtained in four years of governing, not only to get through conjuncture adversities of the fate, but also to open new opportunities for increasing development of Moldova in compliance with multiple strategies and plans that it has drafted and adopted.

The new conjuncture cannot be an occasion of joy for opponents of PCRM, since consequences will affect the entire society from social point of view. Once “monetised”, no political force claiming to be able to restore the good relations with the former mother country will be capable to “demonetise” the relations with Russia. That’s why it can be said that the “national consensus” is welcome. In other terms, the “consensual objectives” may contribute to a rebalancing of influences on political arena.

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