Alegerile parlamentare din 2021 în Republica Moldova -

Evolution of perceptions of social-economic and political situation (Part I)

|print version||
Igor Botan / February 16, 2007
ADEPT logo

Trends revealed by surveys

At present, the evolution of perceptions of social-economic and political situation in Moldova must be estimated for two reasons: a) the absolute victory of the Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova (PCRM) in the Parliament (3/4 of seats during two mandates) will turn 6 on February 25, 2007; b) the general local elections scheduled for late May-early June, elections which will suggest if the PCRM will be really able to bid for the third mandate of dominant party in 2009, too, are being prepared.

Such estimation is also required because, starting November 2001, the Institute of Public Policy (IPP) has measured the perceptions of social-economic and political situation with a stable periodicity within “barometers of opinion”, on basis of a constant set of questions. The last factor is essential to understand the trends revealed by 11 measurements conducted in 5 years. In addition, the conduct of surveys commissioned by the same institution (IPP), in line with the same methodological requirements, with the same error margin enhances the confidence that the revealed trends reflect adequate perceptions of the real social-economic and political processes, in spite of different executors of surveys. Given the fact that people in Moldova still do not believe in surveys and they are suspicious that the public opinion is manipulated via surveys, it is necessary to note that focussing on both findings of surveys and deviations from “norm” may be useful. Truly, what findings of surveys, which show that the absolute majority of Moldovan citizens have constantly considered in the last 6 years that the things in our country went in a wrong direction, could tell us if the same citizens credited the ruling party with the highest rating, confirmed periodically at three elections?

How do you think, do things in Moldova go in a right or wrong direction?
For these reasons, the next barometer and other surveys conducted before elections, likely in March-May, will present interest for observing oscillations of evolution of trends outlined in the past 6 years.

The trends revealed by surveys should reflect somehow the political context, reactions of public opinion to sounding events in internal and external political lives, perceptible things which sometimes are not strongly observed: round o’clock protests held under the aegis of the Christian Democratic People’s Party (CDPP) in January-May 2002; the November 2003 protests against the “Kozak memorandum”; the strategic partnership that followed the “April 4, 2005” voting; the Russian Federation’s embargo on Moldovan agro-food products and wines; multiple sounding political scandals related to violation of rights of opposition, freedom of expression and freedom of mass media, etc.

Following may be the explanations of feeble reactions of citizens to the sounding events mentioned above: a) perception of citizens is basically influenced by the way the mass media covers the events and this is a very sensitive issue for political class; b) effects of important events are manifested much later in the virtue of inertia, when the capacity of establishing the cause-effect relation reduces significantly; c) difficult cumulative effects of many sounding events amplify or reduce the reactions of citizens. However, it was observed that Moldovans react very clearly and distinctly when their welfare is directly threatened. For this reason, both researchers and political class are very interested how the electoral conduct of people may influence the perception of social-economic and political situation of citizens.

Stability — premise of predictability of electoral conduct

The electoral behaviour of Moldovan citizens has its specifics for sure. A series of researches based on findings of surveys conducted in 1993–2000 demonstrated that under very bad conditions though in relative stability, the change of the electoral conduct was mainly due to the behaviour of political leaders, especially of high-ranking public functionaries. The results of the 1995 local elections, the 1996 presidential scrutiny, the 1998 parliamentary elections and the 1999 local elections demonstrate that social-economic and political shocks in that period inserted with interests of ruling groups and of those willing the governance produced the “migration” of leaders from one party to another and appearance of new parties or alliances. After the 1994 parliamentary elections, which were a reference point to establish the rating of parties and political leaders, “migration” of the latter after numerous splitting and coalitions attracted the sympathies of electors who have loyally followed the winding trajectories of leaders. Beside the “migration” of leaders, the only remarkable phenomenon with a major impact was the gradual elimination by PCRM of its temporary substitutes — the Agrarian Democratic Party of Moldova (ADPM) and the Unitatea-Yedinsto Union.

The February 25, 2001 parliamentary elections eliminated or started eliminating some “migrant” leaders from domestic political circuit and opened a new phase — the absolute governance of PCRM, this thing being valid at least in the past years. It must be clear that there were serious premises “to undermine the fidelity of electors” in the precedent phase and to start the new period of “electoral devotion”: a) the August 1998 financial collapse in Russia had negative repercussions on Moldovan economy, and this influence was wholly manifested in 1999–2000; b) the 2000 constitutional crisis discredited completely the parties and political leaders, associates of the governance at that stage (former members of the Alliance for Democracy and Reforms (ADR) and supporters of former president Petru Lucinschi); c) very favourable conditions, which did not exist in other CIS member states in that period, for oppositional at the time PCRM to criticise governors for consequences of the financial collapse and constitutional crisis, including conditions for open electoral propaganda. The last factor is found in a report by the OSCE Mission on monitoring of the 2001 parliamentary elections. The correctness of public television in Moldova had never been highly appreciated before and after those elections, without any accusation regarding the coverage of the electoral campaign.

Thus, the absolute victory of PCRM at the 2001 elections is not the result of an unusual attitude of Moldovan citizens toward the communist ideology, while the re-election of PCRM in March 2005 confirms the merit of PCRM in stabilising the social-economic situation, which it knew to maintain despite of a very specific manner for a communist party, enjoying a relatively favourable conjuncture: a) the previous governments of Ion Sturza (ADR) and Dumitru Braghis in the period 1999–2000 have remedied many consequences of the financial collapse and its collateral effects; b) the strong growth of remittances from Moldovans working abroad coincided with the PCRM ruling; c) the strong regional economic growth, of which Moldova profited, too, has started. As a result, we may observe how satisfied Moldovan citizens have been of the economic condition in the past 6 years.

How satisfied you are with present economic condition of Moldova?
One may observe that only the number of those “not very satisfied” with the economic condition has decreased by approximately 20 percent since the PCRM gained the power, and this fact confirms the significant reduction of poverty rate. The other groups have accommodated to the “situation of stability”. It is interesting that expectations of citizens did not foretoken anything special in the past years, confirming the accommodation to the existing situation.
How do you think, how will be the economic situation in Moldova after one year, in comparison with the present economic condition?
Another factor that attests the stability is linked to a relatively constant perception of citizens toward their main goods, primordial services offered by public institutions, as well as political condition in the country. Some governmental projects and programmes are slowly becoming effective, but sources of dissatisfaction are also outlined very clearly.
How satisfied you are with... (Enough/very satisfied)
But stability under predomination of dissatisfactions cannot be called but stagnation. Thus, development of economy, strengthening of order in country and combat of corruption continue to be regarded as the most important tasks of Moldova, but the interest for them is declining, though people remain still dissatisfied with situation in their country. A possible conclusion is that citizens believe less that these tasks may be achieved. Of course, media campaigns only, like those against corruption, may produce oscillations of citizens’ perceptions. In this situation,
How do you think, what tasks are most important for Moldova at present? (Choose three answers in order of priorities)
citizens propose interesting remedies. In this regard, two contrary options compete distinctively — “growth of state’s role” and “awarding of more facilities to private sector.”
What should be done to improve the social-economic situation in Moldova? (Choose 3 answers)

The fact that the option “changing the state leadership” remains more or less constant is also significant because only approximately 15 percent of respondents regard it as an urgent measure to improve the social-economic situation.

What threatens the stability?

There are very clear indicators that both authorities and leaders of the ruling party and opposition understand that the current stability in Moldova is related to stagnation. Governors are interested to get rid of stagnation but don’t want to lose control on situation; that means on stability. The opposition claims change, knowing from precedent experiences that the electorate sanctions the political forces which are to blame for destabilisations that have negative consequences on welfare. This fact explains many recent political developments in Moldova.

So far, the rapid price rise is the highest danger for stability. The recent rise of gas prices confirms the concerns that citizens raised in surveys. There are many factors that influence the dynamic rise of prices, but the most important rests with the chain effect challenged by higher prices of natural gas. Other factors that threaten the stability have a political nature and are linked to Moldova’s relations with the Russian Federation. Of course, consequences of the Russian embargo on Moldovan agro-food products and wines will manifest in continuation, though the interdictions are considered to be verbally withdrawn. Intentions of speculation of destabilising factors were very clear in the first half of 2005, when the Moscow-based organisation Patria-Moldova, which claims to represent the interests of all Moldovans working abroad, supported by Transnistrian circles, tried to provoke an acute crisis in Moldova, speculating in mass media the imminence of a financial collapse and calling upon citizens to urgently withdraw their savings from banks.

What worries you most now? (Choose 3 answers)
Given these circumstances and the forthcoming general local elections, Moldovan authorities have taken a series of actions to maintain the social-economic and political equilibrium in country:
  1. The Moldovan Government and Moldova-Gaz Company on one side and the Russian giant Gazprom on the other side signed natural gas delivery agreements for the next five years in late December 2006. On this occasion, the chairman of the parliamentary commission for state security, Iurie Stoicov, PCRM deputy, had a special intervention at a plenary sitting of the Parliament to proudly announce the Government’s performance in ensuring the energy security and stability;
  2. The public mass media has described a discussion between Presidents Vladimir Voronin and Vladimir Putin that took place in Minsk after the CIS summit as a normalisation of Moldova-Russia relations, which will withdraw the embargo on Moldovan products. Indeed, the discussion between the two presidents had only soothing effects on Moldovan public opinion;
  3. Moldova has obtained the promise of international donors to give a substantial financial assistance estimated at approximately 1.2 billion dollars for the next three years, which should reduce the effects of Russia’s economic pressures on Moldova. This is an important thing for maintaining the European orientation of Moldova;
  4. Authorities have managed, with the support of the U.S., E.U. and main international institutions, at least to maintain attitudes toward the Transnistrian conflict, border control and a minimum record of exports of Transnistria, under conditions of an open and provocative support of the Russian Federation for the separatist regime. This thing aims to fortify the European option of Moldova, which is essential to maintain the “strategic partnership for the European integration and settlement of the Transnistrian conflict,” declared by ruling party and Opposition;
  5. Leaders of the “constructive opposition” have publicly reconfirmed the “strategic partnership” between the ruling party, CDPP and DP, as the winter parliamentary session has finished.

The “active” opposition has criticised the accomplishment of the governance and its “allies”, attributing the few performances to the favourable internal and external conjuncture. However, the latest most sounding event was not challenged by criticism of the “active” opposition, but by recommendations launched in the mid-January 2007 via Radio Free Europe by U.S. analyst Vladimir Socor, who recommended the maintenance of the strategic partnership between the PCRM and the CDPP as a guarantee of the political stability, with a determinant impact on political alliances before the 2009 parliamentary elections.

Perception of foreign relations (Part II)

Moldova within ENP. First assessment report by the European Commission Perception of foreign relations (Part II)