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New elections in Rezina

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Igor Botan / November 16, 2007
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Does the PCRM victory confirm the decline of this party?

The Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova (PCRM) won the new elections in the Rezina district council on November 11, 2007, garnering three mandates more than the opposition, though the opposition gained one mandate more than the ruling party at the June 3, 2007 ordinary elections. The importance of these elections cannot be underestimated. The PCRM used “hardware” to win, with President Voronin, Premier Tarlev and “landing troops” of PCRM lawmakers visiting the Rezina district prior to the scrutiny and even deciding to postpone the plenary session of the Parliament in order to electioneer their party.

The Rezina elections were an important test for political parties with less than half a year after the “aggregated victory” of the opposition and the biting failure of the ruling party. Many sounding political events and scandals took place from June to November to test their influence on firmness of new trends observed at the June elections. As the district of Rezina is not representative in electoral terms, given the fact that the PCRM rating in this constituency exceeds by 6–10 percent the average on country, the opposition should do its best to reconfirm its June “aggregated victory”, but it failed. Instead, the PCRM proved the vice versa.

In spite of the June failure, the PCRM demonstrated that it maintains a high capacity of mobilisation in all electoral situations. The tenacity and perseverance of PCRM to rule the mayoralty of the Buteni village, the Hancesti district, becomes chrestomatic. As regards the Rezina elections, the PCRM does not hesitate to use any manipulations and stratagems in order to reach its goals, even in the detriment of public interest, when the party’s electoral interest is at stake. Thus, the PCRM has deliberately boycotted the sittings of the district council elected in June in order to profit of incapacity of the opposition to gather its councillors three times in a row. The PCRM boycott and the organisational incapacity of the opposition dissolved the council and produced new elections. The boycott is very grave because it disregards the public interest. It’s true that the boycott was also used by the opposition, which acted the same way in other districts, but the famous PCRM discipline halted the dissolution of councils there.

Now the PCRM does not hesitate to exploit its recent victory for propagandistic goals, launching the following message: “less than half a year after the opposition won the June 2007 local elections, the electorate is already disappointed with the capacity of the opposition to self-organise for public interest.” Given the media potential of PCRM, the incapacity of the opposition to reconfirm the Rezina victory will have a difficult impact from perspective of the 2009 parliamentary elections.

However, in reality the PCRM victory raises deep concern rather than optimism for this party. In spite of extraordinary efforts, use of “hardware”, administrative resources reported by opposition elements, the PCRM has garnered only one percent more at the recent Rezina elections than in June, notably 45.3 percent vs. 44.3 percent. Since the turnout at the recent elections was by approximately one third lower than in June, the PCRM should garner much more votes if we assume that at least the general electoral options of citizens did not change. Thus, the rise of the PCRM rating should be a simple consequence of the famous discipline of the PCRM electorate. From this point of view the things are negative rather than positive for PCRM as the turnout declines by 30 percent while the rating of the party with greatest organisational, financial possibilities, access to administrative resources and with the most disciplined electorate increases by one percent only.

In fact, PCRM won the elections because 8 out of 15 electoral competitors were incapable to garner at least 3.3 percent in order to be represented in the council. The 11 percent votes lost by contestants unrepresented in the council were proportionally redistributed, awarding a surplus of mandates to the PCRM and ensuring its victory. For comparison, only 2 percent of the votes were redistributed in June. It is worth to note that there is no electoral threshold for elections in district councils, but there is a natural threshold however because 33 councillors are elected and a contestant must garner at least 3.3 percent of the votes in order to join the d’Hondt decreasing range.

The recent Rezina example of victory due to redistribution of votes will encourage the PCRM parliamentarians seek more insistently a bigger electoral threshold for the 2009 parliamentary elections. This example is too suggestive and the constant decline of the PCRM after the 2005 parliamentary elections is too evident. It seems that the discipline and administrative resources only are not sufficient for an eventual victory in 2009.

Performance of the opposition

The opposition demonstrated an extremely weak organizational performance at the recent elections in Rezina. Some exceptions related to the performance of the Social Liberal Party (SLP), Christian Democratic People’s Party (CDPP) and National Liberal Party (NLP) do not change the general impression. Firstly, parties which provided the greatest surprises at the June elections have simply failed at the recent scrutiny. The Our Moldova Alliance (OMA), the Democratic Party (DP) and the Liberal Party (LP) gathered a two-fold lower percent. Only the DP failure may be explained somehow after the September splitting, while the lack of interest of OMA and LP for the Rezina elections is by far the most optimistic explanation for the loss of these parties.

The fact that the SLP won by approximately one third higher percentage at the recent elections than in June, garnering 15 percent of the ballots, is the greatest surprise of the Rezina elections. Comparing the absolute figures, the SLP managed to rally all its proponents who voted this party in June. The higher SLP rating is perfectly explainable on background of a turnout by one third lower than in June. However, the organisational capacity of SLP remains an enigma. The most plausible explanation would be that the very educated SLP electorate mostly made of intellectuals mobilised themselves to reply the bantering of SLP by President Voronin, who said that SLP electors do not realise who they vote. If this is a right supposition, the efforts of the mass media supporting the PCRM to libel Chisinau Mayor Dorin Chirtoaca could have as well reverse effects and it seems that surveys conducted in August and October confirm this fact. According to surveys, Dorin Chirtoaca constantly ranks the 3rd place after President Voronin and Premier Tarlev in the confidence standing of citizens, despite non-stop propagandistic attack against him. There is no better way for the political legitimisation of Dorin Chirtoaca, but the weak performance of LP in Rezina raises big questions related to the capacity of this party.

Given the fact that the NLP did not attend the June elections for the Rezina district council but garnered 6 percent of the votes in November, practically equalizing OMA and almost two-fold more than DP, a minimal organisational effort of OMA, DP and LP would have confirmed the June “aggregated victory” of the opposition. There are no trumps that NLP could enjoy and OMA, DP and LP could not enjoy, so that to maintain their June rating, but the last three parties should put minimal efforts like NLP. However, it should be mentioned that their were rumours that SLP and NLP performances have been ensured by the specific support from Vlad Filat, the leader of the emerging Liberal Democrat Party (LDP). The PLD will convoke its founding congress only in December and its leader just wanted to check how attractive his political project is by supporting PSL and NLP candidates who will be converted into PLD later on, after registration. Very soon we’ll see if it’s right or wrong.

Finally, it is worth to note that the CDPP has actually confirmed the stability of its rating at the Rezina elections, winning its traditional percent. The result of the CDPP is especially remarkable in the light of the scandal challenged and fuelled by media outlets regarding sensational revelations about the March 2002 disappearance of CDPP Deputy Vlad Cubreacov. The results of CDPP in Rezina reconfirm that political scandals do not have a significant impact outside of Chisinau. Thus, the scandal related to the “April 4, 2005 betrayal” affected the CDPP rating in the Chisinau municipality alone and it rose outside of the capital. The recent Rezina elections seem to confirm that the scandal around Cubreacov’s disappearance does not impress the province for the time being. However, the scandal may have a major impact in Chisinau, where the CDPP had most of supporters (more than 15 percent) until 2005.

Conclusions

  1. In spite of the PCRM victory at the Rezina elections, the real rating of this party is declining rather than growing. However, the Rezina elections proved that the PCRM maintains its mobilisation capacity at a very high level and this may bring the greatest benefits at the 2009 parliamentary elections.

  2. The results of the Rezina elections will motivate PCRM lawmakers more to seek and obtain a higher electoral threshold for parliamentary elections. Benefits from proportional redistribution of the votes of parties which fail to succeed the electoral threshold may be too important and the opposition is too disorganised to suppose that it will not allow the PCRM to benefit by this disorganisation.

  3. Besides disorganisation, the opposition demonstrated incapacity to anticipate opportunities of producing sounding events in order to use them. The PCRM victory vs. opposition at the new Rezina elections disqualifies the June 2007 “aggregated victory” of the opposition in PR and propaganda terms. Some opposition elements are already beating the alarm in this regard.

  4. The results of the Rezina elections reveal the media speculative nature of reports on the “April 4, 2005 betraying vote”. They show with necessary approximations what would have happened if new parliamentary elections had been held due to boycott of presidential elections — a greater victory of the PCRM. It seems that the Moldovan-style “orange evolution” is not the worst solution on background of permanent crises in “revolutionary” states Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.

  5. As political speculations around the “April 4 vote” will never stop, their supporters should realise that orange revolutions take place in the street, immediately after elections; they have a leader who ranked the 2nd place at elections but does not recognise their results and demands repeated elections; as a rule, the revolutionary leader is a former insider of the government who knows the things from inside and can attract a part of the ruling elite; the revolutionary leader assumes all risks in order to claim all laurels and all emerging benefits later on. This is the only way to attract electors who must bow the balance in a reverse direction at new elections. Invoking in continuation the “April 4 betrayal” should be normally followed by tries to answer: who could assume the role of leader of an eventual “Moldovan orange revolution”; why the eventual leader did not begin protests the next day after the unrecognised elections; would a “revolution” through parliamentary boycott have the same impact like street revolutions; would electors give an equivalent appreciation to risks assumed by leaders of street revolutions and by leaders of “revolutions” through boycott, especially one month after the topic of dump elections was used up? The question whether the new Rezina elections suggest what would happen at new parliamentary elections in 2005 could be answered more exactly only after these questions.

  6. The PCRM boycott to create the Rezina district council after the June elections disqualifies this party as a responsible political force, particularly after the ruling party could test the political responsibility of the opposition immediately after the 2005 parliamentary elections. In order to rescue its image after the recent failure in Rezina, the opposition should give up the last summer tactics and avoid attempts to boycott the first two constitutive sittings of the newly-elected district council. The opposition should try at least to minimally improve its image by telling the public its responsible conduct towards the behaviour of the PCRM, which cynically ignores the public interest for own interests.

What does sociological profile of new local power suggest? After October, November is over…