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6th PCRM Congress and its first consequences

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Igor Botan / March 31, 2008
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Democratic centralism vs. liberal communism

The 6th Congress of the Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova (PCRM) from March 15, 2008 made mixed impressions. On one hand, the congress has surely brought some cardinal changes:

On the other hand, a sensation that a little has changed after that congress is constantly persisting. It seems that all change and modernisation was reduced to the formula — “other masks, the same play”. In particular, directors and main players are the same — President Vladimir Voronin and his key advisor Mark Tkaciuk. In this regard, the “new look” of EPC is rather aimed to prevent any inconvenient questions or accusations against PCRM leader regarding further evolution of the party. Really, how could very young and inexperienced persons who succeeded in the EPC the “hallowed monsters” which founded the party wonder about precision of the new course of the PCRM? On the contrary, they may experience only the “deep feeling of gratitude” for the so quick promotion to the party hierarchy. And then what new EPC members could ask, as all of them, except for the author of the new party programme, exegete Mark Tkaciuk, would probably fail an eventual test regarding the “scientific communism”.

As regards opening and transparency observed at the PCRM congress, it was for sure a successful PR action, a well-staged show, with all arrangements being prepared in advance. Under these conditions, it would be strange not to use image-making techniques by broadcasting online the works of the congress “for the first time in Moldova’s history”. More than 10,000 observers could watch online the following: all reports were ordinary, without any contradictory debating of clauses of the basic report; all decisions were unanimously voted; one person only was nominated to run for the party head office and the candidacy was unanimously voted. All this is exactly like at congresses of the former PCSU. At the same time, nobody can deny that the things have dramatically changed since the December 2004 5th Congress, when the works of the congress were kept hidden from knowledge under the burden of internal problems.

The insincere assessment of the social-political condition made by PCRM leaders is one the main impressions created by the 6th Congress. It is understandable when propaganda is made for those who are not members of the party, but making propaganda for own members instead of analysing reveals a non-confidence for their convictions. By describing the relations with the opposition as a “battle between black and white”, saying that former governors before 2001 had done only bad things and the communists are doing only good things, the PCRM leader forgets that his party members remember well who boycotted all reforms in the 1990s; who initiated the referendum against private land ownership; who promised to build the communism in Moldova on the basis of Marxism-Leninism and failed doing so; who insisted on treatment of Tiraspol and Chisinau on an equal footing, threatening former president Lucinschi to agree, otherwise he would lose the support, and later on changed the mind; who promised that Moldova will join the Russia-Belarus Union, etc.

While stigmatising their opponents and accusing them of “not forgiving and learning anything” PCRM leaders speak as if they mean themselves. Just one example: before accusing former governments of deindustrialization of Moldova they could interview participants in the congress in order to find out how many of them support Moldovan and CIS industry: how many of them have TV sets, washing machines and fridges made in Moldova or CIS, preferring them to western ones; how many of them came to the congress by CIS-manufactured cars; what computers do they have in their offices, are they also manufactured in the CIS? Answers to these very simple questions would have completed the analytical side of the basic report presented to the congress, especially because it notes objective factors that destroyed the communism in the USSR. The technological backwardness was a reason of the collapse of the communism, and if so, why these “crocodile tears” for the deindustrialization, in particular, on one hand, the PCRM had resisted to reforms when something could be really reformed and modernised and on the other hand it ardently deplored the “destruction of the socialist Homeland”.

In this regard, it is a serious omission that the basic report, other reports and the new programme do not answer the following question — why did the PCRM give up the building of the communism in Moldova, the way the programme in effect until March 15, 2008 stipulated? Who is to blame for the fact that the precedent programme had an impossible strategic goal? Or the impossible goal was common bait for population which was deeply disappointed with the PCRM-boycotted reforms, a tool for “social psychotherapy” carrying an electoral profit?

By answering these questions, one may affirm that the modernisation of the PCRM is actually a tacit renunciation to impossible goals and embracement of others. Mentioning the eclecticism of the new PCRM programme has already become a common thing, though the introduction of the programmatic goal of transition to the post-industrial society “for the first time in Moldova’s history” is welcome. In general, this “innovating” element is an adapted enouncement of the so-called Lisbon Strategy of the European Council. Its aim is to make the EU “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010.” In this context, the World Bank (WB) has recommended developing countries to rally to the mentioned objectives in order to prevent a deepen arrearage compared with developed states. Thus, the new PCRM programme comes to give green light to the WB call and rally to EU objectives. As the PCRM and its leader are promoting innovating approaches via the new political programme, this should be done with a minimum dose of sincerity and decency. It means that PCRM leaders are lying when they state that their party was the only one to surpass the rhetorical phase and institutionalise the European integration goal in the ruling programme. It is easy to verify that another two governments — Ciubuc II and Sturza — had the EU accession among their programmatic objectives before the PCRM. The PCRM was vehemently resisting to this objective then, pleading for the Russia-Belarus Union, thus gaining the rule in 2001. The PCRM has embraced the pro-European idea after the EU enlargement waves had become incontestable and Russia made public its intention to “monetise the relations” in the CIS area.

Nowadays, majority of parties of any doctrinaire orientation subscribe to the European integration goal and implicitly pledge to build the post-industrial society promoted by the Lisbon Strategy of the EU. Nor with regard to intermediary tasks the PCRM is original: a) promoting increasing social investments and building a social state; b) building a favourable business climate and affirming an open innovation-targeted economy; c) building a multilevel democracy; d) boosting the competitiveness of the country; e) adopting fundamental security principles on a long term (permanent neutrality, territorial integrity and opening for integration). Majority of parties of any orientation subscribe to these tasks, except for some very specific goals. The declared intention to build the multilevel democracy makes the difference between the PCRM and other local and foreign parties. It is hard to explain this notion, but it could be something very close to concentric circles of “democratic centralism”, given the heritage and conduct of the PCRM. Otherwise, any continuity of evolution of the PCRM would be lost. In order to make light in this area, PCRM leaders invited known scientists from Moscow who were also in charge with propagandistic missions at the congress. Some of them are specialised in studying the post-industrial society. Their authority should probably destroy the doubts of the “old guard” regarding the new course of the party. By the way, President Voronin used the same tactics in 2001, after party members raised dissatisfaction with deviation from the communism building course, at a June plenary sitting. The chief of state was inspired then to persuade Chinese President Jiang Zemin who was visiting Kiev to alight in Chisinau for a couple of hours. Following the visit concerned, President Voronin’s comrades should be persuaded that their leader was building a Chinese-style reforming socialism in Moldova. Now, one could say that the Moscow guests were in charge with persuading the “Orthodox communists” from Moldova that their leader Vladimir Voronin is building the “liberal communism”. Given the appearances, the success was amazing.

But what is the difference between the “democratic centralism” and “communist liberalism”? They are rather synonyms. The centralism fits the communism and democratic fits liberal. But Moscow scientists did not clarify several things: will the post-industrial society be a communist one; does the excessively stratified knowledge proletariat have self-consciousness and does it really need a party like the PCRM to guard their interests? So far, till the Moscow scientist will look for answers, the PCRM will remain the party of President Vladimir Voronin regardless of the declared reformation and modernisation goals, no matter if it would turn from the Party of Communists into, let’s say, a hyper-liberal party or an anarchic-unionist movement, etc.

Tarlev Government — first victim of modernising congress

The way Premier Tarlev had to tender resignation is an eloquent answer to the question how the PCRM was modernised after the 6th Congress. No matter how much the former premier would try to hide his grief for the “voluntary decision” (probably of President Voronin) to tender his resignation, he could not do this. He should not make heavy weather of this. Too many “accidents” took place at once and they were not spontaneous: the former premier has spontaneously decided to tender his resignation after three days before, the congress of the ruling party attended by Tarlev as an invitee remarked his success in the past seven years; the chief of state has spontaneously attended the cabinet sitting at which the prime minister decided to step down; finally, the head of state has spontaneously signed the decree awarding the highest state order — the Order of the Republic — to the former prime minister. All these “accidents” make some wonder: what is the new, modern style of the PCRM, if decisions are made in the “democratic centralism” manner?

The irony of the fate is that President Voronin has acted with regard to dismissal of former premier Tarlev the way it acted with tens of ministers from his cabinet. He has already made a tradition to dismiss ministers without telling them why and without consulting the premier. This fact was proved when some of the victims learned about their dismissal from the media. According to Article 98 (6) of the Constitution, “in the event of governmental reshuffles the president of Moldova shall revoke and appoint some members of the Government at the initiative of prime minister”. Article 6 of the Law on Government stipulates that the Cabinet of Ministers shall tender its resignation to the Parliament. The way the reshuffles were operated and the cabinet tendered resignation indicate that the “democratic centralism” principle was also extended on Presidency-Government relations, with decisions being formalised later, if needed so, in order to meet constitutional norms. These details could be omitted, if the chief of state would not have insisted that the “voluntary” resignation of former premier Tarlev “is an innovation in the Moldovan political life.” As the “devil is the details” and the chief of state avoids them, his majesty is not right twice. Firstly, the examples above clearly reveal that the former premier was convinced to tender his resignation. Secondly, former premier Ion Ciubic was really the first one to “voluntarily” tender his resignation. He publicly denied on January 30, 1999 allegations about his resignation and two days later, on February 1, he tendered his resignation at a news conference. He said then that he could not rule any longer the “algorithmic” Government of the Alliance for Democracy and Reforms (ADR). Curiously, but the ADR had succumbed after the resignation of former premier Ciubuc.

Although the resignation of the Tarlev Cabinet has surprised all, it was not groundless:

The factors above reveal that the Government should fall anyway. It probably could not fall immediately after the local elections and during preparations for the congress. It would not be well to read a report full of accomplishments on background of the cabinet’s dismissal. After the congress, the dismissal may be interpreted as a direct consequence of the event and a signal that the modernisation is underway.

Greceanii Cabinet — a successful image-making move

The way the new cabinet was selected and nominated indicates a successful image-making strategy aimed at the 2009 parliamentary elections. The victory of the PCRM’s opponents at the December 2006 governor elections in Gagauzia and the June 2007 mayoral elections in Chisinau signalled the need of change. By changing the Government the PCRM wanted to demonstrate that it is capable to promptly meet evident needs. Even more, learning from the experience of the opposition, the PCRM leadership has promoted its own “new-look strategy” with original elements. It did not symmetrically reply to the opposition to appoint a very young person as prime minister, though the new cabinet has members of an age comparable with that of the “symbol of change” — Chisinau Mayor Dorin Chirtoaca.

A cabinet headed by a lady, Zinaida Greceanii, is a true innovation which was outlined when she recommended another five female members of the cabinet of ministers. The innovation is advantageous because it takes into consideration the need of ensuring the continuity of the Government’s work, and this is very important in a pre-electoral year. Even more, the innovation is based on meritocracy. So, Premier Zinaida Greceanii is experienced, as she has been member to the government for six years, including two years and half in the office of first deputy prime minister. She has coordinated the elaboration of two recent strategic documents which are on the Government’s agenda and are being implemented — the National Development Strategy (NDS) for 2008–2011 and the Compact Programme aimed to renovate infrastructure elements. For these reasons, the new ruling programme was normally based on the documents concerned. In this context, the criticism by the opposition against the programme of the new cabinet is irrelevant. The NDS, which was elaborated under the lead of the new premier for more than one year, with the participation of experts from the Baltic Countries and Vishegrad Group, has also an action plan. The formation of the Greceanii Cabinet has accomplished a NDS objective; in particular, the share of women in central decision-making bodies was increased up to 30 percent.

The withdrawal from the Cabinet of two very important characters, Interior Minister Gheorghe Papuc and Minister of Information Development Vladimir Moldojen, is also part of the arsenal of image-making actions. Both of them have been devoted and very close to President Voronin. Also, both of them had a very bad image in the media. Former minister Papuc was even involved in conflicts with the media. The further fate of the two characters is the most interesting thing. As a rule, President Voronin “takes care” of former devoted subordinates and their future offices will tell whether they will become reserves or will keep staying in the first echelon and cooperate “from shadow”.

Characters of deputy premiers are eloquently forecasting the future. The economic bloc will be headed by the first deputy prime minister, Minister of Economy and Commerce Igor Dodon, who was also in charge with the NDS. This bloc was strengthened by nomination of Minister of Finance Mariana Durlesteanu, former deputy minister of finance, former Moldovan ambassador in London, trustee of the premier who is highly appreciated by Voronin (he awarded a state order to her a couple of years ago).

Deputy Prime Minister Victor Stepaniuc is in charge in continuation with the social bloc and strategic education bloc. This is an emblematical character of the “old guard” of the PCRM preoccupied with patriotic education. Stepaniuc and new Minister of Education and Youth Larisa Savga will probably try to finish the Code of Education and organise events dedicated to the Year of the Youth decreed by chief of state. The opposition is suspecting Victor Stepaniuc of attempting to ideologise the education. Academicians who are ideologically affiliated to Stepaniuc have recently published very defamatory articles about former minister of education and youth Victor Tvircun, accusing him of promoting pro-Romania policies in education.

The same academic circles have bitterly assaulted the deputy prime minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Andrei Stratan, accusing him of promoting an anti-Russia foreign minister since he called the Russian military from Transnistria as “occupation troops” and constantly demanded their withdrawal. Andrei Stratan is running his office in continuation, but there were speculations that President Voronin could have given him under pressures of the “old guard” and as a sign or renewal of Moldova-Russia relations.


  1. The modernisation of the PCRM, the way it is accomplished, is a gradual adaptation of the party to new conditions. In spite of many inconsistencies, the modernisation of the PCRM will have a positive rather than negative impact on developments in Moldova. It rather carries risks for the PCRM itself. In all likelihood, the party will keep the waterline as long as the PCRM is ruling the country and President Voronin is heading the party. An eventual decision by President Voronin to withdraw from party affairs will be the most serious test for the party, as the institutionalisation of PCRM is concentrated on his authority. Former premier Tarlev has proved that Vladimir Voronin may get tired like any other human. Being much younger than the head of state, Tarlev could not “survive” under the burden of public affairs. From the perspective of absence of a character like Voronin to succeed him as PCRM leader, his invention “liberal communism” will unlikely be an element of consolidation.

  2. Accusations against PCRM that the congress was staged in advance and transformed into a show lose their intensity, as this happens as well to all opposition parties. Even most democratic and change-promoting parties are doing so. They do the same arrangements and unanimous voting, open choice of a single candidacy. In this regard, the Liberal Party (not to mix up with the present Liberal Party) achieved one of little positive experiences in October 2002, trying to secretly vote a chairman of the party on an alternative basis within a kind of “primary elections”. But it was scandalous, with the defeated candidate quitting the party and depreciating an experience that cannot be regarded as positive any longer.

  3. The immediate consequence of the PCRM congress — a new Cabinet of Ministers — will improve the image of the party on a short term. If comparing the evolution of the PCRM and of the opposition, one can clearly observe that the PCRM has stolen the “new-look” incentive from the hands of the opposition, the way it has done with the former incentives of the opposition — modernisation reforms, European integration. A cabinet headed by a female premier and made of 1/3 female members who cannot be accused of anything is a strong image-making move. This is especially effective on the background of the young liberal team which is ruling the Chisinau municipality. One cannot accuse the new “obedient” premier of “obeying” to the ruling party leader, as the image of the young Chisinau mayor is spoiled by rumours that he is extremely “obedient” to the Liberal Party (LP) leader. Even more, the LP would be disadvantaged in an eventual comparison, as the “LP engine”, Dorin Chirtoaca, who has brought LP lawmakers to the Municipal Council including the LP chairman is subdued to the latter. At the same time, as regards the “PCRM engine”, Vladimir Voronin, it seems that his control on those he promotes and imposes them “obedience” is natural.

  4. In contrast with image-making moves of the PCRM, the already weak opposition parties “are burning their bridges” for an eventual cooperation and formation of a ruling majority against the PCRM after the 2009 elections. Thus, two opposition parties with a certain rating, the Christian Democratic People’s Party (CDPP) as main accumulator of political experience in Moldova, and the Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova (LDPM), as a new and promising party, expression of an alternative “change” to the one proposed by LP, have pledged into a true propagandistic battle which will probably deteriorate their image. Even worse for the opposition, the LDPM is also in an irremediable conflict with the Democratic Party of Moldova (DPM). This could mean that the strongest opposition party, the Our Moldova Alliance (OMA), will be helpless to remedy conflicts between the LDPM on one hand and the CDPP and DPM on the other hand, in order to eventually consolidate a joint opposition against the PCRM. If so, the OMA could fail the chance to become the nucleus of an alternative ruling alliance for the PCRM after the 2009 parliamentary elections. Avoidance or incapacity of the OMA to assume the role of facilitator of conflicts between opposition elements may have a negative impact on democratic alliances from district councils. Such dangers have already been observed in certain districts and they may develop until the 2009 parliamentary elections.

Preliminary conclusions on elections results The Action Plan is dead. Long live the Plan!