The modification of the Electoral Code and the adoption of the new Law on political parties required indeed the rebuilding of the political scene. There is no other efficient solution against the exaggerated 6-percent electoral threshold and ban of pre-electoral alliances but to speed up the strengthening of political forces on certain doctrinaire or programmatic compatibility. In all likelihood, the simplest solution was the participation of several parties in elections on the basis of “common lists” of candidates, under the auspices of one of them. Optimistic statements by a number of opposition politicians regarding the strengthening of forces have particularly focussed on this version. But these optimistic messages were immediately combated by contrary statements. Provisions of the new Law on parties concerning the budgetary funding of parliamentary parties and/or parties with a certain regional representation complicated the strengthening of political forces, as they imposed their merger. In particular, political parties will face unfair conditions after the 2009 parliamentary elections. Parties garnering more than 6 percent of the votes would be funded from the state budget, while others not. In this respect, parliamentary parties under which auspices “common lists” were issued would be funded from the state budget. Of course, it was hard to parties with comparable ratings to reach a compromise on the holder of the “common lists”. But this is not the only obstacle. Article 41 (2) of the Electoral Code modified on April 10, 2008 says that “political parties may nominate as candidates both their members and persons without political membership.”
Amendments to the Electoral Code were based on the new electoral legislation of the Russian Federation, in particular, the 7-percent electoral threshold; the prohibition of electoral blocs; the authorisation to register only lists of candidates with own party members. Therefore, the solution to difficulties around “common lists” should be borrowed from the recent Russian practice, too, and the recent experience of the Russian ruling party Yedinnaya Rossia, which elected Vladimir Putin as party chairman at the April 15, 2008 congress (though he was not party member) is interesting. Yedinnaya Rossia has modified its statute a day before the congress, in order to allow the election of a non-member as chairman. Even more, Yedinnaya Rossia representatives assured that they followed the international practice. But these arguments did not persuade the Communist Party of Russia and it contested the following actions: a non-member was elected chairman of the ruling party of Russia; the election of Putin breached the secret voting procedure stipulated by the Law on parties, the statute of the Russian ruling party was modified a day before the congress and it was immediately registered by Rosreghistratia, though the latter should do this after several weeks, particularly because modifications in the statute should be studied first. However, the Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office responded to Russian communists on August 8, 2008 by confirming the legal election of Putin as chairperson.
Putin was elected leader of the Russian ruling party five days after the Electoral Code of Moldova was modified. Moldovan parties could follow the Russian innovations, in order to use them for own interests relating to “common lists”. The reaction of Moldovan authorities to plans to extend the “Putin precedent” in Moldova is unknown, but this would have allowed opposition parties to produce sounding developments. This would have been an opportunity to test the capacity of “Russia’s Friends in Moldova” to promote practices of Moldova’s friends from Russia. In this respect, the “Putin precedent” could have become universal like the “Kosovo precedent”. Moldovan authorities could have to pass a very serious test, should they oppose to these practices. In particular, they keep identifying solutions to the participation of Transnistrian elites in the 2009 parliamentary elections. For this purpose, Moldovan authorities shall hurry up to legalise Transnistrian parties and provide them at least with the opportunity to compile “common lists”. In order to make “common lists”, members of other parties than those under which auspices they could be issued should cease their party membership. If Russia authorises persons who are not party members to become party chairpersons, why almost same legal norms in Moldova would not allow party members to temporarily cease their membership? This would not be hard for common party members. Indeed, party leaders may be most interested in “common lists” but ceasing their membership would have been risky for their leadership. For these reasons, issuing “common lists” was actually a postponed merger. This probably explains the fear of leaders of small parties.
Indeed, there is time for different tests. It would be enough for those interested in “common lists” to modify their statutes or not to take actions if their statutes do not say that party members only may be part of leading bodies. Given the shortage of time, temporarily ceasing the party membership could maintain the interest for “common lists”. Article 7 of the Law on political parties reads:
One may apply to national law courts to contest the violation of the right to passive vote, should authorities try to lay obstacles. These actions would be part of the golden formula “only demanded rights may be protected.”
Under conditions imposed by legislation, the merger of “small parties” makes no sense and it is even harmful, should they fail the 6-percent electoral threshold. The merger of “small parties” with “big parties” or with those which are close to exceeding the electoral threshold would make sense if operated quickly, in group, with big parties absorbing small parties without exaggerated preconditions. Otherwise, efforts are not feasible. Absorption before elections is not inoffensive, as this may make tensions in absorbing parties. The problem rests with closed lists of candidates, which may be modified in order to “reward” leaders of absorbed parties with “passes”. Previous and recent experience relating to the way the major coalition was built in Chisinau municipality does not leave room for illusions that there are other criteria than those on distribution of leading posts or wallets.
Another factor is that eventual absorption even unconditioned does not guarantee anything. The risk of confusions such as that related to the absorption of the Social Political Movement “For Nation and Country” (FNC) by the Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova (LDPM) after they could not clarify for months if the merger was achieved or not discredits both the progress itself and participants in this process. From this perspective, it would make sense to discuss only eventual advantages of the merger of parties with comparable ratings estimated at least in proximity of the electoral threshold.
The eventual merger of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) with the Democratic Party of Moldova (DPM) or of the Liberal Party (LP) with the Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova (LDPM) could make sense in order to build the social-democratic and liberal poles. But there are factors in these apparently favourable mergers which make their success unlike. The reticence of the invoked parties towards eventual mergers will be unquestionably fuelled by the resuscitation of older animosities and conflicts; excessive and impossible conditioning; rumours about obscure influences and links with shadow internal or external political-economic groups; illusions that chances of these parties are bigger than of partners, which would leave more room for regaining their entire segment, should they fail at future elections, etc. In addition, it is almost sure that the media affiliated to political opponents will do their best to turn existing breaches in relations of potential partners into “precipices”.