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Common lists of candidates

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Igor Botan / March 9, 2009
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Ban of electoral blocs gave birth to “political poles”

Amendments operated to the Election Code last year have incensed controversies. The Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova (PCRM) and the Christian Democratic People’s Party (PPCD), promoters of a higher electoral threshold up to 6 percent, besides prohibition of electoral blocs have motivated their option by necessity to avoid an excessive fragmentation of the future Parliament. On the other hand, the “Moldova Noastra” (Our Moldova) Alliance (AMN), the No.1 opposition party, has criticised the amendments, but hinted that it is content anyway not to have to bear with pressures from eventual electoral fellows to be carried into “marsupium”, the way it happened at the 2005 parliamentary elections. Other parties were more sincere while protesting against amendments, saying that they violate recommendations by international institutions OSCE, Venice Commission etc.

The attitude towards amendments concerned is explained by interest of parties credited with “great chances” to take advantages of the “lost ballots” redistribution by those with a rating closed to the electoral threshold etc. Of course, the latter will not enjoy the role of “electoral plankton” which nourishes “political whales”. But an old quote says that “not for one expected, but for one who comes to pass.” It means that raising the electoral threshold and banning electoral blocs could have unexpected effects on designers of amendments. In this regard, the clearest danger for PCRM is that it could be deprived of eventual coalition partners. Perhaps, this is the reason why the PCRM has started pouching parts of the “electoral plankton” on its list of candidates.

It was clear from the very beginning that the “common lists” of several parties that means compiled under the name of one of them is the only way to avoid the ban of electoral blocs. Unexpectedly, the party which prohibited blocs, the PCRM, has resorted to this escaping solution as well. But the curiosity is that right-wing parties and their supporters have pathetically discussed “the common list of national unity” for half a year and two parties — the National Liberal Party (PLN) and the National Romanian Party (PNR) — have finally gathered under auspices of the “Actiunea Europeana” (European Action) Movement (MAE). At the same time, the PCRM and the Centrist Union of Moldova (UCM) have set up two sets — “common lists” joined by eight parties — without publicly discussing the necessity of “strengthening forces”.

The three “common lists” have raised a great interest of political observers in Moldova, as they revealed, by occurrence or not, the absolutely distinct polarising of options on Moldovan electoral ground. One may say that “common lists” in the ongoing electoral campaign have been built around three poles known well by electorate: pro-Romania, pro-Russia and pro-government/pro-Moldova.

Pro-government

The fact that the PCRM has accepted a “common list” with the Agrarian Party of Moldova (PAM) and the Party of Socialists of Moldova “Patria-Rodina” (PSMPR) proves that leaders of the ruling party are not sure any longer of their capacities to reach former successes. PCRM was expected to halt other parties from compiling into “common lists” by invoking Article 41(2) of the Election Code: “Political parties may nominate both members and politically unaffiliated persons as candidates.” But PCRM accepted joint statements by leaders who ceased their political membership to participate in elections on a “common list”. Even more, PCRM has become a key beneficiary of this artifice aimed to avoid the ban of electoral blocs. Plans regarding “common lists” were clear when leading bodies of PSMPR and PAM have publicly supported PCRM and leaders of these parties were included in the PCRM list, after ceasing their quality of heads and members of parties.

The only source of confusion is the “weight category” of PCRM’s partners. The joining to the “common list” by PSMPR is understandable, as this party has a constant rating of approximately 2 percent. But it is unclear why did PAM co-opt, since it could not participate in the 2005 parliamentary elections and collected approximately 300 votes at the 2007 local elections. However, the “common list” of PCRM does not lack profound meanings. Thus, PAM dominated the political life in Moldova for more than four years — from July 1992 to January 1997 (it was called then Democratic Agrarian Party of Moldova — PDAM). The party took over the rule in several rounds. After the People’s Front of Moldova (FPM) stepped in opposition on October 13, 1991, the former informal PDAM leader, Andrei Sangheli, became prime minister in more than half a year, on July 1, 1992. PDAM took over the entire rule definitively in January 1993, when FPM leaders tendered resignation from parliamentary leadership. Agrarians formally lost the rule in 1998, shortly after parliamentary elections, though PDAM was already ruined when former premier Sangheli had to resign on January 24, 1997, ten days after the investiture of Petru Lucinschi as chief of state.

Important developments for Moldova’s destiny happened during the PDAM governing: the PCRM was reinstated, immediately after PDAM won the 1994 parliamentary elections; the document on accession to CIS was ratified; the Constitution was adopted and the ample privatisation was commenced. To note in this context that another partner from the “common list” of PCRM — PSMPR — is a former member of the Bloc made of the Socialist Party and Unitatea-Edinstvo (Unity) Movement (BPSMUE). This bloc got 28 out of 104 mandates at the 1994 parliamentary elections, influencing political developments decisively by supporting PDAM to ratify the document on Moldova’s accession to CIS and adopting the Constitution. However, it is worth noting that ideological affinities between PAM and PCRM particularly run into “Moldovenism”, which the two parties regard as rescuing for ethnical identity and statehood of the Republic of Moldova. Agrarians initiated and PCRM developed the “ideology of Moldovenism”, cultivating the afferent historical-religious mythology and including its perceptions in country’s legislation.

PCRM has unanswerably demonstrated at the 1995 local elections and 1998 parliamentary elections that the 1994 success of socialists was temporary, a success of provisional substitutes which had to resign shortly after reinstatement of the Communist Party. It is worth noting that the heart of the communist team, informally led by Victor Stepaniuc, was strengthened within BPSMUE faction. PCRM proved at the 1998 parliamentary elections that agrarians were temporary substitutes, too. Further, PCRM proved that it did not forget its benefactors. It accepted at the 1999 local elections to make the bloc of communists, agrarians and socialists (BCAS), with the latter being ruined completely. Hereby, the “common list” of PCRM is both a reincarnation of BCAS and a gesture of “paying older policies”.

It is worth pointing out the PCRM attitude towards PAM, as PCRM has rewarded PAM leader Anatol Papusoi by appointing him director-general of the state forestry agency Moldsilva. Anatol Popusoi was assigned to this office on June 28, 2001, four months after the absolute victory of PCRM at the 2001 parliamentary elections. He was reconfirmed to this office after the parliamentary victory of PCRM in 2005. One may say that PAM was co-opted on the “common list” of PCRM to enjoy “administrative resources” of the “chief forester” of the Republic of Moldova. It is unlikely, since PCRM enjoys all administrative and other resources. One may think that Moldova was ruled by a communist-agrarian coalition in the past eight years, which wants to be institutionalised and extended via the “common list”. This is the formal true, but in fact PCRM has simply demonstrated a constant attachment to political-ideological affinities between the two parties. It is important to understand political developments in the independent Republic of Moldova. Following all PCRM experiments related to declaring “liberal revolution”, building post-industrial society, “de-constructive tests and cleavages of willingness of post-modernist subject”, etc., the “common list” with PAM and PSMPR brings back the ruling party to its origins when Moldova gained independence.

Pro-Russia pole

The “common list” compiled under auspices of the Centrist Union of Moldova (UCM) carries as profound significance as the one of PCRM does. However, there are great differences as well. Representing a very modest party, former UCM leaders succeeded at the beginning to co-opt former premier Vasile Tarlev as leader. He plays the role of “electoral engine”. Further, other parties and movements — the Humanist Party of Moldova (PUM), Popular Republican Party (PPR), “Ravnopravie” (Equality) Movement (MR), Party of Law and Justice (PLD), Gagauzia Unita (United Gagauzia) Movement (MGU), decided to catch their “trucks” to the “Tarlev engine”. The presence of MR and MGU on the “common list” is the gage that this set is regarded pro-Russia. This fact cannot be neglected since Russian-speaking citizens of Moldova make up an electoral segment of approximately 25–30 percent. Therefore, the fact that former premier Tarlev became head of the organisation Russia’s Friends in Moldova before becoming UCM leader is not an occurrence. So far, Tarlev is the informal leader of the two organisations, as the Ministry of Justice does not recognise his statute-based authority. The facts mentioned above do not leave room for doubts regarding political appeals by Vasile Tarlev to position himself categorically, and this could help him “separate waters” in relations with PCRM.

The UCM “common list” indicates unquestionably that the party is capable “to absorb like a vacuum cleaner” electoral portions placed more on the left side of PCRM (about 4 percent, according to results of the 2007 elections), more on the right side (about 4 percent), being able to “pick” the dedicated electorate of the ruling party as well. Headed by a well-known leader like former premier Tarlev, chances of UCM grow much. In this regard, PCRM was motivated to oppose and halt the “Tarlev project”. The most amusing action was the attempt to deprive UCM of the right to use the name “Tarlev” for the electoral symbol printed on ballot papers. That means PCRM was claiming the right to deprive former premier Tarlev of possibility to dispose of his name because it was mediated for 7 years, when he ran the PCRM government.

Remarks above just draw the attention on allegations that the “Tarlev project” would be an intelligent emanation of PCRM aimed to assure a victory within a “two-column electoral march”. There are lots of arguments against these allegations, as well as against suppositions that the “strategy of the two columns” would have functioned better if the “Tarlev project” was not obstructed. The idea of the two columns, which would converge in the Parliament, was launched last summer by historian Ivan Grec, former PCRM deputy and ideologist of this party. Grec argued that according to records, “Moldova’s citizens who call for consolidation of Moldovan statehood would act judiciously should they participate in the 2009 parliamentary elections in two columns: one headed by Voronin and one headed by former premier Tarlev.” If this logic seems clear, then why implementing it would be a “drama”? But this is not a “drama”; the problem is that the PCRM leader does not simply want Tarlev as an equal and somehow independent partner. The danger is that the “waters will go apart” within the PCRM as well, should Vladimir Voronin stop being chief of state and PCRM fail an absolute majority in Parliament. In other terms, the “old guard” could migrate to Tarlev’s camp and “young runners” could join a social-democratic pole etc.

Therefore, the “exacerbation” of the pro-Russia message of former premier Tarlev aims to “separate waters”. Tarlev’s recent statements on plans to meet the “president of the Transnistrian region”, grant the status of official language to Russian, legalise the Russian military presence in eastern rayons of the Republic of Moldova etc., are not moment improvisations. These statements evoke previous unfulfilled promises by PCRM “to settle the conflict in several months,” to “join the Russia-Belarus Union”, etc. These facts were mentioned in an article “Multi vad chezasia succesului Moldovei in cooperarea echipelor consolidate in jurul lui Vladimir Voronin si Vasile Tarlev” (Many see guarantee of Moldova’s success in cooperation of teams consolidated around Vladimir Voronin and Vasile Tarlev) by Sergiu Nazaria. Nazaria is the executive director of the organisation Russia’s Friends in Moldova headed by Vasile Tarlev. To note that Sergiu Nazaria published his article on September 22, 2008, a day before the UCM congress that elected Tarlev chairman of the party. The article targets at two directions. On the one hand, it replies to Ivan Grec, saying that the “Tarlev project” clearly balances with the one implemented by Voronin and it cannot be regarded as a parallel. In this regard, Nazaria describes the “Voronin regime” which gives birth to corruption and degradation in the Republic of Moldova. On the other hand, Nazaria’s article claims to be a political manifest upon new UCM leader, who is advised to organise an “upward revolution”:

It is true that the “manifest” was signed without any mentioning that the writer is the executive director of Russia’s Friends in Moldova. It is also true that Tarlev avoids trenchant positions like his fellow Sergiu Nazaria. However, affinities should not be ignored. Even more, the joining of “Ravnopravie” Movement to the “common list” of UCM is unthinkable without a programmatic cohesion on major problems. In this respect, clauses of the “Nazaria manifest” match with programmatic visions of “Ravnopravie” Movement, which say that “there is one way for Moldova to escape the historical impasse. It is Moldova’s rebirth as a flourishing state within the union with Russia, restoration of traditional Moldova-Russia unity.” The public pro-UCM support of the “Patria-Moldova” organisation of gastarbeiters from Moscow is also unimaginable without some affinities. Hereby, “Patria-Moldova” leader Andrei Tarna is known for calling for the confederalisation of Moldova, supporting the independence referendum in Transnistria etc. Thus, this set will be effective to succeed the electoral threshold just one time, should the cohesion of components of the “common list” of UCM reach a certain level.

Pro-Romania pole

Co-opting on the “common list” of candidates representatives of the National Liberal Party (PNL) and National Romanian Party (PNR), MAE has built the “European pole” with an electoral offer focussed on “European integration”. In fact, all important parties in Moldova call for the European integration, but the MAE offer is special anyway. It targets rather at building a pro-Romania pole. Hereby, MAE is the only electoral set which provides a clear European integration vision as a process developed in a pro-Romania runway. In this respect, MAE released the “Soroca Manifest” on February 22, 2009, inviting parties which introduce themselves as “reforming and national” to “express openly, frankly and firmly” their attitude towards ten crucial problems for our common future:

Names of parties which issued the “common list” of MAE and political biographies of their leaders justify the name of pro-Romania pole of this set. It is true that people do not know much about political biography of PNR and its leaders. PNR participated in the 1994 parliamentary elections and won less than 1 percent of the votes. At the 2001 parliamentary elections it was part of the bloc “Credinta si Dreptate” (Faith and Justice) along with the Party of Reform, garnering about 0.7 percent. In this respect, the participation of PNR in current elections on a “common list” is clearly explained by the name of the party. On the other hand, the other two leaders of the MAE are known well. MAE chairman Anatol Petrencu is a well-known historical scientist, a cogent promoter of the course of “Romanian History” in Moldovan schools, while the PNL leader, parliamentarian Vitalia Pavlicenco is a known philological scientist and coherent promoter of the “interstate union” between Republic of Moldova and Romania.

Advocacy for building a pro-Romania pole is relevant because the PNL leader has asked that the last survey conducted by a regional branch of GALLUP-group in Moldova on autumn 2008 include a question about attitude of people towards an eventual union with Romania. Since this question in Moldova is somehow “tabooed” in surveys, the related interest may be regarded just in the light of tries to strengthen the pro-Romania pole. Hereby, PNL leader Vitalia Pavlicenco says that 29 percent of respondents would support an possible union. Results of the four parliamentary elections held after Moldova declared independence revealed that pro-Romania parties did not win more than 25 percent of the votes.

Conclusions

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