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For many are called, but few are chosen…

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Igor Botan / October 10, 2010
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Categories of parties running for elections

The campaign for the November 28, 2010 parliamentary elections has specific particularities. It is developing after a one-year provisory governing by the Alliance for European Integration (AEI). This term is enough for citizens to understand and compare it with the last governing of the Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova (PCRM). Anyway, the experience shows that no more than 5–6 political parties would be able to pass the 4-percent electoral threshold. Parliamentary parties are credited with sure or great chances to cross the electoral threshold in this campaign. Non-parliamentary parties could also pass the electoral threshold but their role would be rather to influence the final results of big parties.

The results of the last parliamentary elections on July 29, 2009 and the findings of the latest surveys, as well as the intensity of current political developments reveal that parties which will join the electoral race could be grouped in a very schematic and arbitrary manner into four categories: big parties; barrage parties; plankton parties; and lethargic parties. The so-called big parties credited with sure (?!) chances to pass the electoral threshold are: the Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova (PCRM); the Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM), the Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova (PLDM), and the Liberal Party (PL). These parties altogether could garner approximately 75–85 percent of votes. The barrage parties which are those almost able to cross the electoral threshold are: the Our Moldova (Moldova Noastra) Alliance (OMA) on the centre of political spectrum, and the Social Democratic Party (PSD) on the centre-left wing. These parties together could garner 5–10 percent of votes.

The plankton parties are those able to absorb a great number of votes of the undecided electorate. This group would include:

In certain conditions and depending on quality of electoral campaign, each of plankton parties would garner approximately 1–4 percent. Altogether they would gain 5–10 percent of votes. Of course, the votes for these parties form the so-called electoral plankton, which probably along with the second-category parties would fuel the final score of the first-category parties (see the column 6).

The lethargic parties are those mainly elected by their members, and not always by all of them. As a rule, percent fractions vote for each of majority of these parties. More than half of the 31 officially registered parties are part of this category. These parties altogether could win approximately 1–2 percent. The existence of these parties is not senseless. The lethargic parties are often sought as borrow platforms to make a person or a group enter quickly into politics or the electoral campaign. They nourish illusions that they are able to bring an idea or message that could create shock waves, so that to break the patterns of electoral conduct, despite some successes. About 7–8 such cases were observed in the last 15 years when lethargic parties were bought or borrowed. PNT is such a case in this electoral campaign, as it has a special, declared mission to promote the anti-Mafia campaign. Given the intensity of the anti-Mafia campaign, access to media and financial resources, PNT could step up to the group of plankton parties from lethargic parties.

Particularities which make differences

The high inertia of voters’ conduct resides in the fragmentation of Moldovan society into certain categories. This fragmentation was clearly outlined 20 years ago and unfortunately persists constantly, resurging especially during electoral campaigns. In this regard, four categories which make the differences between key political parties and contribute categorically to the structuring of the electorate may be observed: the ethnic-linguistic identity; the degree of tolerance and/or exacerbation of phobias; the external orientation; the style of conduct (see column 2 of the table).

The factor related to the ethnic-linguistic identity of Moldovan citizens is determinant in fragmenting the Moldovan society. Key political parties are clearly representing segments of citizens who introduce themselves as Romanians, Moldovans or Russian-speakers (representatives of national minorities). The share of this particularity is revealed by electoral statistics, topics of different so-called online forums. The latest proof in this respect is the fact that some political parties invoked the massive use of ethnical vote as main cause of the failure of the September 5, 2010 constitutional referendum. Nevertheless, the ethnical vote is particularly typical to PCRM and PL. The problem of status of the Russian language, attempts to hold a referendum are also a proof in this respect.

The factor related to the tolerance rate or exacerbation of phobias reveals the attitude of those who introduce themselves in a different way in ethnic-linguistic terms. This particularity is definitive for the electoral fragmentation. As for the electoral behaviour, the breaches related to the exacerbation of ethnic-linguistic phobias are stronger than those linked to classical cleavages. In this respect, the following four big segments could be observed, which are dominated in political and electoral terms by:

The particularity related to the external orientation expresses the fact that since the existence of the Republic of Moldova as an independent state the survival or disappearance of this country was a top issue. For these reasons, the negative treatment of Moldovan parties as geopolitical, not political is understandable. In this regard, the myth about incapacity to strengthen as an independent state was permanently cultivated and that’s why the Republic of Moldova should:

A very important particularity which makes the differences is the style of conduct. This particularity reveals the modality and degree of flexibility in making decisions, as well as the capacity of building coalitions, including post-electoral ones. In this respect:

Relevance of the results of last elections and of surveys for estimates

Given the very high inertia of electoral conduct in absence of social or political shocks, one may say that the results of the July 29, 2009 elections are a credible reference point to consider expectations related to the November 28, 2010 elections (see column 3 of the table). The comparison of these results with electoral intentions revealed by latest surveys (see column 4 of the table) may be suggestive in estimating the distribution of the undecided among voters with firm options.

As a rule, the survey figures indicating the electoral intentions are lower than the election results. This happens because before and after elections the conjuncture adherents of parties become undecided, their number being usually very big (about 30–40%). In this respect, it is worth noting that surveys indicate the dimensions of hard cores, namely the percent of those with solid convictions, and the dimension of conjuncture adherents at the moment of sociological measurements. One may affirm that there are only two parties with hard authentic cores in the Republic of Moldova — PCRM and PL, with the first holding approximately 20–25 percent and the latter about 5–10 percent. The explanation is simple: the PL has an electorate with frontist origins, which actively supported the national rebirth movement, while the PCRM has a nostalgic electorate which has regrets for the disappearance of the socialist homeland — USSR.

The hard core of the PCRM is made of retirees and representatives of national minorities. According to exit-polls, the PCRM voters are made about 60 percent of retirees and a similar rate of representatives of ethnical minorities, masses which intersect themselves. This explains to a great extent the PCRM rhetoric based on social dimension, as well as the pro-CIS and pro-Russia rhetoric. In this respect, it is worth noting that during the PCRM rule, after deterioration of Moldovan-Russian relations (2005–2006) and promotion of an anti-Russian rhetoric, PCRM lost about 15 percent of voters in the 2007 general local elections. The immediate reaction of PCRM leader Vladimir Voronin was, as already said, to stop the political partnership for European integration, resume the pro-CIS rhetoric, reanimate authoritarian anti-opposition harassment methods, regaining this way the lost electorate by the 2009 parliamentary elections.

The hard core of PL is made of voters with nationalist, pro-Romanian options, romantic supporters of ideals of national rebirth movement. Since the PL rating was only about 0.5 percent until 2007, it is evident that the PL’s hard core is mainly made of former PPCD supporters, who were disappointed with the conciliatory behaviour of this party. In this regard, in order to keep being part of big parties, the PL will have to keep being hostage of a nationalist, pro-Romanian rhetoric, having a limited manoeuvre camp which cannot exceed 15 percent.

PDM and PLDM do not really have hard cores, as these political Siamese have particularly supporters with labile, conjuncture visions. PDM was designed as a reform-making platform to promote the political centrism practised in the mid-1990s by the Agrarian Democratic Party. Thirteen years after being created, almost everything changed inside of the PDM, including its leader, with the social-democratic doctrine and support for the left centrism being the only one constant. The instability of the PDM electorate was revealed in the 2001 elections and reedited at the 2009 parliamentary elections. PDM won about 3 percent in the April 5, 2009 elections, joining the category of plankton parties. The take-over of the PDM leadership by the Viking — Marian Lupu before the July 29, 2009 elections helped the party rejoin big parties, as it garnered about 13 percent. It is obvious that PDM does not have a hard core.

In its turn, PLDM was short of time to consolidate any hard core, though it came into its own quickly after its leader Vlad Filat left the PDM in 2007, at that moment being unsatisfied with the PDM performances, which he led as deputy chairman for many years. The party strengthened its electoral positions especially through an active conversion of regional and local structures of other parties, including partners, a very reprehensible thing to set up further credible partnership relations and make ruling coalitions. So far, surveys reveal a rating (of about 20 percent) for this party which exceeds its score in the last elections (approximately 17 percent) due to some conjuncture factors, inclusively the fact that the PLDM leader is Prime minister. This is a certain proof that the party is on the rise.

Both PLDM and PDM would need a successful electoral performance throughout several electoral cycles in order to develop hard cores. This thing explains somehow the rivalry between these parties, though it seems evident that cooperation of these parties would be useful for an ascendant evolution of the Republic of Moldova. So far, being flanked by PDM and PL, the PLDM is trying to extend on their account, too. The two parties do not like it and they practice an undeclared coalition, targeting at narrowing down the manoeuvre camp by pinching the PLDM.

Surveys reveal that preferences of the undecided voters focus on big parties on the eve of elections. The 30 percent of the undecided support in different proportion the left wing, the centre or the right wing political opinion. Given the results of the last elections and Barometer of Public Opinion (BPO) findings, one may say that approximately half of undecided focus on PCRM and PDM. Therefore, the main electoral race will take place on this segment. The fate of post-electoral coalition — centre-left or centre-right — will generally depend on the success of this competition. The undecided between the PDM and the PLDM would make a segment of about 10 percent and those between the PLDM and the PL would count for approximately 5 percent. It means that the PL has the smallest manoeuvre field in this electoral campaign. Even more, the relative success of the PL may be regarded as a failure of the PLDM. From perspective of eventual reediting of AIE the competition between the PLDM and the PL for approximately 5 percent of ballots is irrelevant. In this regard, the quality of PCRM, PDM and PLDM campaigns will be determinant for final results of elections, each of these parties having an immense manoeuvre camp to gain more than 10–15 percent (see column 5 of the table regarding estimated distribution of preferences of the undecided between the big parties). But big parties should not forget the ambition of plankton parties to absorb the undecided electorate, being able to seriously limit the manoeuvre camp of big parties (see column 6 of the table).

Conclusions

The electoral race for the November 28 early parliamentary elections contains a series of unedited unknowns, which do not allow precise estimates of final results. That’s why not even the approximate impact of several factors could be estimated:

Finally, given all these facts, one may suppose that the future governance will likely be a coalition. BPO findings before elections will help making more accurate conclusions and clarify many of signalled uncertainties. The quality of campaigns held by electoral contestants will be determinant for establishing the final results, which will likely fit the indicated limits (see column 7 of the table). Therefore, chances of eventual centre-left or centre-right coalitions seem to be equal.

Table 1. Pre-electoral particularities and estimates regarding the November 28, 2010 parliamentary elections

PCRMParties with a certain potentialPDMParties with a certain potentialPLDMParties with a certain potentialPL
2. Key particularities
Mainly Moldovan and Russian-speaking electorate→←Mainly Moldovan and Russian-speaking electorate→←Mainly Moldovan and Romanian electorate→←Mainly Romanian electorate
Anti-Romanian attitude and messages camouflaged with militant anti-unionism→←National conciliation messages→←National conciliation messages→←Anti-Russian attitudes and messages camouflaged under anti-communism
Rhetoric on external orientation issues: pseudo-EU and pro-CIS, strategic neutrality→←Rhetoric on external orientation issues: walking tightrope of harmonising pro-EU and pro-CIS vectors, strategic neutrality→←Rhetoric on external orientation issues: pro-EU, walking verbal tightrope between pro-NATO and neutrality→←Rhetoric on external orientation issues: pro-Romania and pro-EU, pro-NATO
Exclusive and egoistic conduct, very low coalition capacity→←Pragmatic conduct→←Pragmatic conduct→←Romantic conduct focussed on “redressing mistakes of history”
3. Results of last parliamentary elections from July 29, 2009
~45%PSD ~2%~13%AMN ~7%~17%PPCD ~2%~15%
4. Rating of electoral intentions, according to latest BPO findings from May 2010
~30% →← ~10% →← ~20% →← ~10%
5. Votes of the undecided which would be redistributed between parties inthe November 28 elections
 ~15%

 ~10%

 ~5%

 
6. Main absorbents among small parties which could garner at least 2 percent or even cross the 4-percent threshold




1. PSD
2. PMUEM
3. PUM
4. UCM
5. MR


1. AMN
2. PpNT

1. MAE
2. PPCD
3. PNL


7. Expectations regarding results of the November 28, 2010 elections. Final results will depend on the quality of electoral contestants’ campaigns
30–45%~10%5–15%~5%15–25%~5%5–15%
Lessons of the constitutional referendum held on September 5, 2010. Post-referendum analysis Robin Hood seat distribution method