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Sad end of the “success story”

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Igor Botan / August 6, 2011
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Accomplishments of AIE in first half of 2011

The end of the spring-summer parliamentary session was an occasion to summarize the work of the Alliance for European Integration (AIE). Representatives of two AIE member parties — Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM) and Liberal Party (PL) — avoided telling the public opinion any achievement of the ruling alliance. Only the leader of the parliamentary faction representing the Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova (PLDM), Valeriu Strelet, gathered journalists to inform them: “During the spring-summer parliamentary session the PLDM faction focussed on earlier set objectives exclusively, notably turning the Republic of Moldova into a really free, democratic, European and wealthy state… PLDM tabled 28 legislative initiatives during the parliamentary session, of which 6 were adopted, another 21 are being worked out, one was withdrawn and another one was turned down. As well, PLDM deputies along with AIE fellows tabled 12 legislative initiatives, of which 8 were adopted.”

That’s what AIE has accomplished in a move to change to the end and accomplish welfare, respect and progress in a poverty-free Moldova[1]. In the framework of this result, the prime minister and PLDM leader, Vlad Filat, noted: “Unfortunately, a series of important draft laws tabled by Government were aimless in eyes of the Parliament. This regrettable situation will produce direct consequences inclusively in terms of budget collections, as well as of pace of this reform process.” The premier has earlier feared that “there is no progress” and he told this truth just two months after US Vice President Joseph Biden and Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk visited Chisinau upon his invitation, with the purpose to assure themselves of the “success story” of reforms in Moldova. The first even promised “I’ll be back!” to enjoy the results of success together with Moldovan population, while the latter anticipated the eventual consolidation of success after the takeover of the EU Council Presidency by Poland and support to European approaches of Moldovan authorities.

After ascertaining that “things do not work”, the premier invited the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Mrs. Catherine Ashton, and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy to visit Moldova and assure themselves that in fact the “success story” turned into the “Ukrainian syndrome” and a “European mandate” is required to rescue the situation. Then proper rescue measures were explained but they were postponed till autumn: “Actions to be taken by the prime minister, the Reform Committee, and the Economic Council will be introduced into agenda on autumn. As for example, staff reshuffles in the cabinet of ministers.”

Who is to blame?

In order to make the “European mandate” aimed to redress the situation bend over sovereignty of people, Premier Vlad Filat opened what he promised to be “periodical” consultations with citizens, civil society, academia, businessmen, opposition etc., and the first round of talks ended with the July 12 Appeal by prime minister to population. The message explains why “things do not work”:

In fact, the consultations held by Premier Vlad Filat explained in an acceptable manner what he has earlier explained clearly but scandalously — the existence and functionality of AIE are threatened by a malefic “jigger” who blocks the reforms and actions of the Government by pulling wires to animate his “marionettes” from higher levels of state institutions and juridical system. Although it was clear from the very beginning who this character is, the premier had the duty and the exclusive advantage to make public the name of the one who captured Moldova in “tentacles”. Journalists succeeded and the name of the “jigger” was pronounced — the deputy chairman of PDM, Deputy Speaker Vladimir Plahotniuc. In order to demonstrate his decision to get off tentacles and unlock the activity of his cabinet, the premier sent the following message to those who try to oppose his initiatives: “I am ready to fight with them till the end even at the cost of my image.”

What to do?

According to the premier, the situation will be relieved only after some actions, including:

In fact, ensuring political stability is the apogee of the Premier’s Appeal to citizens, which stresses that “political instability slows down the reforms, foreign investments and hits the external image of our country”; therefore, this problem “is of utmost importance.” Stressing the goal of ensuring political stability by overcoming the constitutional crisis, the PLDM leader promised to do his best against new early elections, inviting all political parties to resume the dialogue on election of chief of state, but acknowledging that one of worst mistakes committed by AIE was to cease the talks with the opposition. However, following is needed to prevent early parliamentary elections:

Anticipating criticism related to plans to revise the December 2010 AIE Constituting Agreement, the premier noted that he will not break up the alliance, and his proposals “cannot be regarded as a reformation of AIE, a term which seems to be used often by certain politicians on any occasion. This is in fact a functional resetting of the alliance, an absolutely necessary method to ensure stability in country and efficiency of the ruling act.” The proposals concerned seek two approaches:

Thus, the launching of the procedure of election of chief of state is a bifurcation point, which once crossed, will seal the existence of AIE. In other terms, PLDM says that provisions of the AIE Building Agreement concerning the distribution of higher state offices, which say that PDM leader Marian Lupu shall be unanimously supported to the office of president of Moldova and PL chairman Mihai Ghimpu to the post of speaker of the Parliament, are not intangible any longer, but vice versa. The argument of PLDM is that the constitutional crisis cannot be settled without PCRM, while hypothetical solutions to the crisis recommended by PL and PDM exceed the constitutional framework.

Despite criticism, the Appeal of Premier Vlad Filat to citizens is a precious document, at least for the fact that it explains all nuances of relations between AIE components. By releasing this appeal, the premier and PLDM leader took over the political initiative and indicated new priorities, demonstrating his belief that he has built the largest manoeuvre field based on several pillars:

Reaction of PCRM to conflicts inside of AIE

While Premier Vlad Filat was holding consultations with society, the parliamentary faction of PCRM released a statement on June 29 to describe conflicts between AIE leaders as “settling accounts” like that between heads of “organised criminal groups” rather than a debate between some political leaders at national level. In consequence, PCRM recommended the landing of the Parliament leadership as a solution to the conflict. Although implicitly, the PCRM initiative addressed the PLDM, with parliamentary factions representing the two parties holding a qualified majority of at least 2/3 of votes needed to relieve the speaker of the Parliament of his position.

The initiative of PCRM had a meaning just in the perspective of implementing an alleged plan to let Premier Vlad Filat take over temporarily the office of interim chief of state, in accordance with constitutional norms, with the purpose to get rid of disloyal ministers from his cabinet. Therefore, the PCRM would have accepted to support a minority Government of PLDM, without formalising any coalition, in exchange for the election of a PCRM representative as head of the Parliament, who would also take over the office of interim president until election of a chief of state in line with constitutional norms and legislation in effect. If such a plan existed, it was made to “test brains”. PCRM cannot hide the desire to use dissensions inside of AIE in order to destroy it with the aid of PLDM, which it would further eliminate or control by annihilating any field. However, it seems that the PLDM leader has a good adviser to avoid repeating the experience of cooperation between the Christian Democratic People’s Party (PPCD) and PCRM.

One week after the PCRM released the statement concerned, Premier Vlad Filat met Vladimir Voronin as part of consultations with society, with the PCRM leader further eulogising the premier, introducing him as “the best” of AIE leaders. Therefore, the PCRM changed its message, seeking an informal large coalition to overcome the constitutional crisis. In this regard, PCRM leaders promised to stop boycotting parliamentary sittings and continue their activity during plenary sittings in September, when the autumn session will begin.

Reaction of PDM and PL to premier’s Appeal

Although coalition partners PL and PDM do not have any manoeuvre field, they hold instead a large arsenal of possibilities to reduce the upsurge and claims of PLDM leader and his party. Thus, PL and PDM leaders reacted immediately to premier’s appeal to citizens, proving more virulence than expected. Both PL and PDM leaders and their supporters called in question:

By invoking these arguments, PL and PDM leaders invited Vlad Filat to stop stratagems and quickly decide himself if he wants to destroy the AIE and make a coalition with PCRM. If he does not lead the Government in a collegial manner any longer, he shall step down as prime minister, the way he has earlier called: “the one who cannot work shall leave.” Objective or subjective reactions of premier’s opponents demonstrated that the appeal to citizens failed its goal to throw the blame on alliance partners. Finally, the appeal did not motivate PL and PDM leaders to fix up the conflict inside of AIE, nor warned them in connection with the “necessary measures” that the premier will have to take.

Given this state of things, Vlad Filat found himself in a delicate situation — his AIE fellows do not believe that he is honest and capable to accomplish his warnings. Consultations with society and opposition do not enlarge the manoeuvre field of the premier, perhaps just the PR and image-making ground. PL leader Mihai Ghimpu stated unequivocally that all the ways of manoeuvre of the prime minister have been considered and they are inoffensive:

The circle is close and the manoeuvre field is narrow. In these circumstances, PLDM does not have any other way but to keep a firm hold on “overcoming the constitutional crisis” by finding a formula to elect the chief of state. PLDM has reasons to refrain from launching the procedure of election of chief of state in line with legislation in force, the way the PCRM wants. The PCRM solution to choose a common candidacy is dangerous, as this party is capable to block it at any moment in order to challenge early elections, which it could win alone. On the other hand, PLDM does not like the solution proposed by PL and PDM — to modify the Constitution in order to gradually reduce the threshold for election of chief of state, so that to be able to elect the president with a simple majority of votes of deputies. PLDM warms just one way — the direct election of chief of state, as this is the only way for its leader Vlad Filat to run the supreme office. Everybody understands this fact. PCRM leader Vladimir Voronin has already stated that this solution was and is inacceptable for his party. The honour chairman of PDM, Dumitru Diacov, disagreed with this solution, hinting that conflicts inside of AIE are a consequence of the bids of PLDM leader to run the supreme office. PL leader Mihai Ghimpu alone would accept the direct election of the chief of state after the adoption of a new Constitution. However, the PL leader stressed that the chief of state could be elected directly just after resolution of political crisis and fulfilment of agreements inside of AIE.

In these circumstances, the lifebelt for PLDM is to adopt a new Constitution, a solution proposed and promoted by PL leader in 2010 but barred by PLDM inclusively. The leader of the PLDM parliamentary faction, Valeriu Strelet, confirmed the idea of adopting a new Constitution: “an ample improvement of the Supreme Law is required; we will seriously discuss the text of a new Constitution… there are two ways to settle the constitutional crisis in the Republic of Moldova and elect the chief of state… The first one is to release a legislative initiative in the Parliament, but the support of deputies is needed, or there is no other solution but to hold a referendum.” It is worth to note that an issue already voted at a referendum cannot be brought to referendum for the second time before two years.

Conclusions and medium-term expectations

End of unbegun story
Small manoeuvre field for PLDM
Position of opposition
Expectations from AIE
Expectations from PCRM
Final conclusion: the story has a… happy end for all
  1. The expressions in italics represent the 2010 parliamentary campaign slogans of the three AIE parties.
Election of district heads — a new occasion to torpedo or revitalize AIE Who is afraid of early elections?