The Republic of Moldova has entered the final phase of the electoral campaign. The voting is scheduled for the upcoming Sunday, April 5. The choice of the governing Communists to run elections after the famous in the Moldovan political life day, of 4th of April, inevitably brings us four years ago, when several political parties supported the Communists. It was a post-electoral arrangement that was announced as pro-European.
The 2009 elections are already marked for the outside public by a U-turn pro-Russian speech of the Communist party. The 10 European reform preconditions, put forward to the Communists by other parties on the 4th of April, 2005, are not met. Those parties still stay in a partnership with the governing Communists, unconcerned of the US Department of State 2008 Report that recognises official interference in the judiciary, of media freedom alarms made by NGOs and two statements of EU Embassies in Moldova that place country’s path towards European integration under a serious question mark. The third group of opposition, the democrats, instead, ask for a clearer European direction and reforms.
The Communist party, coming to power in 2001, promised that the Republic of Moldova would join the Russia-Belorussia Union. In 2003, mostly pressured by the civil society, including political parties and outside actors, the Communist President declined to sign the Kozak Memorandum on settling the Transnistrian separatist conflict in Russian terms and against Moldova’s European integration. The Communist Party of the Republic of Moldova (CPRM) turned then to the European integration, which was not a free choice political motivator, however. Further internal actions of the communists proved that assumption.
In 2005, by free choice, the President of the Republic of Moldova consolidated his executive powers de facto, although de jure the country is a parliamentary republic. He did not step down from his position of the Chairman of the Communist party. He then implemented the well known Kremlin-like “vertical of power”. Disregarding legal provisions, he fired personnel from the Government over Prime-Minister’s head.
New laws and regulations on State secret and checks of the public officials brought controls that have not been implemented even during the soviet times. The Head of the Security and Information Service was replaced by the President’s former legal advisor, who is his nephew as well. Although the SIS is formally subordinated to the Parliament, the President publicly tasked it to monitor political parties and media to disallow foreign funding. Human rights NGOs registrations are not extended.
In the last eight years the country became the state with the highest number of cases per capita at the European Court of Human Right. The nation-wide Public TV supports the Communists, other media cannot obtain broadcasting frequencies to operate nationally. Russian TV is the most popular channel in Moldova, being the only other channel that broadcasts nation-wide and on State frequency, while Mr. Putin and Medvedev surpass the Moldovan President’s popularity and nothing is done to liberalise the media market.
In 2008, the CPRM governance cut down funding to Local self-governance that voted against them in 2007 local elections. Pre-electoral alliances were prohibited, threshold was raised from four to six per cent and political parties were asked to re-register ahead of the elections, thus creating more sidetrack tasks for them. The Communists suggested such practices exist in the EU countries, while, in reality, there is no such European country where all these barriers meet together. The cumulative effect of such decisions is unique and its intention is unambiguous.
Some of the Moldovan and foreign observers suggested that most of the pro-Russia CPRM actions were under outside pressure. The above decisions were obviously not.
The observers, however, rightly noted that the electorate will chose between three groups of parties – pro-Russian movements (Communists united with Patria-Rodina, Social-Democrats and Centrist Union), the currently governing coalition supporters (rightist Christian Democrats and leftist Democratic Party), and new-coming liberals.
The 2005 elections showed that, despite economic and democracy deficiencies, the citizens support the European integration, declared as a national goal. New parties’ growth of popularity also showed at that time that a part of the Moldovan society is keen to have a change for better.
In 2009 we have the Communists advocating for stability, implementing a “vertical of power”, attracting Russia and its highly popular media in Moldovan parliamentary elections. Other pro-Kremlin parties are not much different and relevant.
The second group is formed of parties that supported Communists in 2005, and, according to various opinion polls, seriously lost their popularity – another sign of changing attitudes in the Moldovan society.
The third group consists of liberals, although advocating for different forms of liberalism. Our Moldova Alliance, an older player, is a swinger from a pro-Russian 2005 camp to an independent liberal future. The other is the Liberal Party that surfaced as a victory against Communists in 2007 local elections in the capital of Moldova. The third player is a newly formed Liberal Democratic Party that appeared in 2008. In less than one year it managed to show qualified figures, gathering a serious support of pro-European electorate. Its lawyers have practiced in controversial cases, including at European Court of Human Rights, substantiating the supremacy of the rule of law principles, against political allegations.
It was widely argued that these three parties split the electorate, and their unification would provide a more solid choice for a unified liberal and pro-European opposition. The problem is that these parties appeared only recently on the country political scene, as either fractions of former Alliances or newcomers, and had not enough time to stabilise and mature for such a move. Nonetheless, their message is pro-reforms, and, hence, pro-European, they pressed the Communist governance to soften their stance on a number of anti-democratic matters and provided a solid choice for a good part of the electorate. Although they cherish their newly established independence and did not unite, for obvious reasons, they have already looked into a joint future.
Moldova is a young democracy, and the process of political consolidation is only on its way. The disagreements between the young liberals provided the Communists sufficient media material to attempt forming a public opinion of political instability of democracy. However, it should come to no surprise that, in a young democracy, having more political views on how the reforms should be implemented is democratic and pro-European, while, adopting a “vertical of power” for eight years, it is not.
The fact, that the election day is set for the 5th of April, gives the incumbent President a negotiation edge in the follow up election of his successor. Four more years of vertical of power might harm Moldova. The Moldovan president indicated that he wishes to settle as Speaker of the Parliament and one can presume that he would want to shift the political and executive power there, after the election of the new President. The Communists did not publicly ruled out a post-electoral alliance with other pro-Russian parties, although CPRM quotes Russian pressure as an excuse for its actions. This direction is isolation, and not an European integration path.
Because of the prohibition to form pre-electoral alliance, liberals have put aside their notional disagreements and announced that they would be ready to form a post-electoral coalition.
The election day comes after some years of media engineering and political prohibitions, and we look ahead to the direction Moldova would go – Europe or Belarus.
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