Asher Pirt

The sovereign debt crisis has opened the door for further economic and fiscal policy integration. Several new rules, intended to strengthen economic governance in the EU, have been introduced mainly through the so-called Six Pack, the Two Pack as well as the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance. The Commission is allowed, despite the lack of legitimacy, to interfere with member states’ budget decision making and to control national economic policies.

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Moldova has been in crisis since its independence when the Soviet Union fell apart. It has a divided community between a larger part and a sliver that is controlled by a de facto state, known as Transdniestria or PMR. Moreover, the country faces serious internal socio-economic challenges that need a Government to act. It remains one of the poorest countries in Europe and is on the border of the European Union.

The country is now in political deadlock and without a proper Government, because of the failure of the Parliament to elect a new President. According to the Moldovan Constitution, the current President Vladimir Voronin has to stand down as he has served two terms in office.

In accordance with Electoral Law, the acting President Vladimir Voronin has now dismissed the Parliament that was elected by the Moldovan people on 5 April and has announced new Parliamentary Elections for 29 July. Indeed the deadlock in Moldova is over one seat. If the communist political party had won sixty-one seats instead of sixty the country would have had a new female President: the acting communist political party Prime Minister Ms Zenaida Greceanai.

The reason for this failure is the fact the Opposition members of Parliament do not want to have another communist political party Government. Some MPs insist that the April Elections were rigged and cite a dirty tricks campaign carried out by the communist political party. Following the Elections, there were riots and the Parliament and Presidential Administration buildings were vandalised.

Following the crisis in Chisinau, President Voronin demanded a recount in order to appease the opposition political parties. The ballot papers were soon recounted and the communist political party of Moldova has been re-elected for a second time. On 15 April, a recount took place: gave Moldova Noastra Alliance 9.77 per cent of the vote and entitled the group to eleven seats; the Liberal Party gained 13.13 per cent of the vote and fifteen seats; the Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova gained 12.43 per cent and fifteen seats; the communist political party of Moldova gained 49.48 per cent and sixty seats.

The communist ruling political party led by Vladimir Voronin first came to power in 2001 and were re-elected in 2005. In the 2007 Moldovan local Elections the communist political party managed to only muster 34.18 per cent of the vote in comparison to the 2009 Parliamentary Elections where the party received 49.48 per cent. With this share of the vote the party has now achieved sixty seats in the Moldovan Parliament. This is better than the 2005 Elections when the party received 56 seats but not as good as in 2001 when the party received 71 seats.

It seems that really the communist political party should have rigged the Elections better to get that extra seat and save this entire political deadlock. Nevertheless, the present writer is certainly not encouraging Electoral fraud in Moldova.

In the 2009 Elections, the communist political party’s principal electoral promise was ‘modernization of the Republic of Moldova and its decisive transition from an economy based on agriculture and bureaucratic and nomenclature capitalism to a postindustrial society based on knowledge, competence, technology, high living standards and democratic culture’.

The amount of time/space given by media to the communist political party has been observed to have been greater than any other party. Opposition political party billboards were ripped down by people who wanted the ruling party to retain power. During the Election campaign there have been allegations that the police worked actively against the opposition political parties.

The authorities in Transdniestria do not always permit the population under its control to vote in the Moldovan Elections. Interestingly voters from the left bank of the River Dnestr in most cases were allowed to vote in these Elections. Although the OSCE Monitoring Mission reported that a large group of Transdniestrians blocked access to a polling station in Corjova. Nevertheless some who voted were concerned about the implications as some asked for their Identification not to be stamped. In other areas such as Ribnitza/Rezina, Transdniestrians appeared to have no difficulty in voting. Whether a deal had been made is interesting to speculate.

Moldova is the only country in the world that does not have a communist political system and consistently returns a communist political party. It cannot be argued that the success of the communist political party is down to Electoral Fraud; the support is not simply manufactured. Equally it is not just the old who are voting for this party. Not all elderly voters chose the communists. Support from younger voters is interesting as it shows that party is not simply coming to power because of an older generation’s nostalgia for the Soviet Union.

The opposition political parties are fairly weak and are principally based on personalities. The leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova Vladimir Filat allegedly has been involved in some controversial business dealings. However, his political party ran an anti-Voronin and anticommunist campaign. Mihai Ghimpu’s Liberal Party had the slogan ‘We Vote Together for a Better Life’ and advocating integration into the Euro-Atlantic Structures. All parties appear to share answers to Moldova’s troubles, however only the communist political party appears to overwhelmingly be the one that the Moldovans vote for.

On the whole, Moldovans appear to believe that the communist political party can fulfil its promises and increase living standards, reform the economy and deal with social security issues. This can also in part explain the Revolution’s failure as with so many abroad it can never be certain whether the opposition lost votes due to not enough ballot boxes abroad for overseas voters.

The challenge that the Moldovan Opposition faces is a political party that is popular and needs to persuade a general public why a vote for any of the opposition political parties is a good idea. It is a long road away from façade democracy where all the elements of a liberal democracy exist but there are still those who believe that it is in the interest of the people that they continue to destroy a voter’s freedom to information or at worse intimidate a voter into making a different choice. Furthermore, opposition political parties need educating to become more intellectual and responsible.

Throughout the Former Soviet Union region, there has become a rising incidence of protest or coloured Revolution. Special types of Revolution have taken place in Georgia (2003), Ukraine (2004) and Kyrgyzstan (2005). These Revolutions were respectively known as ‘Rose’, ‘Orange’ and ‘Tulip’. According to Yu Sharkov, writing in International Affairs (Moscow), Washington has a long term policy of staging “democratic revolutions” in the Former Soviet Union region. He claims that it is a central plank of US foreign policy.

It is also interesting to note that the Moldovan Authorities are now chasing some NGOs such as Amnesty International who complained about human rights violations for tax returns. Other countries such as Belarus and Kazakhstan have made laws restricting the activities of International NGOs as there is an idea that these organisations aid Revolution. This may well happen in Moldova. Many countries are worried about internet freedom. Indeed there might be more eavesdropping on internet chatrooms. During the crisis in Chisinau the internet was out of action, whether this was to stop further twitters coming to Chisinau or simply overuse.

In 1885, Engels wrote in a letter to Vera Zusulich, ‘People who boasted that they had made a revolution have always seen the next day that they had no idea what they were doing, that the revolution made did not in the least resemble the one they would have liked to have made’. The Moldovan Opposition ought to remember this that trying to attempt a Revolution is possible, but always for the revolutionist the future is not always Orange.

The question as to whether the Opposition can succeed in Moldova can be in part answered by examining other cases of successful Revolutions. There are a number of factors such as timing, which is crucial, as Andrew Wilson points out in his study of the Ukrainian Orange Revolution published in 2005. Rural voters could for once vote without fear and in ‘relative freedom’ as the harvests were in and payments received. However, the key factor appears to be whether the Opposition has in fact truly won and the population is behind political change. Anders Aslund noted when he was in Ukraine that there was no class divide and everyone wanted change. Henry E. Hale has carried out some significant research into explaining coloured Revolutions.

Returning to Engels, it seems that these Revolutions have not quite brought what anyone expected. The political change has brought perpetual political turmoil to Ukraine, a strange façade democracy to Georgia and certainly a worrying political system. The Moldovan Opposition ought to be responsible and forget what Putin, in 2004, described as ‘attempts to resolve legal issues by illegal means…It is the most dangerous to think up a system of permanent revolutions [in the post-Soviet space]’.

The Opposition political parties must unite not in protest but in negotiation. It is time that Moldova is put first rather than petty political party distinctions. Moldova has a number of challenges to be faced and needs a new Parliament, President, Government and forward thinking Opposition. Whether training and education can be organised by NGOs within Moldova, the West must remember the danger of interference in another country’s politics. Intervention can lead to accusation that the intervening country is trying to create revolutionary political change.

The Moldovans are the only people who have repeatedly brought a communist political party to power in a broadly free and fair election in the post communist region. The party was first elected on 25 February 2001 and then re-elected on 6March 2005. Now Moldova on the European Union border is preparing for a Parliamentary Election on 5 April 2009.

As Moldova is a parliamentary democracy, members of this political party who dominate the Parliament have the right to elect their party leader as President. This means that the communist party leader Vladimir Voronin is also the President of the tiny former Soviet Republic with a population of just over four million.

This political situation in Moldova is strange “Didn’t communism go out of fashion at the end of the eighties in Europe?” Even at most British Universities, communism is joked about rather than admired. Karl Marx and other communist philosophers’ works are left gathering dust on a library shelf. However, President Voronin still believes that the Russian communist Vladimir I. Lenin has much to say about the current affairs in Moldova. He appears not to be alone in the country.

A visitor to the former Soviet Union usually discovers that there is a considerable nostalgia for communism. It appears that the average person who experienced the social and economic ‘stability’ of communism and the difficulties of post communism has rose tinted spectacles about the Stalin, Brezhnev and Andropov years. It seems strange that even a most wicked tyrant who personally sent his own citizens to gulags has supporters in the former Soviet Union region.

In Russia, the Communist political party (CPRF) came close to power in the presidential elections of 1996, but was beaten by an alliance of Oligarchs and the incumbent President Boris El’stin who were concerned about losing power. Although there are members of the CPRF in the Russian Duma, the United Russia party now holds the most seats after the December 2007 Elections. Its party leader is Vladimir Putin, who is the former President and present Prime Minister.

In Putin’s address to the Nation on 31 December 1999, and in other speeches since then, he has outlined some of the shortcomings of the communist political system. He acknowledges the achievements of that system such as industrialisation, universal education and the elevation of the country into a superpower but he feels the need to build a post-communist system, which can build upon the achievements of communism and policies of other political systems to develop a greater Russia. Putin’s personality is popular and continues to have high poll rating, despite economic difficulties in the downturn of the global economy. It is only recently that Putin has accepted to be a political party leader, having previously claimed to be above politics.

The difficulty for many commentators is that Russia seems now to have a neo-communist political party when it comes to concentrating power in the state apparatus and building up a strong military potential that believes in many of the ideals of communism but will never be called a communist party. The now defunct 1977 Soviet Constitution clearly stated that the Communist Party was the ‘leading and guiding force’. In Russia, the United Russia political party commanded, by Vladimir Putin, is certainly the new ‘leading and guiding force’. In contrast the CPRF is now a candle in the wind.

Moldova cannot be described as a communist political system, as there are numerous political parties, such as Moldova Noastra (OurMoldova) Alliance, Agrarian Party of Moldova and People’s Christian Democratic Party and has an active civil society. However, the communist party members of Parliament do elect the president who is their party leader, and the government is formed from communist party members. For the election of the Moldovan president, a party needs two-thirds of the available 101 parliamentary votes. The government is then approved with 50 plus one votes.

The difference between the communist political system of China and Moldova is that the voter has a choice of political parties. Of course, the Republic of Moldova’s human rights record is far better. Nevertheless there have been reports of an increasing number of criminal investigations recently initiated against opposition politicians. The Moldovan political system is a façade democracy and nobody can truly deny that.

Moldova’s historical background gives good reasons for a voter’s decision to choose the communist party. The background shows that post-communism has not been great for the Moldovans and a desire to a return to the “better days” is understandable.

Firstly, the country still does not have complete control over its territory and fought a short but bloody armed conflict in the 1990s trying to retrieve control. This breakaway territory known as Transdniestria that exists predominantly on the left back of the Dnestr river is a highly industrialised region largely populated by ethnic Russians and Ukrainians which would help Moldova’s GDP, if only the divided community could be united.

Secondly, Moldova has become poorer and poorer and is well known for its HIV/AIDS crisis, organised crime and human trafficking problems. Children are neglected and employment is difficult to find for the average Moldovan. The country depends on the export of agricultural products, such as wine, to increase its income and employment. This has become difficult in recent years with questions about its quality.

So when a political party that resembles the “good times” of the past arrives on the scene many vote for this party. Especially when this party seemed able to fulfil its promise ‘to turn Moldova into a rich country with wealthy people’. The challenge for other political parties is actually reaching the electorate. A ruling political party always has an advantage as the people can vote for the devil they know rather than the devil they do not. Airtime is expensive and a ruling party can dominate the media outlets constantly informing the people that they are the ones to stay in power.

The communist political party has now had two terms in power and if there is discontentment, people in the former communist region have been known to protest. The coloured revolutions in Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan have proved that governments are not safe. Attempts at eradication of the ‘orange disease’ that the Belarusian President Lukashenko conducted, do not seem to be taking place in Moldova.

People are still poor in Moldova, and the Transdniestrian conflict has yet to be resolved despite President Voronin’s best efforts. Recently the populist promise to reduce the price of bread in the country has not come to anything. This might not mean much to people in the European Union, but it is highly significant in a country where the inhabitants cannot really afford it. The prices for gas, electricity and petroleum have increased greatly since Voronin came to power.

Voronin in recent years has become closer to Russia and back in June 2008 the current Prime Minister Ms Greceanii has clearly stated that Moldova regards Russia as a stragetic partner. The close bonds of the GUAM seem not to be so great. GUAM was set up as an anti Russian Alliance. Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova were all members at one stage.

In the 2005 election, the communist political party received votes from those who even saw it as an anti-Russian vote, so it will be interesting to see what the those voters will think of Moldova’s closer ties with Russia and the Russian led Commonwealth of Independent States. The Machiaveillan benefits of these ties are exceedingly useful for Moldova in trying to find solutions to its challenges.

The European Union has realised that Moldova’s leadership is willing to shake anyone’s hands to gain some advantage and has started to try and help. The EU Special Representative for Moldova, Kalman Mizsei, has recently stated that a new partnership treaty might be organised soon. However this potential pledge of further assistance is not fast enough. Some Moldovans joke about the lack of Moldovan wine in the European Union’s supermarkets. In contrast, recently Moldova has not really tried to become any closer to the European Union.

The argument for there to be a turnover of power is answered by the question “Is there an alternative to the ruling party?” There are many political parties in Moldova but it seems despite its weaknesses that the communist party will remain in power. Political opinion polls confirm that the communist party should overwhelmingly win in the forthcoming Election.

According to Moldova’s Constitution, it is time for President Voronin to stand down. It is most likely he will take the Putinist path and not amend the Constitution to permit this. Just like Putin, he will probably adopt the position of Prime Minister. Until recently Voronin kept the name of his successor a secret although he did confirm that he had chosen a candidate rather like Putin did in choosing Dmitri Medvedev. Interestingly he stated in a Television Interview: Of course, I examine possible candidates and I think about this. Moreover, I am training this person. But for the time being even he does not know about this. And I will not unveil his name under any circumstances. Knowing the behaviour of Moldovan politicians, the name of this person, if I give it, will be dragged through the mud. Or, on the contrary, he will be praised to the skies and spoiled yet before the election. Neither the first nor the second variant is admissible. Everything in its own time.

The clever thing about this was that his choice could always change until the big day. Putin’s choice was never certain until the announcement. However Voronin has publicly announced his successor, which is an interesting choice. The successor Vladimir Tsurkan is a former Ambassador to Moscow (2002-2005), which proves one thing that President Voronin wants someone, who is able to do business with Russia. Furthermore as in post-communist Russia, Voronin’s successor becoming the newMoldovan President will have to remember that it is a partnership with Voronin.

The European Union needs to do more to help Moldova not just to prevent organised crime and sex trafficking. Moldova needs assistance in building its economy and the removal of barriers to its exporting of its own produce to the EU area. Furthermore, in the global economic crisis the last thing Moldova needs is the EU increasing its tariffs and protectionism. However, the Transdniestrian conflict’s solution will not be found in EU interference unless of course both sides to the conflict agree to further external assistance to solve the problem of a divided community.