Moldova’s fractured parties

by Tammy Lynch

Following the December 7 failure of Moldova’s ruling parliamentary coalition to elect a president, it now appears the opposition Communist Party (CPRM) may be showing its first public cracks. These cracks have been expected since the CPRM lost power in July’s snap parliamentary elections following ten years in power.

On December 15, four members of the CPRM quit the party. They suggested that party members should have been allowed to vote for the ruling coalition’s presidential candidate, Marian Lupo, despite being part of the opposition.

Although all 53 members of the ruling coalition – the Alliance for European Integration (AEI) – voted in favor of Lupo, they needed seven votes from the Communists to meet the threshold for a presidential election. No members of the CPRM supported the vote. However, this vote may not be an accurate gauge of support for Lupo. CPRM leadership led a walkout of the Communist Party directly before the vote. This likely was the only method available to the CPRM to ensure that no members voted in favor of Lupo. The presidential vote is taken by secret ballot, which would have allowed defections. But defying a public walkout would have been a much bigger issue.

These four party resignations suggest the votes may have been there for Lupo had the CPRM leadership allowed its members to cast ballots.

Regardless, this no longer matters, since constitutional rules suggest that the vote failure automatically triggers a new, snap parliamentary election. The election will be the third since April, with the continual sticking point being the choice of a head of state.

Neighboring Ukraine also faced three parliamentary elections in 2006 and 2007, when the members of various governing parties/coalitions either were not able to work together or were not able to work with President Viktor Yushchenko. Those elections ultimately led to political stagnation.

The vague nature of Moldova’s constitutional requirement to hold a new election allows for significant wiggle-room. The biggest wiggle would be a change in the constitution itself.

Anticipating similar results to those achieved in the last election, members of Moldova’s AEI suggest two scenarios for amending the constitution prior to the next election: 1) a national referendum to institute a simple majority vote for election of the president, or 2) a national referendum to reinstate the direct popular election of a president.

Additionally, there appears to be no constitutional limit placed on the time between the failed vote and the election. There is a stipulation, however, that repeat elections cannot be held within a 12-month period. Therefore, an election cannot be held in Moldova until at least late July 2010.

If a new election is held, there is no reason to believe that Moldova’s historically fractured parties would be able to do what they have failed to do in the past – elect a president – despite their coalition. Clearly, there is significant disagreement already on how to proceed – how to hold the election and what coalition format to retain (if any). Will temporary unity give way to a series of elections that—instead of ending stagnation—actually freeze it in place, as it did in Ukraine?