Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 149

A fragile political consensus — also known as parliamentary partnership — on the terms set in 2005 persists in Moldova’s parliament at this time. Its preservation is creditable to the Parliament’s Chairman Marian Lupu, Vice-Chairman and Christian-Democrat leader Iurie Rosca, some centrists, and many Communist deputies. While the presidential institution has embarked on polarization and confrontation against non-communist parties, the Communist deputies are not following suit. This seems to be the first time since 2001 that the parliamentary majority has quietly distanced itself from the president’s line. These deputies have no wish for civil strife and would rather serve out their parliamentary term than go into pre-term elections, as Voronin’s Transnistria settlement negotiations with the Kremlin apparently envisage (see EDM, July 27, 30).

In this situation, Chairman Lupu is emerging as a stabilizing and potentially integrating figure in Moldova’s politics. Second only to the president in official ranking, Lupu struck his own note in his July 26 news conference and July 27 parliamentary session closing speech, markedly contrasting with Voronin’s July 20 and July 25 televised speeches and the overall presidential line. Though never mentioning the president by name, Lupu’s interventions are signaling to the political class that it may be time to distance themselves from Voronin’s recent policy choices.

While Voronin announced an end to all cooperation with non-communist parties — presenting such cooperation as a favor that he extends or withdraws — Lupu urged continuing cooperation with the other parties toward the “unchanged common goals” of European integration, Transnistria settlement, and modernization of the state. Although the president threatened (unlawfully) to withhold central funding from municipalities and districts with non-communist majorities, Lupu described such an approach as “incorrect” and called for observance of the law in this regard.

Although Voronin vehemently assailed non-communist election winners, Lupu called for “respect to the voters’ choices,” noted that “gross manipulations no longer work,” and spoke of a “long-term trend and new political reality in Moldova” — thus positioning himself to advance a reconfiguration of Moldova’s politics. While the president declared his full confidence in Russia to resolve the Transnistria conflict, Lupu called for returning the negotiations to the 5+2 format (which includes the United States and the European Union). In contrast to Voronin’s kowtowing to the Kremlin during his speeches (from May through July 25 throughout), a dignified Lupu never did so (Flux, July 27, 30-31).

In the wake of the recent local elections, Voronin had asked Lupu to resign; but Lupu declined the unlawful request in the knowledge that the president could no longer orchestrate a parliamentary vote to remove the speaker. Moreover, Voronin is no longer seen — as he was only a few weeks ago — as capable of designating an heir to the presidency and enforcing such a decision. With Voronin thus weakened, presidential aspirants no longer have to compete with one another for his favor; and this fact in turn should deprive Voronin of leverage on the contending groups.

Chisinau observers regard Lupu’s public intervention as a landmark event, presaging a split in the Communist Party and potential reconfiguration of Moldova’s political spectrum (Flux, Timpul, Jurnal de Chisinau, July 27, 30-31). However, existing circumstances will constrain the Speaker’s latitude for some time.

Lupu holds no Party position; he is only a rank-and-file member and is seen by many as a non-authentic member, as he had to join in order to run for speaker in 2005, when Voronin was embarking on a pro-Western course with a Communist-majority parliament. Lupu has all along supported proposals to reform the Party and called unambiguously for such reform during his July 26 news conference. He is an economist with Western training, fluent in English and French, and far younger than most Party leaders, whose main cultural references are Russian and Soviet-inherited. Thus, it might prove dauntingly difficult for Lupu to take the lead on reforming the Party from within, particularly as Voronin resists this, ahead of the 2008 electoral campaign.

Creating a European-type, left-of-center party around a reformed wing of the existing Party and attracting other left-of-center voters are possible options. The Communist Party, with its leftist image, has held the left-of-center by default thus far, in the absence of viable parties on that side of politics. However, the Communist Party’s now-visible erosion will free up that space. A political bloc with a modern face, future-oriented instead of rooted in the past, unencumbered by nomenklatura holdovers, encompassing the left-of-center and center, and coalescing around an internationally representative figure, could emerge holding the balance in the 2008 electoral campaign. Moreover, such a bloc could find natural allies on the right within the existing parliament and in civil society, on a Europe-oriented common platform.