Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 51

On March 12, by a vote of 52-49, the Moldovan parliament approved the composition and program of the new, right-of-center coalition government headed by Ion Sturza. Last week the same program and a similar cabinet list was approved by a vote of 51-50 (see the Monitor, March 1, 4). Although that figure amounted technically to a simple majority, the Constitutional Court invalidated the investiture and ruled that a minimum of fifty-two votes were necessary for passage.

The Communist Party and the “right-wing” Popular Front tried on both occasions to block the government’s investiture. The communists, with forty seats in the legislature, predictably voted against the government on ideological grounds. The Front, with only nine parliamentary seats, supports the reforms rhetorically, but refused to participate in the vote–thereby almost torpedoing the reformist government–having failed to extort a disproportionate share of power for itself in the coalition government.

The deciding vote came in a message from Ilie Ilascu, the Moldovan parliamentary deputy imprisoned in Transdniester. Once the head of the Tiraspol section of the Popular Front, Ilascu was arrested by the secessionist authorities in 1992 on “terrorism” charges, was sentenced to death in 1993 and has been kept on death row ever since. While the death sentence remains in effect, international intercession has succeeded in saving Ilascu’s life, but not in releasing him and two imprisoned associates. Elected in absentia to the parliament on the Popular Front’s slate, Ilascu eventually broke with his former comrades on the grounds that they were interested in keeping him jailed, the better to exploit him as a propaganda asset. He switched to the Party of Democratic Forces–which is itself led by expellees from the Popular Front–and was elected to the parliament on that party’s slate in 1998. Last week he managed to smuggle from his cell a message in which he provided the vote needed to secure the government’s investiture.

The predecessor government had collapsed on February 1 under the weight of the economic crisis. Of the four parties which had formed that government, three have joined forces in the new one, while the Popular Front has opted out (Flux, Basapress, March 12, 13).