Moldova has become the first post-Soviet country since 1991 to invite its Communist Party to form the government. On December 1, Communist Party Central Committee First Secretary Vladimir Voronin was nominated as prime minister and tasked to form a new cabinet by President Petru Lucinschi. Upon nomination, Voronin declared that his cabinet would consist predominantly of communist ministers, with a few posts to be entrusted to nonpartisan and reputable professionals. This indicates that Lucinschi and Voronin plan to include a few politically neutral ministers, at the very least for the finance portfolio, as a sop to international lending institutions.
Local observers consider the communists well placed to obtain parliamentary approval of the new government. The party holds forty parliamentary seats in its own right and enjoys the support of approximately fifteen pro-presidential defectors from other parties in the 101-seat parliament. Additionally, the Popular Front–self-described as “right-wing” and holding nine seats–offers to support a communist-led government in return for an as yet unspecified political price. During its entire ten-year existence, the Front claimed to be the most consistently anticommunist force in Moldova, attacking all the other parties as insufficiently anticommunist or cryptocommunist. Now, however, Iurie Rosca–the Popular Front’s leader from 1989 to date–is telling the mass media that “the Front is not allergic to any ideology.” The Popular Front recently joined forces with the Communists in toppling the reformist and Western-oriented government of Ion Sturza. The president helped organize that move as part of his reelection strategy, based on the assumption that the electorate will punish the reformers and welcome the Communist Party’s return to government.
The outgoing Sturza government, in office only since March 1999, had relaunched the stalled economic reforms, earning political confidence and credits from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Those institutions suspended their lending to Moldova last month when the Communist Party and the Popular Front torpedoed, first, the government’s privatization programs and then the government itself. Those two extremes’ alignment–dubbed “Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact” by Chisinau’s shocked democrats–might not have sufficed for replacing the reformist government with a communist-led one. Success was ensured by the defection of presidential loyalists from the tripartite Alliance for Democracy and Reforms (ADR), the political base of the Sturza government, which had until recently controlled just over fifty parliamentary seats. The ADR has now been reduced to a minority of some thirty-five deputies.
Hardest hit by these defections is the Movement for a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova, led by Parliament Chairman Dumitru Diacov, which constitutes the ADR’s mainstay and supplied most of the Sturza government’s ministers. Diacov, a former Lucinschi loyalist himself, had recently distanced himself from the president and opposed–as did the ADR as a whole–Lucinschi’s recent proposals to amend the constitution and turn Moldova into a presidential republic. The communists’ return to power is a bitter pill to swallow also for the other two ADR components: the Party of Rebirth and Conciliation of former president Mircea Snegur, and the Party of Democratic Forces whose most senior leader is the former parliamentary chairman Alexandru Mosanu. It was Mosanu and Snegur who successfully led in 1991 the move to outlaw the Communist Party in Moldova. But they and others proved not powerful enough to stop the party’s comeback. The Communist Party was relegalized in 1994 and officially reentered the parliament in the February 1999 elections by winning a plurality of the votes. In spite of restrictions on communist access to the mass media, the party capitalized on the economic disaster that Moldova suffered–and, to an extent, inflicted on herself–in recent years.
Voronin is the organizer who spearheaded the communist comeback. Born in 1941 in the Transdniester district of Dubasari, Voronin is officially registered as an ethnic Moldovan, notwithstanding his Russian surname–a case of fluid ethno-linguistic identity not uncommon on either bank of the Dniester. Like many members of Moldova’s current political class, Voronin is a trained agricultural specialist. But he went on to Moscow where he graduated, successively, from the CPSU Central Committee’s Academy and from the USSR Internal Affairs Ministry’s Academy. A major-general of the Internal Affairs troops, Voronin served as Internal Affairs minister in 1989-90 in the last communist government of the Moldovan SSR. In that capacity he displayed a measure of tolerance toward the national-democratic movement.
After 1991, Voronin underwent reincarnation as a wealthy private businessman while at the same time agitating against market reforms. The Communist Party’s electorate was predominantly nonnative–or “Russian-speaking”–in the initial post-Soviet phase, but gradually acquired an ethnically balanced character. The party–in tune with the great majority of the ethnic Moldovan electorate, but out of tune with much of the intelligentsia–upholds “Moldovanism” as distinct from “Romanianism.” Voronin and the party oppose the outright secession of Transdniester from Moldova, but are vague at best on the issue of the Russian troops there. The party leadership enjoys good relations with the Russian Duma’s communist leadership, whereas more radical Russian communists are friendly with the Transdniester leaders. The communists in Chisinau and those in Tiraspol are competing for the hearts and minds of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation.
Voronin placed third in the 1996 presidential election and threw his support to Lucinschi in the runoff against the incumbent Snegur. That move was crucial to Lucinschi’s victory; and there is little doubt that he counts on communist support in next year’s presidential election as well. This time, however, Lucinschi hopes to include the Popular Front as a junior ally in tandem with the Communists. The Front is eager for a power-sharing deal, but it plays hard to get; and its leader Rosca–a domineering and rigid personality–has a record of overplaying his hand (Flux, Basapress, Infotag, November 30, December 1; see the Monitor, November 10, 18).
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