Europe’s one and only Communist regime is taking its first steps as the ruling force, in a situation which may at this stage be described as postcommunism under the Communists. These moves should offer clues regarding the Moldovan Communist Party’ intentions in four key areas. First, whether the party will use its overwhelming parliamentary majority–seventy-one out of 101 seats–and its control of the presidency to rule singlehandedly, with some fellow-travelers tagging along. Second, whether the party will reopen the “nationality issue”–mainly regarding language and citizenship–to reverse the post-Soviet settlement of that issue. Third, what degree of market economics the Communists will accept. And, fourth–most significant internationally–how durable the correlation between Communist political affiliation and loyalty to Russia will turn out to be.
On April 7, Communist leader Vladimir Voronin was sworn in and inaugurated as president of Moldova. No foreign delegation attended. Voronin’s two inauguration addresses–one to the assembled elite and one televised for the country–resembled each another by the type of double talk which cannot be sustained for long. Voronin promised, first, to observe Moldova’s international commitments but “shift some of the emphases” to work with the international financial institutions insofar as he would deem it beneficial to Moldova; second, to invite foreign investment but favor “internal producers;” and, third, to pursue close relations with “strategic partner Russia” while seeking Western economic assistance (which he described as indispensable). These options, however, are reconcilable only up to a point. Voronin and the Communist Party will soon need to make some hard choices.
Voronin has decided to keep the post of first secretary of the Party’s Central Committee. That decision, along with the behavior thus far of the Communist parliamentary majority, suggest that Moldova might be headed for party rule de facto, under the legal cover of a parliamentary republic. For now, policy and personnel decisions are being taken by the Communist Party’s Central Committee or by a small group of top leaders, both conclaves being controlled by Voronin personally. Those decisions are then passed on to the Communist parliamentary group, which votes in a disciplined manner to implement them. This situation has inspired noncommunist newspapers in Chisinau to run sarcastic Soviet-style headlines along the lines of “Central Committee Plenum’s Decisions Are Our Law.”
One example of this practice is to fill the parliamentary vice chairmanship which belongs ex officio to the largest of the nongoverning parties. The “centrist” Braghis Alliance nominated two of its leaders for that post. But the Communist Party Central Committee openly selected another deputy of the Braghis Alliance, and the Communist parliamentary group voted that deputy as vice chairman of parliament, so as ensure full Communist control of the parliamentary leadership. The Braghis Alliance did not dare protest, and acting Prime Minister Dumitru Braghis persisted in offering his services for a putative coalition government under Communist control.
Parliament’s powers under the constitution are far larger than the president’s. The Communist Party’s control mechanisms and internal discipline, however, should at least in the short to medium term enable Voronin to hold the Communist parliamentary group on a tight leash. This could prove crucial if Voronin decides to make good on his postelection promises to cooperate with the international financial institutions and to proceed with some limited reforms. In that case, Voronin’s team of moderates may fall back on a modern version of the “leading role of the Party” to compel the parliamentary faction to toe the leadership’s line.
For now, Moldova’s moderate Communist leaders are characters in search of a model. Communist Party Second Secretary Andrei Neguta–responsible for ideological affairs, doubling as chairman of the parliament’s foreign policy commission–declared on April 13 that his party feels especially attracted by the Chinese Communist model. According to Neguta and like-minded Communists in Chisinau, the Chinese comrades “proceeded with social transformations at a wise tempo” while “averting explosions by allowing society to let off steam.”
On April 11, Voronin nominated the Vasile (Vasil) Tarlev as prime minister. Tarlev, an ethnic Bulgarian, born in 1963, is the director-general of the “Bucuria” [Joy] candy and confectionery factory, one of the few Moldovan state enterprises to run at a profit. Tarlev, who attended a management course in the United States in 1993, also serves as chairman of Moldova’s National Producers’ Association. He is not a member of any party and never ran for elective office. Voronin has mandated Tarlev to form a cabinet of ministers to consist predominantly of “technocrats” (experts) rather than Communists. That decision fulfills one of Voronin’s campaign promises, but also appears designed to saddle noncommunists with the direct responsibility for running the economy, even as the Party makes the strategic decisions from backstage (Flux, Basapress, Infotag, April 7-14; see the Monitor, January 2, February 26, March 5, 7, 9, 13, 21, 27, April 5, 9).
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