Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 81

On April 23, a new Communist-controlled government took charge in Moldova. But most of the ministers are not members of the Communist Party, and a few of them have respectable professional records. Their presence in the government reflects the Communists’ electoral pledge to select “technocrats”–that is, experts not affiliated with political parties–for cabinet posts. But the government will operate on a tight leash, held by the Communist head of state Vladimir Voronin and the Communist parliamentary majority.

The new cabinet of ministers includes some from the predecessor cabinet of Dumitru Braghis. Those holdovers include both Communists and noncommunists–the latter as reassurance to international financial institutions. The new cabinet, moreover, includes several long-time associates of the outgoing president Petru Lucinschi. Such an arrangement had been urged on a reluctant Voronin by Moscow both before and after the elections, and last week, during his visit in Moscow, Voronin announced for the first time that he would include such ministers in the new cabinet.

During their electoral campaign, the Communists had promised to increase the share of representatives of ethnic minorities in government at the central and local levels. That pledge notwithstanding, the new cabinet of ministers is ethnically overwhelmingly Moldovan. Not a single Russian or Ukrainian figures among its members. The only two non-Moldovans are an ethnic Bulgarian and a Gagauz.

Prime Minister Vasile (Vasil) Tarlev is the Bulgarian. Born in 1963 and trained as an engineer in the food-processing sector, Tarlev has since 1995 headed the “Bucuria” candy and confectionery factory while also chairing the National Producers’ Association. “Bucuria” is one of the few large Moldovan state-controlled factories consistently to turn a profit. Tarlev is not a Communist Party member and is one of the few Moldovan managers to have attended courses in the West. Yet his initial position statements mark him out as a representative of protectionist interests and a believer in state control of industry and trade.

Deputy Prime Minister Valerian Cristea–second only to Tarlev in the cabinet–is a Communist Party member and is being groomed by Voronin for top posts. The 51-year-old Cristea is a trained electrical engineer, but functioned during most of his career as a labor union leader, eventually as vice chairman of Moldova’s Trade Union Federation in 1994-98. The second deputy prime minister, Dumitru Todoroglo, is concurrently agriculture minister–an arrangement reflecting the predominance of the agricultural sector in Moldova. Todoroglo, 57, is an ethnic Gagauz, a trained agronomist and an influential figure in the Communist Party. He has enjoyed Voronin’s trust since the 1970s, when the two served concurrently in Party and economic posts in the Dubasari area in Transdniester. In his initial statements as a minister, Todoroglo advocates a limited, noncoercive recollectivization of agriculture and state support to the surviving and the reconstituted collective farms.

Finance Minister Mihai Manoli and Economics Minister Andrei Cucu have the records of economic reformers and good standing with international financial institutions. Both are holdovers from the Braghis government, in which Cucu was deputy prime minister in charge of reforms. Prior to that, he had briefly headed the State Property Fund and was also briefly the head of the Tirex-Petrol company, an oil products and gasoline marketing company which went bankrupt.

Also from the Braghis cabinet are Foreign Affairs Minister Nicolae Cernomaz and Energy Minister Ion Lesanu. The latter, a trained electrical engineer, served before 1991 in a medium-level Party and Soviet posts and is also a former associate of Lucinschi. From 1994 to 1998 he served as ambassador to Belarus.

The new internal affairs minister, Vasile Draganel, is a trained English-language teacher turned security officer who served as the commander of Lucinschi’s bodyguard service from 1997 to date.

Cernomaz, 52, a long-time Lucinschi associate from their Komsomol days, is a trained teacher of the history of the Moldavian SSR, which he taught at Chisinau’s Teachers’ College. He headed Moldova’s state tourism agency from 1990 on, then ran Lucinschi’s successful 1996 presidential campaign as organizational and financial director. He went on to head the State Chancellery as minister of state–a post which handles the president’s and the cabinet of ministers’ most carefully preserved secrets, including those related to the shadow economy and its nexus with top-level politics. In 1998, Lucinschi saved Cernomaz from an anticorruption investigation by shunting him off as ambassador to Hungary–his sole foreign policy experience. In November 2000, he was appointed Foreign Affairs Minister in the Braghis government, as part of an abortive bargain between Lucinschi and Voronin. Cernomaz started out by curtailing the leeway of Western-oriented diplomats in the ministry and underscoring the “Eastern,” Russian dimension of Chisinau’s foreign policy.

Little notice has been taken of the continuation of Valeriu Pasat as head of the Intelligence and Security Service (SIS). Pasat is one of Lucinschi’s closest associates and he has also long enjoyed Moscow’s trust. Pasat was appointed by Lucinschi as SIS head for a five-year term which has almost four years to go. Under Moldovan law, the president nominates the SIS head, but the appointment is up to the parliament. The parliament, moreover, has the power to dismiss the SIS head at its own initiative without the president’s consent. Shortly before the parliamentary elections, the Communist Party narrowly failed in a parliamentary move to dismiss Pasat. If the party now accepts him, it will be one more indication of deference to Moscow (Roundup based on Moldovan media coverage; see the Monitor, March 5, 7, 9, 13, 21, 27, April 5, 9, 16, 20).