Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 11

Petru Lucinschi yesterday took office as president of Moldova following his victory in the December 1 election runoff against incumbent Mircea Snegur. In his inaugural address to a special session of parliament and in a follow-up news conference Lucinschi said he would orient Moldova toward Europe and he praised Moldova’s relations with the U.S. Lucinschi made mention of economic cooperation only with regard to CIS countries, and said that it must not impair Moldova’s independence. He also called for immediate talks on the early withdrawal of Russian troops from Moldova in accordance with the 1994 agreement "which was signed and must be implemented." The new president urged Transdniester leaders to take decisive steps in 1997 toward settling its conflict with Chisinau through negotiations mediated by Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE. In a marked departure from his predecessor’s domestic policy, Lucinschi stated that he considers the president’s powers to be sufficient and will not seek to enlarge them at the expense of parliament. He announced that confrontation between president and parliament would end, and said that Moldova’s main internal challenge is overcoming poverty.

Born in 1940 to an ethnic Moldovan peasant family, Lucinschi served as head of the republic’s Komsomol, rose in the CPSU central apparat in Moscow to the position of deputy head of the CC’s propaganda department, and was second secretary of the Tajikistan Communist party before Mikhail Gorbachev sent him back to Moldova as first secretary of the republic’s Communist party in late 1989. His assigned mission then was to introduce perestroika in the republic — a goal that was too little and too late for Moldova at that stage. The party was defeated in the 1990 elections, and Lucinschi was instrumental in ensuring a quick and peaceful transfer of power to the national-democratic winners. The collapse of communism found him back in Moscow as CPSU CC Secretary responsible for mass media and a full member of the CPSU Politburo. The perestroika period established Lucinschi as a reformer, a telegenic and articulate political operator, a friend of the literary and artistic intelligentsia, and also as a somewhat indecisive leader. The quest for consensus and coalition-building is the hallmark of his political style and personality.

Lucinschi worked his way back to Moldova and the position of chairman of parliament in 1993 by skillfully exploiting rifts among parliamentary factions. Under his chairmanship the parliament enacted macro-economic reforms which earned approval and credits from international financial institutions, and political reforms which qualified Moldova for admission to the Council of Europe ahead of all the CIS countries. As an underdog, non-party candidate in the 1996 presidential election Lucinschi mounted a superior campaign against the incumbent Snegur and against Prime Minister Andrei Sangheli, who had the support of the governing Agrarian-Democratic party. The electoral slogan "stability, order, and prosperity" summed up his program.

Lucinschi’s credo as head of state is that Moldova’s geographic position, ethnic complexity, and economic profile necessitate cooperation with Romania, Ukraine, and Russia, in that order. He will also aim for economic and political support from the West, and international guarantees for Moldova’s independence. Lucinschi will probably redouble efforts, which he had begun while parliament chairman, to broaden the international framework for resolving the Transdniester conflict.

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