Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 70

Moldovan Communist President Vladimir Voronin’s reelection with right-wing democratic support (see EDM, April 5) reflects a thoroughgoing transformation of Moldova’s politics on three levels: that of the presidential team, of the pro-Western opposition leaders, and of the immediate external environment. These changes resulted in a political pact and Voronin’s reelection by the Moldovan parliament on April 4 with a comfortable majority on a pro-reform, Western-oriented platform.

Four years ago, Voronin led the Communist Party’s return to power (after ten years in the wilderness) with a program that envisaged restoration of socialist economics, linguistic re-russification, Russia-oriented foreign and security policies, active participation in CIS economic integration projects, and a reliance on the Kremlin to resolve the conflict in Transnistria. After three years in power, Voronin’s team abandoned all those delusions under the impact of two factors: First, exposure to the West enabled this team to overcome its provincial isolation, and the attraction of Europe proved incomparably stronger than that of Russia. Second, the experience of dealing with Russia shocked Voronin and his team into concluding that the Kremlin was aiming, as Voronin himself put it, to “re-colonize” Moldova by exploiting the Transnistria conflict. By mid-2004, Voronin had initiated a comprehensive Westward reorientation of Moldova’s policies, and persisted with that course despite Russian pressures and threats.

The Communist parliamentary majority — 71 out of 101 members of parliament in 2001-2005, and 56 out of 101 members of the new parliament — has to this day displayed little sympathy and a poor understanding of the leadership’s policy changes. Nevertheless, this majority, as well as the communist officialdom at all levels of government, remained loyal to the leadership in a spirit of party discipline and also in order to retain positions and perks. Parts of Voronin’s new agenda — particularly the European orientation — proved popular even with Soviet-nostalgic elements within the party.

Heading into the March 2005 elections, Voronin and his team were Communists in name only. The re-elected president, who is concurrently the party leader, intends to use the latter position in order to launch the party’s transformation into a European-type socialist party, with assistance from the Socialist International, to which the reformed party will seek admission. At some point during this process, Voronin will give up the post of party leader, in accordance with the pledge he made to right-wing opposition leaders and in his acceptance speech as re-elected head of state.

The right-conservative Christian-Democrat People’s Party (CDPP) is also undergoing a transformation process from the top. This CDPP, Moldova’s most consistent pro-Western party for more than a decade, has during all this time remained confined to less than 10% of voter support (9% in the March 2005 elections) because of its once-close association with Romanian national sentiment and rhetoric. More recently, the CDPP de-emphasized that rhetoric while adopting the European message; but this change has yet to register with mainstream voters. Party leader Iurie Rosca and his team successfully concluded a political pact with Voronin and the Social-Liberal Party on a joint pro-Europe platform that is a milestone in the party’s transformation. Rosca and others in the CDPP understand that it is high time to move from the fringes to the mainstream, so as to advance from the role of vociferous but un-influential protesters to that of a responsible participant in governance.

The right-leaning Social-Liberal Party (SLP), led by Oleg Serebrean, has joined forces with the governing majority and the CDPP on the basis of the reform program. Staunchly anti-communist, though at the same time in conflict with the CDPP, the SLP has similarly advanced from narrow partisan goals to a far broader agenda. This three-sided pact involves neither a formal coalition, nor an informal alliance. Rather, it involves a partnership between government and opposition, based on the ten-point program for institutional reforms (see EDM, April 5). The opposition not only supports the common agenda, but at the same time it will also act as a watchdog on that agenda’s implementation. On April 6, Rosca was elected Vice-Chairman of Parliament, with the Communist Party’s support. In that post, Rosca will be primarily responsible for preparing the reform legislation and moving it through committees toward enactment. (Moldpres, April 6).

Ongoing changes in Moldova’s external environment have profoundly influenced the transformation of Moldovan political forces. For the first time, Russia exercised its self-arrogated right to intervene both overtly and covertly in Moldova’s political processes, seeking to bring Russia-oriented leaders to power. Ultimately, however, Russia’s crude intervention became a major factor in persuading the CDPP and SLP to support Voronin’s reelection. Presidents Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine and Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia unmistakably signaled their preference for Voronin. This also helped CDPP and SLP leaders to persuade their own, traditionally anti-communist electorates, to accept and ultimately support the leaders’ pact with Voronin.

In another unprecedented development, it was an American politician who facilitated — in some ways even micro-managed — the formation of the reform-based consensus that led to the president’s reelection. Former Congressman John Conlan, an investment lawyer and political consultant with experience in the Black Sea region, performed a valuable transfer of consensus-building skills to local political leaders. Reducing deep-seated political antagonisms, he led the negotiations toward a solution agreeable to all sides and a gain for Euro-Atlantic interests in the region (Moldpres, Basapres, Flux, April 4-7).