The ruling Communist Party and the opposition Christian-Democrat People’s Party (CDPP, the renamed Popular Front) are, thus far, abiding by the recommendations of the Council of Europe (CE) to deescalate the political confrontation and seek through dialogue to improve the functioning of Moldova’s democratic institutions.
The CE’s rapporteurs on Moldova, Josette Durrieu and Lauri Vahtre–a French Socialist Senator and an Estonian conservative parliamentary deputy, respectively–drew up the recommendations after several months of intense discussions with all of Moldova’s political forces. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) approved the Durrieu-Vahtre report and recommendations on April 24 at PACE’s session in Strasbourg, in which Communist, CDPP and “centrist” Moldovan parliamentary delegations participated and reached agreement to cooperate under continued CE monitoring.
The CDPP has consented to drop its demand for the abdication of the Communist parliament, president and government and for pre-term elections to be held barely one year after the Communist electoral landslide. It has, furthermore, consented to call off its marathon protests in Chisinau, which had been underway since January 9. CDPP leaders had held out as long as they could on those two points, but were ultimately swayed by three factors: the CE’s opinion, an anti-CDPP political backlash in the country, and an obvious decrease in the number of protesters in Chisinau’s central square. On April 29, the CDPP leaders ordered the removal of the tent camp which they had, since April 2, maintained outside the presidency and parliament buildings, and called off all forms of street protests, on the 101st day of rallies and pickets in central Chisinau. Along with these decisions, CDPP leaders agreed to enter into a dialogue with the Communist authorities on the fulfillment of those CDPP demands that the CE rapporteurs regard as apt to ensure the functioning of democratic institutions in Moldova.
For their part, the Communist leaders have agreed to pass the PACE-recommended legislation, with a view to meeting general democratic standards and, specifically, Moldova’s obligations to the CE. Those commitments date back to 1995. That year, Moldova became the first CIS country to be admitted to the CE as a full member, partly due to its democratic performance up to that point and partly on the basis of specific commitments to further progress on democratic institution building. That progress has, however, been slow at best, necessitating continued CE monitoring ever since. The Communist authorities must now correct some major institutional deficiencies that the noncommunist parliaments and governments from 1995 to 2000 failed to address. The Communist Party is also called upon to reverse some of its own ill-advised measures that triggered the protests in the first place.
The CE’s most salient recommendations, to be implemented “without delay,” include: (1) ceasing the attempts at lifting the parliamentary immunity of CDPP deputies, and dropping judicial proceedings against them; (2) strengthening the legal guarantees of parliamentary immunity and improving safeguards for the activity of the parliamentary opposition; (3) ending the practice of censorship of Moldovan state television and radio, affording the opposition parties full access to discussion programs and transforming the state-owned TeleRadio Moldova into an independent public corporation; (4) extending the moratorium on the imposition of obligatory Russian-language teaching from second grade on, as well as the time-out on giving the Russian language official status in the Moldovan state; (5) legalizing the Metropolitanate of Bessarabia, which is a branch of the Romanian Orthodox Church and is subordinate to the Patriarchy of Bucharest; (6) avoiding any escalation between the central government and the authorities of the Gagauz autonomy, both parties being warned about PACE’s concern over the deterioration in Chisinau-Comrat relations; (7) organizing a round table with the participation of all political forces, both parliamentary and extra parliamentary, with the assistance of the Council of Europe.
On the first point, the parliament and the General Prosecutor’s Office have cancelled their moves to deprive six CDPP deputies–including party leader Iurie Rosca–of their parliamentary immunities and to investigate them penally. They had been charged with involving underage children in political protests and organizing unlawful demonstrations near the parliament and government buildings, whereas the municipal authorities acting under the law had permitted demonstrations to be held at another downtown location. The CE found, however, that the legal measures against the CDPP deputies could have resulted in silencing the parliamentary opposition altogether. The Communist parliamentary majority has, in recent days, submitted legislative proposals to guarantee the opposition deputies’ use of the parliament’s rostrum and their participation in setting the parliament’s agenda.
On the second point, the Communist parliamentary majority has drafted legislation that would guarantee the opposition’s substantial access to state electronic media. The draft contains detailed prescriptions on allotting television and radio airtime for use by the president, cabinet of ministers, parliamentary leaders and parties, and parliamentary and extraparliamentary opposition parties. The CDPP objects to these prescriptions, however, as constituting interference with the work of the journalistic staffs of TeleRadio Moldova. The Council of Europe has stipulated July 31 as the deadline for establishing the public corporation, which will presumably make its own decisions on allotting airtime. The state’s exercise of political control over radio and television is a legacy of Popular Front rule in 1990-91, and has been used by all governing parties and presidents since then. It has, however, become increasingly irrelevant because Moldovan state television and other state media have been losing badly in the competition with Russian, Romanian and some local electronic and print media.
On the third point, the Communists announced in late February a suspension sine die of their decisions on the Russian language and the Moldovan history course. President Vladimir Voronin has undoubtedly learned that the initial decisions by fiat triggered a political explosion, and will hardly authorize another attempt at imposing those decisions. On the fourth point, Moldova must execute not only the CE’s recommendation–which carries a July 31 deadline as well–but also the decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which requires that the Metropolitanate of Bessarabia be legally registered. That metropolitanate was reestablished in the Republic of Moldova by the Romanian Orthodox Church in 1992. Since that time, all Moldovan governments irrespective of political color refused to legalize the Metropolitanate of Bessarabia, fearing conflict with the Metropolitanate of Moldova that stands under the canonical jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Communist authorities, for all their suspicious attitude toward Romania and their deference to Moscow, have now pledged to abide by the ECHR’s verdict and PACE’s recommendation on this issue (Flux, Basapress, April 29-30, May 1-4; see the Monitor, April 5, 15, 19, 23).
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