Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 50

Moscow threatens to topple Moldovan President Voronin.

On March 11, Moldova’s Central Electoral Commission released the final results of the country’s March 6 parliamentary elections. The outcome, verified by election observers in parallel vote-counting, shows the Communist Party with 56 parliamentary seats (one more than initially announced), the heterogeneous Bloc Moldova Democrata controlled by pro-Moscow leaders with 34 seats (one fewer than initially announced), and the right-wing Christian-Democrat People’s Party with 11 seats in the 101-seat legislature. Thus the Communists, BMD, and CDPP garnered 46%, 28.5%, and 9%, respectively, of the votes cast. The other parties and blocs failed to clear the parliamentary representation thresholds. (Moldpres, March 11, 12).

Under Moldova’s constitution, the parliament elects the head of state with a majority of at least three-fifths of its membership and approves the president’s nomination of a prime minister and the composition of the cabinet with a simple parliamentary majority.

The pro-Western team of Communist President Vladimir Voronin needs 61 votes to re-elect the president and 51 votes to approve a new cabinet of ministers. Thus, it can form the cabinet single-handedly, and can probably secure the president’s re-election by making tactical deals with at least five, or preferably seven or eight, BMD members (unless the Moscow operatives now active in Chisinau manage to lure some Communist deputies away from Voronin quickly). One “centrist” faction within BMD seems inclined toward such a tactical arrangement with the president and perhaps further opportunistic deals down the road.

However, the presidential team and some groups of the traditional pro-Western opposition are now considering the possibility of joining together in a parliamentary and governing alliance. The formation of such an alliance would signify a sea change to Moldova’s politics, bringing together for the first time since 1991 some of the anti-communist groups and the reformed section of the Communist Party. A realignment along these lines is being referred to as “national-interest coalition” or “pro-Europe coalition” in the internal discussions now under way in Chisinau.

Three parallel processes have opened this prospect, which had seemed beyond imagination only months ago, and which moved within a few insiders’ grasp during the final phase of the electoral campaign. Those processes are: First, the presidential team’s Western reorientation (itself accelerated by Moscow’s heavy-handed pressures on official Chisinau). Second, a realization by some pro-Western opposition leaders that they must graduate at long last from the role of protesters on the margins of the political system into the role of national decision-makers and participants in governance. And, the third and latest process, Moscow’s overt sponsorship of pro-Russian “centrist” leaders in Chisinau, who dominate a confused and partly corrupted BMD, and who must be prevented from creating a large pro-Russian political bloc with diehard communists and local Russian nationalist groups.

A national-interest or pro-Europe coalition could: ensure the continuity of Voronin’s European course; accelerate that course and broaden its parliamentary and extra-parliamentary political basis; isolate BMD’s pro-Moscow leaders; include the traditional pro-Western and indeed anti-communist groups into the decision-making processes for the first time in more than a decade; enable these groups to prepare for better results in the 2009 parliamentary elections; and achieve an overdue reconfiguration of Moldova’s political system, as the Communist Party reforms itself into a European-type Socialist Party, alongside Christian-Democrats and Liberals. Voronin and his aides envisage such a reform of their party as one of the prerequisites to the creation of a value-based coalition.

Preliminary discussions toward that end began even before the March 6 elections and accelerated afterward. The participants envisage an alliance for the duration of the four-year mandate of this parliament. Any programmatic document would have to stipulate: scrupulous implementation of the European Union-Moldova Action Plan, which was signed in Brussels on February 22; completion of the internal reform agenda, itemizing specific goals — e.g., independence of the judiciary, administrative decentralization, turning state-controlled television and radio into genuine public institutions, cracking down on corruption, radically improving the legislative and regulatory framework for Western investment — with time-tables for implementation; intensifying efforts to rid the country of Russian troops, and working toward a democratic solution to the Transnistria problem with international support.

Participants in these discussions believe that they must proceed cautiously and explain their steps properly to their core electorates. At the same time, they realize that they need to act expeditiously so as to preempt Moscow’s effort to assemble a pro-Russian coalition under BMD’s top leaders — Chisinau mayor Serafim Urecheanu, former prime minister Dumitru Braghis, and other late-Soviet nomenklatura holdovers — alongside the Russian-leftist Rodina movement and anti-Voronin defectors from the Communist Party. Within the BMD, several liberal deputies who never felt at home in that bloc (they joined it on external advice and against their own better judgment) seem ready to abandon the pro-Moscow leaders and to consider becoming one of the parties to a value-based alliance.