Publication: Prism Volume: 4 Issue: 9

By Vladimir Socor

On March 22, Moldova held parliamentary elections for the second time in its life as an independent democratic state. It conducted this exercise while in a state of economic crisis, political drift, territorial dismemberment, and vulnerability to Russian pressure through Transdniester — the last European area under unlawful foreign military control. The pre-election general crisis included a breakdown of the multiparty system. The outgoing parliament had, during the last two years of its term, become dysfunctional, devoid of a coherent majority, riven by ideological conflicts, and divided no longer into parties but into proliferating splinter groups loyal to individual would-be leaders.

Otherwise incompatible groups successfully united when it came to thwarting the policies of the executive branch. President Petru Lucinschi, a reformist former leader of the Moldovan Communist Party, was being opposed on all sides: by leftist groups — which in Moldova are mostly Russian — for his reformist record; by self-styled “rightist” groups for his unwillingness to promote the Romanian national idea in Moldova; and by supporters of former President Mircea Snegur who had just lost that office to Lucinschi.

Moldova’s electoral law, based on the proportional system, favors political fragmentation. Lucinschi’s supporters were unsuccessful in their attempts last year to introduce a mixed system, in which up to half of the parliament’s seats would have gone to deputies elected in single-mandate territorial districts. The electoral law treats the entire country as a single electoral district, not least in order to enable residents of Transdniester to cast their votes on the right bank of the Dniester. But the secessionist authorities of that region, with a population of 750,000, allowed only 3,000 residents to cross over and vote in these elections.

The new parliament may again find itself paralyzed by ideological divisions and the conflicting agendas of some party leaders. Its composition seems to foreshadow polarization and deadlock on vital issues whose resolution can no longer be postponed. Controversies regarding the country’s external orientation compound the differences over internal economic and ethnic issues. Although the new parliament consists of fewer parties, those parties are themselves coalitions which may splinter again. Four parties and blocs succeeded in overcoming the four percent barrier and enter the parliament. They divided the 101 parliamentary seats proportionately to the votes garnered by each, augmented by the votes left over from parties which fell below the four percent barrier. The four parliamentary parties and blocs are:

* The Communist Party, with 30 percent of the vote and 40 seats; * The Democratic Convention, with 19 percent of the vote and 26 seats; * The Bloc for a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova, with 18 percent of the vote and 24 seats; * The Party of Democratic Forces, with 9 percent of the vote and 11 seats.

This parliamentary arithmetic and the ideological differences among the parties seem almost to preclude the formation of a viable majority in any conceivable combination.