|Author: Victor Chirila|
MOLDOVA: WHAT NEXT?
On 30 November 2014, Moldova held crucial parliamentarian elections for its future development as a democratic, modern, European state. They had to provide the country with the much needed political stability for continuing the reform agenda and to ensure the irreversible course of its European integration policy. Unfortunately, nearly two months after none of those expectations have been materialized and ever growing number of Moldovans are pessimistic about the present and future prospects of their country.
The pro-European parties - Liberal Democrat Party, Democratic Party and Liberal Party – have managed to win together the critical electoral contest, although, their credibility and ability to implement major judicial and anti-corruption reforms are questioned by majority of Moldovans, even by those who voted for them. These parties together have won 55 seats out of 101 in the newly elected Parliament, which allows them to form the next governmental coalition. Despite that fact they have failed so far to agree on sharing power responsibilities and key state positions. Lack of mutual trust has impeded the pro-European parties to reach a compromise how to elect the President of Moldova in 2016 and how to share control over law enforcement institutions in equal manner.
The election of the President of Moldova in 2016 is going to be critical challenge for the upcoming governmental coalition and, especially, for internal stability of the country. Pro-European parties lack 6 seats to receive 61 necessary to elect the next Chief of State. This context is compelling the pro-European parties, particularly, Liberal Democrat and Democratic Parties, to engage the Party of Communists, their traditional opponent, in a potential constructive partnership.
After the elections the Party of Communists and its leader Vladimir Voronin have signaled their openness to cooperate with the next pro-European coalition for the sake of Moldova’s internal stability and, unofficially, for the sake of its own political survival. Unwilling to support Russian annexation of Crimea and the Russia’s destabilization activities in Moldova in the run-up to the parliamentarian elections, the Party of Communists has lost the Kremlin’s trust. Moreover, Communists lost support of a considerable part of the pro-Russian leaning Moldovans, as well as of the Russian speaking minorities unhappy with their inconclusive/balancing stance between EU and Customs Unions Russia-Kazakhstan-Belarus-Armenia. As a result, the Party of Communists won only 21 parliamentarian seats thus losing their status of Moldova’s biggest and most influential opposition political party.
The Communists’ readiness to support an eventual pro-European government is not without conditions. They would like to have control over the Court of Audit, the National Integrity Commission, the Audiovisual Council, and the National Anti-Corruption Center as well as to strengthen the legal framework of Moldova’s neutrality status. Their request to share power is viewed as justifiable by the civil society and even by some important European partners. Still there are serious doubts that the pro-European parties would be able to involve the Party of Communists in a genuine democratic power balancing act before the upcoming local elections scheduled for this year. However, if they would succeed, this could set up a positive example of political inclusiveness essential for domestic stability.
The biggest surprise of the last elections was the unexpected rise of the Socialists Party, so far a marginal left wing party. It won 25 parliamentarian seats in the Parliament, which is the best result among all five parties that entered the new Legislative. Pledging to denounce Association Agreement signed by Moldova and EU, promising that Moldova will join the Customs Union and approving the Russian interventions in Ukraine, the party managed to get full political and propagandistic support of Kremlin, as well as of the most radical pro-Russian electorate. However, the election success of the Socialist Party has been first of all greatly facilitated by the increased dissatisfaction of Moldovans with the reform achievements, rampant corruption and shadowy privatizations accomplished by pro-European political elite.
Majority of pro-European politicians and civil society experts consider the Socialist Party and its leader Igor Dodon to be an exponent of the “Fifth Column” of Russia in Moldovan Parliament, used by Kremlin with the paramount aim to destabilize Moldova and wreck its European integration prospects. For that reason, pro-European parties exclude any cooperation with the Socialists Party. Meantime, the Socialists continue to radicalize their messages and actions, calling for early dissolution of the newly elected Parliament that they call illegitimate. They pledge to organize protests throughout the country. In this way, they will spread instability and uncertainty in the regions, especially in those compactly populated by Russian speaking ethnic minorities extremely disappointed with pro-European authorities.
The early parliamentarian elections could throw Moldova in a deep political crisis with unforeseen political, economic and social consequences. They also could be the last elections for the Party of Communists and even for some pro-European political leaders and parties. Therefore, in the current domestic circumstances there is a high probability that the Party of Communists would support Democratic Party and Liberal Democrat Party in their endeavour to set-up the next government, although, without establishment of any kind of official alliance/coalition.
Would this informal arrangement with the Communists provide Moldova with much needed internal political stability and a strong and efficient government able to promote reforms, combat corruption and implement the Association Agreement with the EU? For now, it is very hazardous to bet on that. There is a number of controversial issues that could put havoc on this potential cooperation with the Party of Communists. One of them is the case of the Savings Bank (Banca de Economii), a key institution of the Moldovan banking system, which has lost in “a mysterious way” 10 billion Moldovan Lei (over 500 million EUR) when Moldovan pro-European Government stopped its control in 2013.
The Moldovan society and the EU, which provided Moldova with 500 million EUR during the last 5 years, are appalled and expect a full investigation of this case and the prosecution of those officials who are guilty of this huge embezzlement. This is going to be a critical litmus test of the next governmental coalition ability to combat high level corruption and implement genuine reforms. If governmental coalition fails it will mean a dangerous problem for Moldova’s European future.