06/03/2005 - Analysis
Moldova, that is the poorest country in Europe (ranked 113th out of 177 countries in the most recent index for human development published by the United Nations Programme for Development), will renew the hundred members of its Parliament on 6th March next. A few weeks later the President of the Republic will be elected. The Constitution stipulates that the Head of State is elected by the Members of Parliament within 45 days of the general elections.
The Political System
Parliament comprises 100 members elected by proportional vote for a four year period. Nine political parties, two coalitions and twelve independent candidates are running in the general elections; i.e. four less than during the previous election on 25th February 2001. Independent candidates have to win at least 3% of the vote to aspire to be represented in Parliament, political parties must win at least 6% of the vote and coalitions at least 9%, tripartite coalitions must win 12%.
The parties running in the general elections are as follows:
- The Communist Party (PCRM), the President of the Republic Vladimir Voronins's party, that has 71 seats in the present Parliament;
- The Popular Christian Democrat Party (PPCD), a centre right party holding 11 seats in Parliament and led by Jurie Rosca, a friend of the new Ukrainian President, Viktor Yushchenko ;
- The Electoral Bloc Democratic Moldova (BMD), a centre-left coalition chaired by the mayor of the capital Chisinau, Serafim Urecheanu, that brings together three parties: the Democratic Party, chaired by Dumitru Diacov, former president of Parliament, the Alliance "Our Moldava", co-chaired by former Prime Minister, Dumitru Braghis, Veaceslas Untila, Serafim Urechean, and Oleg Serebrian's Social Liberal Party;
- Ion Musuc's Social Democrat Party (PSDM);
- The electoral Bloc Patria-Rodina (EBPR), led by Boris Muravschili, comprising the Victor Morev's Socialist Party and the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova led by Veronica Abramciuc and Eduard Smirnov;
- The Workers' Union Patria-Rodina (LUPR), the Social Democrat Party led by Gheorge Sima ;
- The socio-political republican movement Ravnopraviye (RSPMR), a centre-left party led by Valerii Climenco ;
- The Centrist Union (UCM), close to the Communist Party and led by Mihai Petrache;
- The Farmers' Christian Democrat Party (PCDPM) led by Nicolae Andronic ;
- The Socio-Economic Justice Party (PSEJM) ;
- The Republican Party (RPM).
The twelve independent candidates are as follows:
- Andrei Ivantoc, member of the nationalist group Ilascu who fought the separatists of Transnistria at the beginning of the 1990's and at present in prison in Transnistria;
- Tudor Tataru, film producer;
- Alexei Busuioc,mayor of the district of Cantemir ;
- Silvia Kirilov ;
- Maia Laguta ;
- Stefan Matei ;
- Alexandru Arsenii ;
- Fiodor Ghelici ;
- Victor Silvinschi ;
- Anatoli Soloviov ;
- Tiron Mircea ;
- Alexandru Busmachiu.
The Moldavian-Transnistrian Conflict
Transnistria is an eastern region of Moldova that the Chisinau government is unable to control. After having declared its independence in 1992 in the wake of a conflict that resulted in several hundred deaths, Transnistria is now under Russian military occupation. In spite of an international agreement whereby Russia committed itself to withdrawing its troops before 31st December 2002 two thousand soldiers from the 14th Russian army, transformed into an operational group of Russian forces in 1994, are still based in the area.
In June 1990, Parliament voted a declaration of sovereignty establishing the primacy of the Moldavian Constitution over the Republic's entire territory including Transnistria. The adoption of Moldavian language as the country's official language by the Parliament caused high tension between the two communities living in the former Soviet Republic since the inhabitants of Transnistria only speak either Russian or Ukrainian. In December 1991, the Transnistrians declared by referendum to be in favour of the independence of their territory. The year after conflict irrupted between armed forces and the population of this new republic, supported by the 14th Russian army that had six thousand men to hand. The Republic of Transnistria, the capital of which is now Tiraspol, is requesting its annexation to Russia. In autumn 1992 the Moldavian President Mircea Snegur, and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, signed an agreement according to which Russia would stop supporting Transnistria if Moldova granted the region a political status guaranteeing its autonomy. Moldova also had to commit itself to not requesting annexation to Romania. If ever it went back on this commitment it would then have to grant Transnistrian inhabitants the right to independence. In March 1995, the inhabitants of Transnistria voted however by 81% to be in favour of a new independent Constitution. On the same day 93.3% of the population (that includes 40% of Moldavians) said they were in favour of maintaining Russian troops in Transnistria.
Today Transnistria has its own Constitution, a national anthem, a President, a government, a Parliament, an army, its own currency (the Transnistrian rouble or souvoriki) but no State, not even Russia acknowledges this Republic. Igor Smirnov is the present head of State. The Transnistrian Constitution was amended recently to enable the latter, who had declared that he would only leave his post once the independence of his country had been proclaimed, to remain in power. In 2003, the Kozak plan, the name of the Russian expert and diplomat who supervised its elaboration, was to bring a rapid solution to the conflict between Moldova and Transnistria, by enabling the creation of a reunified Moldavian state and by permitting Russian military forces to be based in Transnistria. This plan was to be signed on 25th November 2003 in Chisinau by the President of the Moldavian Republic and the head of the Transnistrian administration in the presence of the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. However Moldavian President, Vladimir Voronin decided at the last minute and whilst his Russian counterpart had already arrived in Chisinau, not to sign the document pretending that "the latter had been established without consulting the European Union that Moldova intended to join." The situation appears therefore to be in stalemate.
The head of the Electoral Commission Petru Railian, said that the authorities would not open the polling stations in Transnistria for the general elections on 6th March next. Voters living in this region will have to travel to the western bank of the river Dniestr to vote. The Electoral Commission asked the authorities in Tiraspol to guarantee the free movement of people, the monitoring of the elections by international observers and the conditions of the electoral campaign. Valeri Liskai, the Transnistrian Foreign Affairs Minister refused however believing "that it was out of the question to organise parliamentary elections for a de facto neighbour State." Until now Transnistria has never allowed the opening of the polling stations in its territory for Moldavian elections. We should remember that around three thousand Moldavian voters live in Transnistria.
The electoral campaign
In January the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Terry Davis travelled to Moldova to remind the country's authorities of the importance, in the European institution's opinion, of the smooth running of the general elections. "The Council of Europe intends to lend the greatest attention to the upcoming general elections in Moldova. It is very important to prove that it is possible to hold free and democratic elections," he declared during a press conference. "It is normal that after the elections some people will be unhappy with the result. But it is important that the losers admit their defeat if the elections have been honest and if voters were able to make a democratic choice," he added. He also pointed out that it was necessary "to ensure conditions for the free expression of the citizens' wishes" in Transnistria and "to prevent fraud that might be organised by the separatist authorities."
On 18th February last the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) expressed its concern about the "lack of a clearly visible electoral campaign just a few days before the general elections." "Without a visible campaign ordinary Moldavian citizens do not have the necessary information to make an informed choice on the day of the election. Active electoral campaigns comprise a vital element of truly democratic elections," indicated the Assembly's press release. The European organisation also emphasised the need for "all Moldavian citizens, notably students and those living abroad or in Transnistria" to be able to vote freely. Forty PACE observers will be present in Moldova on 6th March.
Finally on 24th February European Parliament insisted with the Moldavian authorities on the transparency of the election and on the "unbiased, pluralist coverage of the campaign by the media." "The respect of international democratic standards during the electoral procedure is of the utmost importance for the development of relations between Moldova and the European Union," declared MEP's adding that "the general elections comprised a serious test of the consolidation of the country's democracy."
On 9th February the President of the Republic, Vladimir Voronin (PCRM), accused Russian MP's of "interfering in his country's internal affairs" since they had made a trip to Transnistria without informing Moldova. A group of Russian parliamentarians including Viktor Alksnis of the Leftwing Nationalist Party and Olga Seliverstova of United Russia (ER) did travel to the separatist province accusing Moldova of trying to destabilise the region. On 18th February 16 Russians and two Ukrainians were arrested by Moldavian police under suspicion of illegally taking part in the electoral campaign of an opposition party running in the general elections. For their part the suspects said they had not been able to register as observers with the Electoral Commission in spite of their desire to do so. The Moldavian police also refused access to Nikolaï Riabov, Russian Ambassador in Chisinau and Petro Tchaly, Ukrainian Ambassador to the eastern bank of the Dniestr. However the prohibition issued by Moldavian authorities mid January to all diplomats and representatives from international organisations who were not bearers of official permission to travel to Transnistria was lifted at the beginning of February.
According to an opinion poll undertaken by the Institute for Public Politics and published on 17th February last only the Communist Party, the Electoral Bloc Democratic Moldova and the Popular Christian Democrat Party are due to win seats in Parliament. The Communists in power are to win 62% of the vote, the Electoral Bloc Democratic Moldova 21% and the Popular Christian Democrat Party, 12%. The Social Democrat Party is due to win only 4% of the vote i.e. below the 6% mark that is necessary to be represented in Parliament. Just a few days before the election one third of the electorate say that it still has not decided how it will vote. According to some political analysts the Electoral Bloc Patria-Rodina, supported by Russia and created according to the model of the Russian Rodina Bloc (Homeland) led by Dimitri Rogozin, might be the source of surprise. This opinion poll also reveals that poverty (56%), inflation (52%) and the future of their children (51%) comprise the primary sources of concern on the part of the Moldavians, who may only hope in the visionary qualities of American President George Bush who forecast on 24th February in Bratislava that "Moldova will soon turn over to the democratic camp."
Reminder of the General Election Results 25th February 2001 in Moldova
Participation rate: 70%
Source Agence IFES