29/10/2010 - Analysis
On 5th September last although 87.8% of Moldovan electors approved the constitutional reform that meant the modification of article 78 of the Constitution to enable the election of the President of the Republic direct universal suffrage the referendum was invalidated due to a low turnout rate. Indeed only 30.98% of Moldovans voted whilst the Constitution demands a minimum 33% turnout for the elections to be declared valid.
The popular consultation was an attempt to bring Moldova out of the political deadlock in which it has found itself since the spring of 2009. Indeed according to the Constitution in force since 2000 the Moldovan Head of State is elected by secret ballot by 3/5 of the MPs i.e. 61 of the 101 in Parliament. If this procedure fails the President of the Republic has to dissolve Parliament and convene early general elections. The parties of the European Integration Alliance in office for over a year do not enjoy a wide enough majority in Parliament to take their candidate through as Head of State but the communists do not have an adequate majority either. Moldova has therefore been deprived of a President for over one year.
The failure of the referendum on 5th September obliged the Moldovan authorities to dissolve Parliament which is what the interim President, Mihai Ghimpu (Liberal Party, PL) did on 28th September. He announced an early election on 28th November next.
The consequences of the failure of the referendum on 5th September
The invalidation of the referendum was a success for the communists who had called on the electorate to boycott the popular consultation – and it meant a serious setback for the Alliance for European Integration in office since the general elections on 29th July 2009. This alliance brings together the Liberal Party (PL) led by Mihai Ghimpu, the Liberal Democratic Party (PLDM) led by Vlad Filat, the Democratic Party (PDM) led by Marian Lupu and the Our Moldova Alliance (AMN) led by Serafim Urechean. "The electoral campaign lacked unity. The communists, the lack of coordination within the ruling coalition and citizens' indifference caused the failure of the referendum,
" declared interim President Mihai Ghimpu who convened the referendum in the hope of bringing Moldova out of the political crisis. "The leaders of the Alliance for European Integration are responsible for the referendum's failure,
" added Prime Minister Vlad Filat.
Many politicians close to the government accused the Alliance leaders of having been so absorbed by their preparations for the upcoming elections that they did not pay the referendum the attention it deserved. "No one explained how important the referendum was. Some politicians, sure of the result, had already started to campaign for the presidential and general elections,
" said Marian Lupu. Former President Vladimir Voronin (PCRM) qualified the election's failure as being "logical
". "The people chose the parliamentary republic as the most democratic and the fairest,
" he said, showing his opposition to the election of the President by universal suffrage.
"The referendum result bears witness to the low level of confidence in the Alliance for European Integration, the ruling coalition. At the same time society is still divided between the supporters of communism and the pro-Europeans,
" analyses political expert Igor Botsan who doubts that the upcoming elections will change this balance of power. Vitaly Andrievschi, a political analyst and director of the think-tank AVA.MD (http://ava.m
) believes that the Communist Party will benefit from the referendum's failure in the general election. "The communists achieved a success that they were not expecting. Even though the failure of the referendum is not totally their victory they should be able to take advantage of it,
" he indicated. According to political analyst Viorel Cibotaru the referendum's failure was due to the support enjoyed by the Communist Party, the discontent with regard to the Alliance for European Integration and because the four parties that comprise this Alliance were not at all interested in the success of the popular consultation. Prime Minister Vlad Filat threw himself more into the electoral battle than his partners. However Viorel Cibotaru believes that the problem remains the same because the Communists who have no support in Parliament will find it difficult to win enough votes to take their candidate forward to the Presidency of the Republic.
The Political System
The Moldovan Parliament is mono-cameral and comprises 101 members, elected by proportional vote for a four year period within one national constituency. The government coalition approved a law enabling the formation of pre-electoral blocs once more and modified the system (proportional) of how the seats are distributed. Any party must win 4% of the votes cast to be represented in Parliament (7% for coalitions comprising two parties and 9% for those rallying three or more). Candidates who want to stand independently must collate support signatures from at least 5000 voters. People who are under legal prosecution or who have a dual nationality cannot stand in the elections. Finally a minimum of 50% turnout is necessary to validate the general election.
5 political parties are represented in the present Parliament:
- the Communist Party (PRCM) led by former President of the Republic (2001-2009) Vladimir Voronin, it has 48 seats;
- the Liberal Democratic Party (PLDM) led by outgoing Prime Minister Vlad Filat with 18 seats;
- the Liberal Party (PL) of interim President Mihai Ghimpu, an outgoing government coalition member which has 15 MPs;
- the Democratic Party (PDM) led by Marian Lupu, a member of the outgoing government which has 13 seats;
- Our Moldova Alliance (AMN), a party in the government coalition led by Serafim Urechean with 7 MPs.
The Electoral Campaign
Around thirty political parties are running. Four of them only are due to enter Parliament: the Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party, the Liberal Party and the Democratic Party. Just one month before the vote relations have been very tense between the parties in the government coalition which announced that they would stand alone and undertake separate campaigns.
Strengthened by the invalidation of the referendum on 5th September the Communist Party is making a show of its confidence. "The authorities in power have changed the electoral code in order to minimise the chance of a communist victory. We accept this challenge and are aware that a result below 50% would be a defeat for us and would mean that the Alliance for European Integration would retain power,
" declared Vladimir Voronin. "The Alliance has disappointed everyone including those who voted for one of the four parties in power,
" he repeats. The Communist Party leader who says he is open to any post-electoral alliance said on 12th October last that "the Moldovan authorities were trying to falsify the election results.
Moldova – a former region of eastern Romania – and it neighbours have never entertained easy relations. Cut in two by the Soviet Union which annexed its eastern part across the Dniestr River in 1940, Moldova joined to the Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldova four years later (Moldovans, who sided with the Nazis, were freed from the Soviet system in 1941). The Soviet authorities banned the Romanian language and fostered the establishment of a Russian and Ukrainian population to the detriment of the Moldovans. Since its independence in 1991 Chisinau has often procrastinated over the position to adopt with regard to its Romanian and Russian neighbours. President of the Republic Mircea Snegur (1990-1997) did everything in his power to bring his country closer to Bucharest; his successor Petru Lucinschi (1997-2001), tightened relations with Russia whilst remaining aligned with Romania over the European Union and the West. Finally Vladimir Voronin (2001-2009) made 180° turnaround realigning the country with Moscow before changing his stance in 2003 when he suddenly refused to sign the Kozak Plan - a text which enabled the formation of a reunified Moldovan State and that facilitated the deployment of Russian military forces in Transnistria, a secessionist Moldovan region which declared independence in 1991- on the grounds "this had been established without consulting the EU which Moldova intended to join.
" Consequently Vladimir Voronin defended his country's integration into the EU – a point on which the entire Moldovan political class agrees.
Interim President and leader of the Liberal Party Mihai Ghimpu, who openly supports the union of his country with Romania, has continued work to bring Moldova closer to the EU. He offended the Russians by proclaiming 28th June the Day of Soviet Occupation. In retaliation Moscow stopped the importation of Moldovan wines, which affected Chisinau badly since Russia is a major outlet for the wine industry; it also reduced its importation of fruit and vegetables from Moldova. This affected Mihai Ghimpu and his partners in the government coalition. According to Valery Klimenko, the leader of the movement Equality, all Moldovans, whether they live in Russia (from where they dispatch money to their families who remain at home) or whether they make money from the trade they have with the Russians support good relations with Moscow.
Moldova's political positions with regard to the country's stance vis-à-vis Russia developed recently. Hence outgoing Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, Vlad Filat now speak of a spiritual union between his country and its eastern neighbour; the head of the Democratic Party, Marian Lupu signed a cooperation agreement with the United Russia Party (ER) in September – the latter holds the majority in the Russian Parliament and is led by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
According to the most recent poll by the Association of Moldovan Sociologists and Demographers the Communist Party is due to win 45 seats on 28th November next. It should be followed by the Liberal Democratic Party led by Vlad Filat forecast to win 24 seats.