TRANSNISTRIA SETTLEMENT AND POLITICAL POWER IN MOLDOVA
In his marathon-length speeches on July 20 and 25, defending his non-transparent negotiations with Russia on Transnistria (see EDM, July 27), Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin assailed all of Moldova’s non-communist parties indiscriminately. He accused them in prosecutorial terms of obstructing any solution on Transnistria and creating coalitions without his Communist Party in newly elected local councils across the country. The president’s speeches implicitly link for the first time at the official level the issue of conflict-settlement in Transnistria with that of continuity of the existing political power in Moldova.
Voronin is deeply marked emotionally by the reverses of his Communist Party in the local elections recently held country-wide, which are deemed a rehearsal of the 2008 campaign to elect the parliament and president. His speeches belligerently and repetitively lumped all non-communist parties together as “the opposition” and “right-wing,” “enemies,” and “in the pay of” Moldova’s ill-wishers. He vowed to break off all cooperation with other parties in parliament and government, portraying such cooperation as a favor that he had extended and he now revokes. And he threatened -- against the law -- to withhold central funding to the budget of municipalities and districts where non-communist parties formed majorities and elected non-communist mayors, as is now the case in a great majority of these jurisdictions.
The logic of such outbursts is, “Who is not for us is against us.” They reflect recommendations from certain presidential advisers and speechwriters to resort to polarization and confrontation in order to mobilize the diminishing Communist electorate ahead of the 2008 campaign. Local observers as well as other parties (opposition and non-opposition alike) describe Voronin’s speeches as “declarations of war.”
However, the sound and fury does not match the president’s means to implement his stated intentions. Voronin may well realize this fact and renounce such tactics that may ultimately drive the presidency into political isolation. The Communists obtained just one-third of the votes cast in these local elections (33% in cities and districts, 34% in small towns and villages), showing a steady erosion from the slightly more than 50% in the 2001 parliamentary elections and the 47% in the 2005 elections. In the most stinging rebuke, a young opposition candidate defeated the Communist candidate by a landslide for mayor of Chisinau, where one-third of right-bank Moldova’s voters live and the city hall controls major financial resources. However, the non-communist votes are widely dispersed among numerous parties.
Thus, the presidential team is clearly overestimating its forces -- unless it anticipates an alliance with deputies from Transnistria in the event of snap “unified” elections, as part of a solution under negotiation with Russia. Meanwhile, Voronin’s team seeks to precipitate that solution and the elections at least one year pre-term.