Today, some 2.6 million voters of the tiny, land-locked, former Soviet Republic of Moldova chose their 101 members of parliament. These early elections were designed – but ultimately failed – to unlock an interim government led by pro-Western formations that had insufficient deputy seats to reconfirm Mihai Ghimpu, the current President of Moldova. In contrast to other post-communist countries, Moldova elects its president indirectly, through a vote in parliament. As in almost all of the elections organized after the republic proclaimed its independence from Moscow in 19991, electors had a choice between the communists and their political rivals.
The pro-Russian Party of Moldovan Communists (Partidul Comunistilor din Republica Moldova), heir to the former Soviet Communist Party, insists that Moldova maintain close relations with Moscow and distance itself from Romania and the European Union. The communists have led the country from 2001 to 2009, and during the late 1990s, under the leadership of Petru Lucinschi and Vladimir Voronin, former nomenklatura members during Soviet times. The political right was represented by the Alliance for European Integration (Alianta pentru Integrare Europeana), which formed the government during 2009-2010. The pro-reformist, pro-European Alliance included four formations, none of which were significant enough to make a political imprint alone. It included the Liberal-Democratic Party (Partidul Liberal Democratic), led by Prime Minister Vlad Filat, the Liberal Party (Partidul Liberal) of interim President Mihai Ghimpu, the Democrat Party (Partidul Democrat) of former Communist Party member Mihai Lupu, and the Our Moldova Alliance (Alianta Moldova Noastra) of former Chisinau mayor Serafim Urecheanu. The Alliance for European Integration called for closer ties with neighbouring Romania and the European Union, reforms of the republic’s political and economic structure, and the condemnation of Soviet crimes. While in 2009 it pushed the Party of Communists into the opposition, it was unable to negotiate the election of the president.
The electoral campaign was eventful. The Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs repeatedly stated that Moldovans will choose between the future (the Alliance) and the past (the Party of Communists), while Romanian journalists and pro-Romanian Moldovan reporters hinted that the republic should pursue a policy of greater rapprochement with Romania, now a European Union member. These statements have radicalized the pro-Russian authorities in Transnistria, a break-away territory that considers itself de facto independent from Moldova and under the direct protection of Moscow. According to reports, the Transnistrian authorities have tried to prevent villagers from Corjova to participate in the vote, deploying the police in the locality, organizing anti-Moldovan protests, and flying the Russian flag. Even more controversial was the sudden disappearance and then reappearance of the head of the Moldovan Information and Security Service (Serviciul de Informatii si Securitate), Artur Resetnicov, who, on his return, suggested that his ‘kidnapping’ was arranged by Voronin’s political rivals.
The election results proved that the Party of Communists remains the most powerful political force in the country (having gathered some 34 percent of the vote), but that the Alliance for European Integration could form the government, if its members set their differences aside. The Liberal Democrats garnered 26 percent, the Liberals 15.6 percent, and the Democrats 15.1 percent – thus, the Alliance could control almost 57 percent of all deputy seats. The result, which is a bit better than the 53 mandates the Alliance gathered after the July 2009 elections, allows the Alliance to form the new government. Unfortunately, it falls short of the 61 mandates (that is, three-fifths of all) needed to designate the new president.
The result is paradoxical, given the fact that Romanian-speaking Moldovan citizens account for 71 percent of the total population and thus could easily support the more pro-Romanian president proposed by the Alliance. Indeed, traditionally the vote has closely followed ethnic lines, with higher proportions of non-Romanian Moldovans voting for the Party of Communists. Nevertheless, the Romanian-speaking Moldovans are divided along ideological lines, many of them exhibiting nostalgia for the 1980s, while forgetting the systematic human rights abuses they faced during communist times. The work of the Presidential Commission for the Study of the Crimes of the Communist Regime in Moldova apparently had little echo among ordinary Moldovans, hard hit by the global financial crisis, dissatisfied with their political elites, and preoccupied with economic survival. At the same time, for the first time voting stations were opened abroad, many of them in Romania, where thousands of Moldovans have relocated either in search for a job or for study. The gain registered by the Alliance might be partly a result of the unprecedented voting opportunity granted to the diaspora members. Whatever the explanation for these results, the institutional deadlock that Moldova has faced during the last months continues.