Moldova Politics - 2000-2009
In 2000, Parliament passed a decree making Moldova a parliamentary republic, with the president elected by Parliament instead of by popular vote. Widespread popular dissatisfaction with previous governments and economic hardship led to a surprise at the polls in February 2001. In elections certified by international observers as free and fair, slightly over half of Moldova's voters cast their ballots for the Party of Communists. Under the rules of Moldova's proportional representation system, the Communist faction, which in the previous Parliament consisted of 40 of Parliament's 101 seats, jumped to 71--a clear majority. The Parliament then elected the leader of the Communist faction, Vladimir Voronin, to be President.
President Voronin's first term was marked by up-and-down relations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Politically, the government was committed to the reduction of poverty by allocating more resources to social safety net items such as health, education, and increasing pensions and salaries. Voronin proceeded with former President Lucinschi's plans to privatize several important state-owned industries and even on occasion broke with his own party over important issues. Under President Voronin, relations with the United States have remained strong. From January to April 2002, large demonstrations took place in opposition to several controversial government proposals, including expanded use of the Russian language in schools and its designation as an official language. While the demonstrations were sometimes tense, the government did not use force and ultimately agreed to Council of Europe (CoE) mediation.
In March 2005 parliamentary elections, the Communist Party received 46.1% of the vote, or 56 seats in the 101-member Parliament--more than enough for the 51-vote minimum required to form a government, but short of the 61 votes necessary to elect a president. However, President Voronin was re-elected with support from the Christian Democratic People's Party and from the Democratic and Social Liberal party factions, after Voronin promised to deliver on needed reforms and Euro-Atlantic integration for the country. These defections broke apart the opposition unity of the pre-election Moldovan Democratic Bloc, led by Our Moldova Alliance (AMN) faction leader and former Chisinau Mayor Serafim Urechean.
The initiative which enjoyed a virtually unanimous support was the Declaration on political partnership to achieve the objective of European integration, voted on 24 March 2005 by all MPs on the first sitting of the new legislature. This act is based on a broad consensus of all parliamentary groups regarding a consequent and irreversible advancement of the strategic direction on European integration. The idea of a political partnership to achieve the objective of European integration was unofficially endorsed with the potential to substitute the national idea. In the framework of the political partnership all parliamentary groups committed to undertake efforts in order to: find a peaceful and democratic settlement of the Transnistrian issue; ensure the stability of democratic institutions; ensure the independence of the judicial power; fight corruption; secure free development of media; respect the minorities' rights; enhance social development; decrease poverty; improve the investment climate; and nurture extensive application of the official language.
Nationwide local elections in June 2007 showed improvement over nationwide parliamentary elections in 2005, with better access to the media for opposition candidates, and greater evidence of impartiality by the Central Election Commission. While the voting itself generally met international standards, the government's behavior in the campaign period--including bias in state media and misuse of administrative resources--remained a concern. The Party of Communists suffered a significant setback, losing the high-profile Chisinau mayoral election and control of numerous local councils to opposition party coalitions. The struggle for power and methods used to this end in the general local elections of 2007 revealed that for the ruling party preserving power by any means is more important than the political partnership and the goal for which this partnership was concluded. Following the defeat of the ruling party in the 2007 local elections, the President announced the end of the political partnership.
Elections in the semi-autonomous region of Gagauzia were held in December 2006, while elections for the region's legislature were conducted in March 2008. Mikhail Formuzal, a longtime opponent of President Voronin, was elected "Bashkan" (Governor) in December 2006. After March 2008 elections for the People's Assembly, three months of political maneuvering passed before an ally of the Bashkan was elected Speaker.
Under the government led by the Party of Communists (PCRM), the three branches of government were heavily influenced by the president. Changes to the election code could affect the outcome of the elections. Parties are prohibited from forming electoral blocks and the threshold for parties to participate in Parliament was raised from 4% to 6%. Candidates for parliament are also required to declare if they hold other nationalities and, if elected, must renounce the other nationality in order to take their seat in Parliament. It is also uncertain whether opposition candidates will have equal access to media. Harassment of some local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), in the form of negative press coverage and registration difficulties, is an additional concern.
Parliament was negatively affected by rancorous partisan divisions. During the period of PCRM ascendance from 2001 through 2009, decisions were largely taken either in the office of the president or in the PCRM party faction, and then implemented by a majority vote of Communist deputies in the committees and the plenary sessions. Opposition MPs regularly complained of being sidelined.
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