Moldovan lawmakers this week tried and failed to elect a new president. The Communist opposition boycotted a vote after the ruling Alliance for European Integration nominated Democratic Party leader and former Communist parliament speaker Marian Lupu.
Now legislators must make one more attempt to elect a head of state in the next month, and a failure to choose a president would automatically trigger another round of national legislative elections next year -- in the wake of two inconclusive elections this year. In the meantime, the political stalemate is threatening to sink the country's battered economy.
RFE/RL Russian Service contributor Irina Severin spoke with Lupu about the prospects for finding a way out of the crisis.
RFE/RL: How do things stand now with the presidential election?
Marian Lupu: The situation is not simple, and the crisis is continuing. We will see how the second round of the presidential election -- which must be held before December 10 -- will go. There is still time. There is still a chance to continue a dialogue among all the parliamentary forces -- so that in the future we can try to find a political consensus, a compromise that must, in my opinion, be based on some balance of the rights and responsibilities of the authorities, of the ruling structures, on the one hand, and those of the parliamentary opposition on the other.
This is the framework within which this dialogue must be conducted. And it will definitely be undertaken -- the stakes are very high for the government. If parliament cannot elect a head of state before December 10, then there will be repeat parliamentary elections, which most likely will be held before the end of 2010.
The consequences of such a situation would be rather alarming, in my opinion. Alarming on the sociopolitical level, because there remains some uncertainty, some sense that the mission of the political class isn't completed, that the expectations of society have not been fulfilled. There is a mood that, in my opinion, could lead to a loss of public confidence, a loss of the electorate's faith in the political class as a whole, in the functioning of democratic institutions, the institutions of power.
The Urgency Of Consensus
RFE/RL: And how will it impact the economic situation?
Lupu: It won't help the economic situation. The current power structures -- I mean primarily the government -- will take on a caretaker status with the knowledge that their mandate will end with the next parliamentary elections.
This would mean a cardinal change in the content of our dialogue with external partners on development issues. At present this is a crucially important matter, because the economic crisis is hitting Moldova very hard. Its consequences are quite dramatic. And there is only one optimal, quick, way out of this situation, and that is the attraction of massive external financing and technical assistance from our eastern and western partners.
And, of course, when our external partners find themselves sitting down with temporary structures in Moldova, then there can be no talk of even medium-term -- to say nothing of long-term -- perspectives. We need to do absolutely everything within the framework that I laid out earlier to arrive at a consensus. We must achieve the consolidated responsibility of all parliamentary parties so that a head of state can be elected.
RFE/RL: Do the Communists understand the depth of the crisis? We all remember that up until the last moment, they were claiming there was no crisis.
Lupu: I think they understand it perfectly well. They understand perfectly all the possible consequences. But the Communist Party has nonetheless decided not to put the national interests first, as the Democratic Party, among others, did in 2005. They have placed personal interests first -- the interests of certain people and certain groups within the Communist Party -- in order to create a scenario in which to solve their more narrow problems.
Lessons From Moldova's Past
RFE/RL: People look at 2005 as a precedent. Back then, the Democratic Party and others voted for the Communist candidate for president, Vladimir Voronin. Do the Communists remember that? Is it possible to have a dialogue with them?
Lupu: In various discussions with representatives of the Communist Party, some of our colleagues have said, "Listen. In 2005, we voted for you, so now it is payback time."
But if you are talking seriously, then of course this precedent cannot be forgotten. Even the political configuration back then was quite similar to what we have now. Then, the Communists had 56 mandates and the other parliamentary parties had 45. Now, we have 53 and they have 48 -- the difference is rather small. Back then, we weren't even talking about the distribution of ministries or about including representatives of other parties in the makeup of the government.
Back then, the opposition conducted itself very moderately and in a very civilized fashion. I would even say, in a European manner. We were discussing the priorities of domestic and foreign policy -- where was the Republic of Moldova headed? What kind of economic, social, and foreign policies should be adopted? And, on the basis of these consultations and negotiations, a decision was made to proceed and elect a head of state.
I think that the experience of 2005 definitely demonstrated a high degree of political responsibility and political maturity. I think that it is precisely these qualities that the Communists are lacking. A democratic system presupposes the possibility of rotation from election to election. We must all be prepared for this if we are a genuine democracy.
'Responsibility And Consolidation'
RFE/RL: Recent events seem to show that Moldova's political system is imperfect. How can the country escape from this situation?
Lupu: The current political system does not have a mechanism for unblocking such crisis situations, and this is hampering the development of the country rather badly. That is why I am listening to the opinions of those experts who say it is possible that the modifications to the constitution adopted in 2000 were not timely.
Experience is showing us that the political class and society have not yet reached the necessary level of general and political culture, a level of responsibility and consolidation, in a manner of speaking. We certainly must think about creating such mechanisms.
I support the opinion that we should return to direct national presidential elections. This work is waiting for us. It is essential. If we are not able to elect a president and if there are more legislative elections, the first thing we must do in parliament is begin preparing a package of constitutional changes.