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Russian analyst Vitaly Portnikov has taken his first swing at a postelection analysis in a piece on politcom.ru.

He opens by lambasting the overconfidence of the Communists and their leader, President Vladimir Voronin -- who dismissed the initial exit polls showing his looming defeat as "creative fantasies." But then Portnikov goes on to say that the election results mean that the "moment of truth" has come for the opposition:

The first votes in the new parliament will show whether the opposition has learned any lessons from recent Moldovan history, when the lack of unity among oppositionists allowed the Communists -- an eternal outsider in real politics -- to gain power and monopolize it for years.

Like many observers, he also continues to have doubts about ex-Communist Marian Lupu, who defected from Voronin's party last month and now heads the Democratic Party. Lupu has said he will not form a coalition with the Communists, but Portnikov says the early voting will show whether his quitting the Communists was a "technical project" to give the Communists an ally and secure the 61 votes needed to elect a successor to Voronin.

Portnikov speculates that if the standoff continues and new snap elections are called next spring, the Communists will fare even worse than they did this time, in part because the new authorities will control the "administrative resources." Common sense, he argues, would lead the Communists to try to come up with a compromise figure and vote with at least some of the opposition. "But Vladimir Voronin is not known for his common sense," Portnikov writes.

He thinks that any attempt by Lupu -- who has long coveted the presidency -- to strike a deal with the Communists alone will backfire on him. For one thing, the Democrats and the Communists together will most likely just barely be able to scrape together 61 votes, and even a single defection could bring any deal crashing down. If that happened, Lupu would go from being a kingmaker to being a political corpse in the next election.

-- Robert Coalson
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