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Moldovan President: 'I Don't Want To Usurp Anything'

Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin

Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin

Speaking at a press conference on July 30, Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin talked about his Communist Party's serious setback in the country’s parliamentary elections. Although Voronin’s Communist Party won a plurality in the next parliament, the four opposition parties together could control the new legislature.

Q: Why do you think the turnout for the elections was so high?

Vladimir Voronin:
What do you mean, high? It was a normal turnout for Moldova -- we always vote at around 60, 65, 67 percent. Our citizens are very active. They are active not only on election day, but -- and this is very important -- also during the main campaign period. That is, they participate a lot in meetings with the candidates. It would seem that since these were repeat elections, there is, of course, a bit of fatigue. We feel that ourselves, the party activists, our people and our candidates. But voters are very interested in being included in the discussion and that is nice to see.

Q: Do you expect any unpleasantness?

After events such as those of April 7, it is impossible to be too confident and too calm. Especially since those forces that participated in the April 7 events still have not answered for what they did. The prosecutor-general and the state commission are still investigating those events. When there is lawlessness, an atmosphere of permissiveness arises. We cannot exclude that such permissiveness might appear again.

Nonetheless, I have been told that at one polling station a voter photographed his ballot in order to show the people who gave him the camera so that they would pay him for voting for their party. This has been registered and the protocol was signed by the entire election commission. I asked the campaign office to look into it and to inform the Central Election Commission and the mass media. We learned about this because we had information that in some regions of the country very large consignments of mobile phones with cameras had arrived -- for the purpose of photographing ballot papers and then, upon exiting, to show the pictures and receive a previously agreed-upon sum for voting “correctly.”

Q: And what was the sum?

A laughable sum. If you divide it by four years, it is absolutely nothing. Not more than 200 lei -- about $15.

Q: Isn’t it turning out to be an endless circle, all these repeat elections?

We are afraid of that. During the campaign we were always telling people, warning them of this. We also gave them the example of Ukraine, which has been unable to get out of this sort of situation for nearly four years. Ukraine, with its potential, can’t be compared with Moldova and our limited resources -- particularly considering the global economic crisis. We are a bit of wood drifting in the ocean of this crisis. And if we continue playing with these elections, some irreversible processes might develop in the country. That is why our main tactic during this campaign wasn’t making loud demands or promises to voters. We spoke very calmly, very simply, but very alarmingly: We are defending our homeland.

Q: And what is to be done? Should the election law be changed?

Of course, we must seriously analyze everything and find a normal, civilized and -- let me be direct -- democratic way out for the country. What was the stumbling block after the last elections? We made two changes. It used to be that we needed 50 percent plus one voter [to validate an election]. You have to agree -- this is summer, vacation season. We lowered that barrier to one-third. There are countries that don’t even have a turnout requirement. This isn’t any kind of irregularity. Then we were being constantly criticized because the threshold [for getting seats in parliament] was 6 percent. We lowered that to 5. Now the stumbling block is -- why are we having these repeat elections? That is, we need to figure out the reason and fix it. The stumbling block was the election of the president. In the Moldovan Constitution, it says that three-fifths of deputies must vote for a president. That means 61 out of 101. We had 60, which was one short of what was needed.

Q: That must have hurt.

No, it didn’t. It was fair. Because we could have reached an agreement with someone, but we chose not to do that because we didn’t want to get into a mess for the next four years. Usually, it should go like this: if no one is elected in the first round, the top two candidates go to a second round. And if no one is elected in the second round, why not lower the standard to a simple majority, that is, half the chamber plus one vote? Would that be undemocratic? That would be perfectly normal. It is something to think about after all these tortures, because we can’t put the country through such torment. We can’t draw the people into the games of politicians. Because the level of responsibility among politicians now is zero -- particularly among the opposition. People in positions of power are obligated to answer for their actions and those in the opposition don’t do this. Moreover, in our conditions the political culture is absolutely not at the level it should be. There are a lot of people who don’t connect their own fate with the future of the country -- these are elements that are co-opted and commanded from other countries. That is why, following these elections, we need to sit and think about how to make sure such things do not happen again.

For instance, in Greece the party that has the largest bloc of seats in parliament automatically gets a majority of the votes, in order to avoid disorder. But now it begins -- will there be a coalition, won’t there be a coalition, what kind of coalition, who will surrender to whom, and so on. But then we need to make the appropriate conclusions and, if necessary, make changes to the constitution. So that the country functions normally. But a group of dreamers, of pseudo-democrats, a group of corrupt mafia structures can agree among themselves and make such a shake-up in government that nothing can be done. That, in effect, is what they have done since April 5.

Q: In the new parliament you are alone and all the others are combining against you.

Yes, they sure are.

Q: Is that situation hard for you?

The unifying, centripetal forces of this combination are interests that do not correspond with the interests of the majority of the people and don’t even reflect the specifics of our life, our reality. These are interests that are bound to outside forces, primarily to various Romanian forces and other structures, including corrupt and criminal international structures.

Q: Now that they have power, will they be able to agree among themselves or will they start squabbling over ministries and make the crisis worse?

As far as we know now, they can’t even agree within the various parties. Some say we don’t need more elections, we should do what the Communists suggest and form a broad coalition. Some are categorically against this, saying “The West will help us; they’ll finance us and everything will be fine. We should hold election after election until the Communists lose or stop fighting.” That is basically how they see the situation.

Q: So there is no way they are going to be able to easily elect a president?

No. Since we don’t have the majority necessary to elect a president, I think things will be very complicated. For one thing, they are going to promote themselves -- handsome, smart, and very principled. But when that doesn’t fly, they will begin fighting among themselves. We also know how to negotiate, how to conduct talks. We’ve been practicing for years. We know more or less how they survive and whom they intend to nominate. And we can also arrange a competition among them: let them fight for a while about unification and how to vote. We’ll see how it all shakes out.

Q: Do you have any predictions or maybe preferences as to who should be the next president?

We’d have preferred to win the elections with an absolute constitutional majority. But of the eight parties, seven were working against us and we were alone on the defensive. Therefore we are going to nominate for president the same candidate that we nominated before -- our current Prime Minister Zinaida Greceanii. This is a very serious and responsible candidacy, a responsible person who, as prime minister, has considerable experience and practice. In principle, our party is not concerned about the question of power. Over the years we have gone through a very serious selection process, a serious selection of people based on professional principles, business principles, patriotic principles. So we have a team that is capable of running this country properly, that can get us out of the crisis and develop the country.

Q: What would you say to the new president? What is your advice, your wishes, or whatever?

After the elections of April 5, on the next day I recorded a televised address to the nation that was never aired because of the events of April 7. And the same words that I used then, I would repeat now, because they are still relevant. But those words were addressed to the people. As for the president…. Of course, I hope it will be a president who will continue all that we have achieved by such enormous labor over the last eight years. If it is the president that we are preparing, Zinaida Greceanii, then she already knows everything I could say and will say. It won’t be a one-time conversation. It will be an ongoing conversation for her entire term, all four years of her presidency. Because neither I nor anyone else in our team plans to hide from responsibility and say, “We’ve given up our posts, so you guys go ahead and do what you want; we’re done; good-bye.” No, we will continue to be responsible for the country and will work with the new president. I will even feel moral responsibility because this was my personal choice. I have no option but to help, to take part, and do everything to help the new president be successful.

Q: And what do you personally intend to do?

That depends on the final results of the voting. I am really at this moment a dictator. It turns out I have three offices -- president, speaker of parliament (because I was selected after April 5), and chairman of the party. All that’s left is to become minister.... I don’t want to usurp anything. My political and personal ambitions are completely satisfied, I would say. I would prefer to be an ordinary deputy and also work, if they have confidence in me, in the leadership of the party in order to direct and organize its work. For me that would be the best scenario.
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