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Vladimir Voronin: The Great Communist Landowner


Former President Vladimir Voronin

Former President Vladimir Voronin

During the eight year rule of Moldova's Communist Party, which ended last July, there was a popular anecdote about the nature of Moldovan communists: The Communist President Vladimir Voronin and his wife Taisia are driving around the capital city to see how Chisinau has changed. Taisia keeps asking who owns this bank, this restaurant, that supermarket, this car dealership, those mansions. “Our son, Oleg, owns them all,” Voronin replies. “I fear the Communists will come into power and expropriate them,” his wife concludes.

The son of the former president seemed magically to have financial interests in nearly every aspect of the Moldovan economy during his father’s tenure. Oleg Voronin, however, is currently under an ongoing investigation for tax evasion after he reportedly spent some $8 million from his debit card account during trips abroad -- Moscow, Paris, Dubai -- in only 16 months in 2008 and 2009. His declared income was much less.

As the full extent of Oleg Voronin’s wealth became public late last year when a local newspaper, "Timpul," published his bank statements (Oleg Voronin sued Moldova and "Timpul" at the European Court for Human Rights for personal data violation), many analysts doubted that the former president was aware of the scale of his son’s business activities. (The former president once described his son’s interests as saying “the poor kid” does some small business with cockroach poison.) Just like others before him, he had become a victim of a political vendetta against his father, Voronin senior said.

But as it turned out last week, Vladimir Voronin got some land of his own while president. He owns over three hectares of land just outside Chisinau, which he bought during his last weeks in power last year, and another over seven hectares he leased for 30 years in 2008.

“Yes, I do have land and I never hide it. I have declared my property every year, except the vineyard which was too young to harvest,” Vladimir Voronin said when asked by a journalist whether he had ever lied about his wealth. “This wretch and retard is doing nothing else other than preparing for the next campaign to secure a second term as mayor,” the former president added in the earthy language he's known for.

“The wretch and retard” he was referring to is the liberal mayor of Chisinau, Dorin Chirtoaca, a known anticommunist despite his youth, who has fought a fierce war with the Communists ever since he defeated their candidate during 2007 local elections. (The dispute over the city's Christmas tree was characteristic of the standoff.)

But Chirtoaca is not the same crusading anticommunist public servant he used to be three years ago. Now he has on his side the interim president and parliament speaker, Mihai Ghimpu, who is also his uncle, as well as the majority coalition -- the Alliance for European Integration -- which is kept afloat by its common goal of preventing the return of the Communists to power.

Last week, Chirtoaca upped the ante by disclosing cadastral documentation about Vladimir Voronin’s ownership of land outside the capital. Vladimir Voronin may in fact prove to be right: there is nothing wrong with him owning land which he legally bought from his presidential salary. And as the disclosure was made amid an ongoing political and constitutional crisis and in the early days of campaigning for parliamentary elections, Chirtoaca’s actions could be solely guided by his desire to retain the mayoral position for another term.

But the real question is how will Communist voters react to the news that their leader, who honors Lenin’s memory every spring and promises to build a “Leninist social state in Moldova,” is in fact a landowner, while his son, who was seen during May 1 celebrations wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt, can spend half a million dollars in a month.

-- Alexandru Eftode

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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