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Moldova

Transdniester's New Leader Seeks Better Ties With Neighbors

Yevgeny Shevchuk won the presidential runoff.
Yevgeny Shevchuk won the presidential runoff.
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By RFE/RL
A young politician and businessman has won the presidential runoff in Moldova's breakaway Transdniester region, bringing renewed hope of progress in one of Europe's last "frozen conflicts." 
 
Central Election Commission Chairman Pyotr Denisenko said on December 26 that former parliament speaker Yevgeny Shevchuk had defeated his opponent -- Moscow-backed Anatoly Kaminsky, the current speaker of the unrecognized territory's parliament.
 
Shevchuk, a 43-year-old businessman and politician, campaigned on a platform of improving ties with Moldova to ensure freedom of movement for Transdniester's 500,000 residents.
 
He said his first move would be "to work with our neighbors [Moldova and Ukraine] to ensure free movement of people and goods." 
 
Shevchuk told journalists that his victory also signalled a growing desire for economic and political change in one of Europe's poorest regions.
 
"People are tired of their low standard of living, of the difficulties they face, and they expect real decisions and actions which will impact on our economy, our social and political situation, so people want a real, positive changes," Shevchuk said.
 
"The level of trust [they placed in me] shows this has to happen as soon as possible."
 
Strongman Out
 
Transdniester, a strip of land along Moldova's eastern border with Ukraine, declared independence from then-Soviet Moldova in 1990. 
 
Romanian-speaking Moldova and Moscow-backed Transdniester fought a brief but bloody war in 1992, which was curbed by the intervention of Russian troops stationed in the breakaway region. 
 
Shevchuk told the breakaway region's official news agency, Olvia Press, that his first move as president would be to simplify the border-crossing procedure between Transdniester and Moldova. 
 
Igor Smirnov, the strongman who ruled Transdniester for more than two decades, unexpectedly failed to make it to the runoff in the first round, after apparently falling out of Moscow's favor.
 
The Kremlin had indicated that it favored former speaker Kaminsky over both Smirnov and Shevchuk. Kaminsky, however, has indicated that he is ready to work together with Shevchuk despite his defeat.
 
There are renewed hopes that Shevchuk's victory could help resolve the "frozen conflict." Shevchuk said he was open to negotiations with Moldova to kick-start the stalled talks. 
 
However, he said he would not give up the region's declaration of independence. In a 2006 referendum Transdniester voted overwhelmingly to maintain independence from Moldova and seek to join Russia. 
 
Shevchuk said Russia would remain Transdniester's main "strategic partner" and Moscow will be the first foreign capital he will visit. Not recognized internationally, Transdniester relies on Russian financial and political support.
 
Moscow still has about 1,500 troops in Transdniester. 
 
Shevchuk told local media he will be inaugurated on December 30. 
 
written by Eugen Tomiuc, with agency material   
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: PMR INDIPENDENT WHY NOT ?
December 27, 2011 13:23
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by: Ionas Aurelian Rus from: Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
December 31, 2011 07:14

While one has to salute the democratization of Transnistria and the end of the Smirnov regime, I think that the chance of Transnistria's union with the rest of Moldova is very low, almost zero. This is largely because Russia wants to keep control of Transnistria, and because most Transnistrian inhabitants unfortunately do not want to unite with Moldova. All the various federalization schemes that have been devised in the past and were approved and promoted by Russia were designed to give the Russophone minority a majority of the membership and power in the bicameral parliament. This would not be acceptable to most of the ethnic Moldovans/Romanians in Moldova. Transnistrian separatism in 1990-1992 can not be blamed exclusively, or even mostly, on the emerging Smirnov regime, however undemocratic and criminal it might have been. Gagauz separatism emerged even though the separatist regime was not a dictatorship. The Smirnov regime was merely responsible for the Transnistrian war, as the late General Aleksandr Lebed, whose analysis from the late 1990's (not 1992) is incorporated in my analysis, noted privately in Washington. The lack of a war between Moldova and the Gagauz separatist area is explained by the democratic character of both regimes. This factor is ignored by many of the analyses, but its accuracy is not disputed, nor has it ever been indicated why it might be unimportant. And nobody seems to bring in the democratic peace theory.
Yet if homo sovieticus mentalities explain partially (and only partially) Transnistrian secessionism, they largely explain how the area became and stayed a homo sovieticus dictatorship for so long. Yet there is more to it than that; the impact of pre-Soviet legacies on recent politics is hard to analyze, but one should not ignore the issue. The elections to the All-Russian Constituent Assembly in November 1917 were won on the present-day secessionist territory east of the Dniester by the left-wing of the Socialist Revolutionaries (the allies of the Bolsheviks) in an electoral coalition with left-wing Ukrainian socialists.This reminds one of the link between the fact that most of the population of Belarus voted Bolshevik in 1917 and the emergence and persistence of the Lukashenka regime in that country. By contrast, most of the votes on the future non-secessionist territory were for the Soviet of Deputies of the Peasants, basically moderate Moldovan nationalists, who believed in land redistribution and many other revolutionary changes, but also private property, in 1917. The representatives of this line, as well as that of the much less popular Moldovan National Party, united Bessarabia with Romania in 1918. See my "The Roots and Early Development of Moldovan-Romanian Nationalism in Bessarabia (1900-1917)", in Romanian Review of Political Sciences and International Relations, vol. 6, no. 2, June 2009, p. 8-22, for more details on some of these issues. To be sure, many of Transnistria's urban inhabitants originate from elsewhere, but let us not ignore the rural areas and those who have lived in the area for generations.
Shevchuk's election will probably not lead to Transnistria's union with Moldova. It might very well be that a university professor of political science from southwestern Ohio (me) might be wrong about this. Yet I am not superficial.

All the best,

Ionas Aurelian Rus

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