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Moldova: President Voronin Discusses Reform Efforts (Part 2)

27 July 2005 (RFE/RL) -- RFE/RL's Romania/Moldova Service spoke with Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin yesterday about some of the biggest issues facing his country. In Part 1 of the interview --> , Voronin addressed the roots of the Transdniester problem and his preferred path for solving the conflict, and his vision of ideal relations with neighboring Romania. In Part 2, Voronin discusses the liberalization of the country's economy and political system, reform of the Communist Party, and his personal role in Europe.

RFE/RL: Liberal moves in the economy and politics would not have been forgiven by colleagues and society if they had been made by other presidents. You carried through many reforms thanks to the authority that you have with your party colleagues and in society. When discussions arise, how do you handle them -- using your authority, arguments, or any other resources?

Vladimir Voronin: I would introduce even more liberalization of the economy, but the bureaucratic obstacles make it very difficult -- old norms, old concepts, and even the opinions that developed based on old knowledge. All this hampers very much the further liberalization of the Moldovan economy. Nevertheless, we do make progress. You probably know that in a World Bank assessment of a series of countries, made for 2004, Moldova's economy was among the 10 most liberal ones in terms of legislation. But we still have a lot to do. If I am to speak about other areas of development -- not only the economy, where we made certain steps that sometimes nobody either in this country or outside expected from us -- we were guided by two principles, one of which is very important: argumentation. I provide arguments for all the proposals that I make in various areas. I hear out all the parties and their arguments, then I make a decision based on which option is supported by the majority. When the arguments alone are not enough for me to make the decision, then I have to use my authority as chairman of the party and as president of the country.

RFE/RL: Every now and then the question arises, whether Moldova is a parliamentary or a presidential republic. What is your response to that question?

Vladimir Voronin: My response is very serious and it is based on my experience during my first term in office as president. No matter what the constitution says -- a presidential or a parliamentary republic, or half-half, and there is also talk about the need to have the president elected directly by the nation, and I have nothing against it if such a decision should be made -- but regardless of whether the president is elected by the parliament or the people, if he doesn't have the support of a clear parliamentary majority, then he can't do much. Neither the president nor the parliament can do much work then, and in such situations it is the government that gets the sharp end of the stick. This is why there must be a parliamentary majority. No matter whether the country is a presidential or parliamentary republic, without a parliamentary majority neither the president nor the government can do their job. This is my absolute conclusion.

RFE/RL: But they say that there will be no other comfortable parliamentary majority, as this is a unique situation. Moldova has to learn to work as a coalition. Do you have solutions for such situations, too?

Vladimir Voronin: This is very true. Moreover, in the current parliament and during my second mandate as president I have started working with all the factions in the parliament. And you have probably noticed that a series of issues of strategic national importance have been passed unanimously. Many laws have been approved with the support of other factions and not only by the majority that our party holds in parliament. So, we are learning. In the previous parliament we [Communist Party] had 71 percent, now we have 56 percent, and God knows it might happen that we will end up with less than 50 percent in the next parliament. You know, voters have become fed up with seeing the same people in government and are looking for something new in politics and parliament. This is why we are preparing ourselves to be able, based on the most important national strategic interests, to create a parliamentary majority even when voters do no grant our party a majority in elections.

RFE/RL: Who gave up more -- the opposition or the authorities -- during these discussions and the radical decisions that were made?

Vladimir Voronin: Why not turn this question around -- let's speak about who gained more? Perhaps it is more appropriate to speak about who gained more: it is the Republic of Moldova that stood to gain, and the authority of the parliament and -- don't take this as a lack of modesty -- of the president, because I persuaded the others to join our efforts on those issues. We all stood to gain, because the changes to the Moldovan legislation that have been made in the last several days are based on the requirements contained in the EU-Moldova Action Plan. And since we have committed ourselves to carrying out this plan we have to be conscientious and find the consensus in parliament needed to pass these laws. So, I believe that we have all benefited.
"When I go abroad as president of the country I become a strong nationalist because I am fighting for the interests of the country, the interests of our nation and of the Republic of Moldova."

RFE/RL: What is the final objective of the reform in the Communist Party? I am asking this because we have to speak about some parameters -- are you giving up the left-wing doctrine, do you remain liberals regarding the economy while continuing to be left wing in politics? There are also allegations made to the effect that your party is a nationalist one, and this is a right-wing doctrine while the left has always been more internationalist. You seem to be a Moldovan nationalist in your relations with the outside world. How and when are you going to tackle this type of issues?

Vladimir Voronin: It is absurd if a party that is in government for a second term begins internal reforms while in office. If it's doing well enough, then why try to improve anything? The main goal of our party reform is to strengthen the party even more -- to turn it into a new-style pro-European party and secure as wide a support as possible in society. This is our final goal. Of course, our party is not going to jump quickly to the center then to the right. It will remain a left-wing party, although given our liberal economic policies it might shift a little bit to the right, but it will always remain on the left side of the spectrum. Our doctrine will be based on a number of criteria and on the global practices of many left-wing parties, including the Communist Party in China, and the social-democratic parties in Sweden, the Baltic States, Central Europe, and in many other countries. But most importantly, we will be guided by our national interests. It is in this context that I use the word "national" -- that is, the goal of our nation, of our Moldovan society. And you were very right in saying that when I go abroad as president of the country I become a strong nationalist because I am fighting for the interests of the country, the interests of our nation and of the Republic of Moldova. Inside, Moldova is a multiethnic country, where many nationalities live together, and I am promoting this policy inside the party as well -- the composition of our party is very close to the national composition of our country. We are guided by the principle that all nationalities have equal rights both in becoming members of our party and being promoted inside the party as well as in the country as a whole, with no discrimination or other issues linked to nationality.

RFE/RL: Some people who followed the development of the party were saying that a breakup was imminent, because allegedly there were wings and factions inside the party and even personal political foes of President Voronin, who could precipitate the breakup. Has this threat passed, or are there still fears in this regard?

Vladimir Voronin: What I wish upon many of my political opponents, especially leaders of parties existing today in Moldova, is to work and build professional parties. A party should always be active. Party members should always have tasks to accomplish, have a workload, so to speak. That is, they have to be busy. The parties that appear and work only from election to election are not professional. Today one has to conduct politics professionally. A professional party, having discipline, wisdom, and conscientious members can never be broken up, can never have traitors, and can never suffer things that somebody wishes upon it from outside. There has always been talk about our party -- that it is about to collapse, that the deputies in parliament are about to betray it, as are the local councilors, and that they will all vote for somebody else and so on. But this can never happen because we have agreed from the very start to build a professional party that will respond to all the concerns of society and cater to the interests of the majority of our society rather than respond to issues of the moment or act only for election purposes.

RFE/RL: The breakup of the Soviet Union started with the war on privileges, then transparency and perestroika sped up the process, only to achieve -- as some analysts say -- a situation in which the privileges have been legalized, where there is a market economy that looks very much like the accumulation of the first million dollars, a phase experienced by capitalist countries, too, and a sort of unfair social competition. And now many people are asking themselves: "What has actually happened to the Soviet Union?" I am interested in your view -- as a participant in the breakup processes, which were practically inevitable for the Soviet Union -- what actually happened to the Soviet Union? How could this phase, what is happening now with the nations of the former Soviet Union, be described -- is this a return to the normality we missed before 1917 or is this a new cycle of historic mistakes that these nations are making?
"The principles that were clearly described by Lenin at the turn of the 19th and the 20th centuries are not only obsolete, they have to be completely overhauled based on the current realities."

Vladimir Voronin: First of all, I did not participate in the breakup of the Soviet Union and the communist party; we have all been eyewitnesses to this event. Secondly, as myself and my colleagues created the new Communist Party in our country we couldn't but think about the reasons why the communist party of the Soviet Union broke apart. One of the reasons was the split of the party hierarchy from the party masses. This is a major threat for any party, no matter whether it is a communist, Christian democratic, or I don't know what other party. Also, the struggle for peace that was always going on in the Soviet Union -- which in reality meant a Soviet Union that was increasingly more heavily armed -- ruined the economic foundation of the country and social issues could no longer be dealt with, and any expectations that the Soviet citizens had were in vain. This led to major discontent, and when Yeltsin issued the decree under which he banned the communist party, none of the members tried to defend it. If we fail to draw conclusions from those tragic historical moments, then the same will happen to us, if not in one year then in 10, and not only to the Communist Party but to any party. All parties are built the same way -- it's like building a house. It all depends on the ideology and the people entering and populating the house that is the party. These threats are valid for any party, and this is what is actually happening in Europe. If we are to think about the point that we have returned to today, this is not a return to 1917 nor to 1991. Today we are building a completely new society, a completely new country based on totally different principles. The principles that were clearly described by Lenin at the turn of the 19th and the 20th centuries are not only obsolete, they have to be completely overhauled based on the current realities. If we fail to learn from those theories and from what happened to the Soviet Union, then what are we doing in politics? So, what we have to do is, first, draw the right conclusions and, second, look and see that it's the 21st century already -- with a totally different mentality, a totally different society, totally different citizens of our country with totally different expectations. And we, those in politics and those heading parties or just regular party members, ought to respond to these expectations, for otherwise we are going to lag behind life itself.

RFE/RL: In 2001, after you had won the parliamentary elections, the guests to the Party Congress -- from Belarus, Ukraine and other countries -- which was a congress of the victors, saw you as and wished upon you to become a Fidel Castro of Europe. What role do you see for yourself today -- perhaps a Gandhi?

Vladimir Voronin: I see you are well informed, because I think I did tell somebody that I was reading Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. I am very interested in the struggle for independence that took place in India. But I don't see myself in this role, by far. It just so happened -- and this is the history of Moldova and probably my personal history as well -- it just so happened, under the influence of positive and negative circumstances, that I became president of the Republic of Moldova. In this role I see my obligation in defending the country's interests and developing the country within the community of the modern European states -- this is our current task, a quite ambitious one, and by this I am referring to European integration.

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