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Moldova: Parliamentary Elections Scheduled For Next Week

Prague, 16 March 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Fifteen political parties and electoral blocs, as well as nearly 70 political independents, are competing in the Moldovan parliamentary elections scheduled for March 22.

The Moldovan political landscape is quite fragmented, with many political formations competing for electoral races. Judging by the yardstick of the previous, 1994, parliamentary ballot, as well as by opinion polls conducted in February and March, only a handful of these candidates are likely to succeed. The contest is run according to a proportional system with a single countrywide electoral district

In 1994, 13 lists and a plethora of independents ran for the parliament, but only four lists (those of the Democratic Agrarian Party, the Socialist Unity-Edinstvo Bloc, the Bloc of Peasants and Intellectuals and the Christian Democrat-Popular Front Bloc) gained entry to the legislature.

This pattern is likely to be repeated in 1998, although the parties may change. According to a poll conducted by the Bucharest-based Center for Urban and Rural Sociology (CURS) and the Institute for Market Analysis and Research (IMAS) that was made public in mid-February, it appeared that only 47 percent of the Moldovan electorate has made up its mind which party to back. Some other polls, such as the one released on last week (March 13) by the Opinia research institute, put the Party of Moldovan Communists in front, with about 20 percent of respondents declaring intention to vote for the Communists.

The Party of Moldovan Communists led by Vladimir Voronin did not run in the February 1994 race, having been outlawed until late 1994, but the communists have been politically active. Two communists have held ministerial posts in the cabinet headed by Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc, and due to party migration the communists came to be represented in parliament after 1994, though they had not been elected to the legislature.

Even so, the party has now been able to wash its hands of any share in the blame for the economic decline. Indeed, the "born again" communists present now the Soviet Union as a state of near perfection and promise to restore its features on a base of full equality for all. It seems that if they succeed, this will have to be attributed to both nostalgia for a past when life, even if miserable was at least materially secure, and their rather special position on the Transdniestrian conflict.

It is that position which differentiates the Communists from the Socialist Unity-Edinstvo, the parpty favoring the recognition of an independent Transdniestrian Republic. For this reason, separatists call for public support for Socialist Unity. Moldovan citizens residing in the separatists region will be allowed to cross the Dniester and vote in the elections, but balloting on the territory of Smirnov's fief has not been allowed. At the same time, the separatists militate against Voronin's attempts to take over local communist party organizations in the Transdniester.

In spite of these differences, the two formations have more in common than meets the eye, above all in their anti-reform stance. This is why a coalition government formed by the communists and Socialist Unity -- rated below the threshold in both surveys mentioned above -- would practically mean an end of the already stalled reform process in Moldova.

Somewhat more to the Center, and yet still on the Left of the Moldovan political spectrum, is the Democratic Agrarian Party (PDAM). Victor in the 1994 elections, when it polled over 43 percent of the vote, the PDAM is likely to lose the 1998 elections. Estimations of its support range between some 8 percent (the Opinia poll) and 14 percent (the CURS-IMAS poll). The PDAM will thus pay the price for its failure either to decisively promote reform or decisively oppose it.

The vote will also reflect past splits in the party, for the PDAM was first deserted in 1995 by a group calling itself the Party of Social Progress, then by former President Mircea Snegur, who later that year formed his own Party of Revival and Conciliation (PRRM), and later by other deputies who migrated to other parties.

Though uneasy, a post-electoral coalition between the communists and the PDAM is not unlikely.