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What Did Medvedev Tell Voronin?

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (right) meets with his Moldovan counterpart, Vladimir Voronin, in Sochi.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (right) meets with his Moldovan counterpart, Vladimir Voronin, in Sochi.
Communist Party leader and acting Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin met last week in Sochi with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

It was the same day that the new coalition, the Alliance for European Integration (which includes the four opposition parties that together hold a majority of seats in the new legislature) had planned to open a dialogue with the Communists, who control nearly half the seats in the legislature elected on July 29.

Just two days before leaving for Sochi, Voronin told Moldovan television, “We do not want to provoke early parliamentary elections, and we shall do everything possible in order not to step on the same rake again, as we did in the previous elections.” He hinted clearly that his Communist Party is ready to negotiate with the opposition coalition, and he complained that he had not yet received any official proposals for beginning a dialogue.

But shortly after the meeting with Medvedev was hastily announced, Voronin suddenly refused to accept an official invitation for talks that Liberal Democratic Party leader Vlad Filat, one of the key figures of the new alliance, tried to hand him at the ceremony for presenting identity cards to the new parliament deputies.

We’ll probably never know what happened between these two events to change the president’s mind so sharply. How was Voronin’s meeting with Medvedev – which was announced at the last moment without any agenda being offered – arranged? Why wasn’t anything more than a cursory announcement presented to the media?

Was it Voronin who pushed for the talks? If so, he must have had some extraordinarily compelling arguments.

At Medvedev's Insistence?

During the informal CIS summit in Moscow last month, Voronin was the only president there (not counting the leaders of the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia) who was not granted the honor of a face-to-face chat with Medvedev.

“We do not recognize any alliance. We will hold talks with all the parties that entered parliament.
It seems more likely that the Sochi meeting was held at the insistence of Medvedev, and that most likely it was a Soviet-style encounter of a low-ranking functionary being called out on the carpet by the big boss.

What was so pressing that it was necessary to drop all the normal formalities? There was no press conference following the talks, a practice that has become the norm since Medvedev took office. Journalists had to make do with the bland statement that the two men discussed “issues of economic cooperation, in particular ways of overcoming the slowdown in trade and economic relations, and regional issues, including those related to a Transdniester settlement.”

Of course, with the Moldovan government in flux and a new president expected within days, it would seem a strange time for Medvedev to organize urgent talks on ongoing issues. After Voronin left Sochi, the Russian media tended to treat the event (which was the third Moldova-Russia summit since Medvedev became president last year) like a “farewell gesture” to the Moldovan leader.

No 'Irritation'

In Moldova, the overall handling of talks has given rise to reasonable speculation about the event among journalists and analysts. One of the most insistent ideas making the rounds is that it marked the last, crucial moment when Moscow could influence the process (one way or another) of negotiating an agreement between the Communists and the new pro-European alliance.

The Kremlin took some pains to cool down such speculation. The business daily “Kommersant” quoted an anonymous administration official as saying “the parties and members of the parliamentary majority in Moldova [the Liberal Democratic Party, the Liberal Party, the Democratic Party, and the Our Moldova Alliance] do not cause any irritation in Russia.”

“They do not call into question cooperation with us as a major trading partner,” he continued. “For us, the main thing is that the programs of this force show a positive attitude toward Russia.”

The source also said that “negotiations on the allocation to Chisinau of Russia’s $500 billion loan will be pursued as soon as it becomes clear who has the authority to handle them from the Moldovan side. That is, after the election of a new president of Moldova.”

Recognize No Alliance

But maybe Voronin interpreted Medvedev’s message differently. After he returned to Chisinau, he convened a meeting of the party at which it was decided not to enter into talks with the Alliance for European Integration, but instead to try to create a left-center coalition on the basis of the Communist Party.

“We do not recognize any alliance,” Communist Deputy Mark Tkaciuc, a former adviser to Voronin, told RFE/RL’s Moldovan Service. “We will hold talks with all the parties that entered parliament.”

The Sochi meeting must have gone pretty rough to make the Communists so forgetful. In any event, it would seem the political situation in Moldova is now back to square one as parliament prepares to convene on August 28. If that is so, the likelihood of electing a president without new legislative elections is low – after all, if not one deputy was willing to cross lines and vote with the other side following the elections in April, what are the chances of several deciding to do so now?

If another stalemate emerges, how the Communists will react is unknown, with some observers even speculating the party might declare some sort of state of emergency and suspend normal political processes. With fears and rumors of this sort making the rounds, it really would have been a comfort to have some more concrete and believable accounting of what Voronin was doing in Sochi.

Irina Severin is a journalist based in Chisinau. The views expressed in this commentary are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL.