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Whatever Happened To Veronica Bacalu?

Were Veronica Bacalu's strengths actually her weakness?
Were Veronica Bacalu's strengths actually her weakness?
Considering that Moldova went more than 900 days without a president, one should probably just be glad that lawmakers there finally broke the deadlock and elected longtime Judge Nicolae Timofti president.

But one can't help but wonder whatever happened to Veronica Bacalu, the International Monetary Fund economist whose name was bandied about earlier in the month as a possible nominee.

On paper, she seemed like a good choice.

An economist with more than a decade of experience with the world's leading international development financier tapped to lead Europe's poorest country on a path of reform.

Her six years at Moldova's Central Bank from 1996 until 2002 give her insight into the country's economic straits and political realities.

But, having lived abroad the last 10 years, Bacalu was completely removed from all the political infighting that has divided the country.

At the age of 51, she is a generation younger than Moldova's last president, Communist Party leader Vladimir Voronin.

A graduate of Moscow's Russian Academy of Economics, it could be argued that she is in a good position to cope with the competing gravities tugging Moldova both east and west.

A correspondent for Moldova's Prime TV visited her home village of Mihalaseni earlier this month and filed this report:

"Veronica Bacalu -- the possible presidential candidate -- is intelligent, modest, but also demanding. Mihalaseni villagers are constantly speaking about her -- the woman who might become the first female president of Moldova. They are very angry with [Liberal Party leader] Mihail Ghimpu, who said that Veronica Bacalu is a stranger to him."

So why did parliament pass up the chance to bring in a fresh face and make history by electing her and instead opt for the sober Timofti, who has been a judge since Soviet times in one of the world's most notoriously corrupt judicial systems?

Of course, few people are talking about the question openly. But rumors in the corridors of power indicate Bacalu's strengths may have been her downfall. Her support from Ghimpu -- who controls 12 of the ruling Alliance for European Integration (AIE) coalition's deputies -- was always under a question mark. He openly accused his coalition partners -- the Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party -- of "sidelining" him during the talks about Bacalu.

In addition, Ghimpu's party is the most solidly pro-Romanian party in the AIE, so they might well not have seen Bacalu's Moscow education as a plus.

On the other hand, Liberal Democratic Party leader Vlad Filat was rumored to be a bit jealous of Bacalu's pro-Western credentials and her fluent English, both of which eclipsed his own.

And we can't forget the likely role of just good old-fashioned sexism. The AIE had to muster at least 61 votes out of the possible 62 that it could manage (the AIE has 59 deputies in parliament, plus the votes of three Communist Party deputies that defected in November) in order to elect a president. So the prospect of stretching out the deadlock because some more conservative lawmakers think a major qualification for the presidency is stored in one's underwear was probably something best avoided.

Ultimately, perhaps, both Bacalu and Timofti should have been disqualified from the presidency on grounds of insanity. After all, both said they'd be willing to take the job.

-- Robert Coalson

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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

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