MOLDOVA: Opposition Steps Ahead of Communists

  • by Miles Ashdown (chisinau, moldova)
  • Thursday, July 30, 2009
  • Inter Press Service

With about 98 percent of the votes counted, the Communist Party of the Republic of Moldova received 45 percent of the vote, a five percent drop since the last elections held in April that resulted in charges of vote rigging and violent protests that left four people dead. The communists dissolved the parliament last month after political parties failed to work together to select a new president.

With four opposition parties now expected to collectively control a majority of the 101 seats in the country's parliament, they could create a coalition to select a new president. Alternatively, some could form an alliance with the Communist Party.

At a press conference in Chisinau, the country's capital, the Communist President of Moldova, Vladimir Voronin, talked about the possibility of uniting with opposition parties.

'We are going to opt for a larger coalition so that we can meet the interests of the citizens,' Voronin said, adding that he would wait for the results to be finalised before talking about specific coalition building.

As exit polls started to come in late Wednesday night, the Chisinau streets were quiet and mostly deserted. But inside the political party headquarters, people were talking about what the results meant for the future of the poorest country in Europe.

Vlad Filat, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova, which received about 17 percent of the vote, told members of the media that he's going to start negotiations with his political opponents right away. He said he's convinced there will be a new coalition of democratic forces that will integrate Moldova into Europe.

Nighine Azizov, vice-president of the youth organisation in Filat's party, claimed that rights have not been respected in the Republic of Moldova, a country of about 4.1 million people, since the communists came to power in 2001.

'The right of freedom of movement has been violated. The right of freedom of expression has been violated. The right of an independent justice has been violated. The rights of access to free studies have been violated,' she told IPS.

Grigore Petrenco, a candidate for Moldova's communist party and the deputy speaker of the parliament, told IPS that charges of his party being 'totalitarian' are false.

'We consider that communists cannot be called communists if they are not democrats,' he told IPS at the Communist Party headquarters. 'We consider that the Communist party of Moldova is one of the main democratic parties in Moldova today. Our main values are liberty, values of democracy, and social justice.'

Petrenco denied charges of election fraud in April, saying that no proof has been presented to the public some three months after the election. He told IPS the allegations are just a 'pretext' to get their supporters more involved and to get more votes.

But already several Moldovan non-government election monitoring organisations have documented voting irregularities.

The League for Defence of Human Rights in Moldova released three reports on election day noting electoral violations, including a shooting incident involving a Communist voter and an opposition activist. Liberal Party officials said they will contest the fraud, including charges that thousands of fake names were included on voting registries.

During the April elections, opposition parties alleged voter registries included the names of 400,000 people who were dead, or were living outside of Moldova. About 2.6 million Moldovans are eligible to vote.

An estimated 3,000 Moldovans and monitors from other countries monitored the election.

Nineteen-year-old Radu Ciobanu didn't have a problem casting his ballot. He voted for Filat at a polling station in Chisinau. Ciobanu, who is looking for a job, said he doesn't expect any dramatic changes but hopes for something better in the future. He told IPS he wants a change from the past eight years of communist control of the government.

'I didn't see anything really negative with the communists in power but I also didn't see any growth. I just saw the communists staying in their seats. They didn't take the country forward or backward,' said Ciobanu. 'But I want change.'

Outside of the capital on election day morning, patriotic Russian music blared outside the polling station in the centre of Dorotcaia, a town of about 4,000 located near Transnistria, the separatist region in Moldova's southeast.

Dorotcaia resident Liliam Berzan, 40, said she voted for the communists because she respects what they did for her community since they came to power in 2001. She cited a new kindergarten that was built in Dorotcaia. She said charges of the Communist Party being totalitarian are just not true.

'I have said openly that I voted for the communists,' Berzan told IPS. 'My children voted for the communists. My mother also voted for the communists. If I declare my opinion openly, it means there's not a dictator in power. It's just not that way. This is my opinion but everyone has an opinion and should say it. Everyone has a right to say what they want.'

Berzan said she doesn't buy the rhetoric that the vote was a choice between the East and the West. She told IPS that Moldova can have good relations with both Russia and the European Union.

Moldova needs to become a 'serious partner' with its European neighbours and that requires change, according to Dumitru Diacov, president of the Democratic Party of Moldova.

'It's important that the Republic of Moldova produces a change, not in the sense of that we want the communists out and others in,' Diacov told IPS. 'We want a change of behaviour, of senses, of ideology. We want Republic of Moldova to be a modern country, to be a European country, that we integrate the European experience here in the Republic of Moldova.'

Diacov said many Moldovans are leaving their homeland to work in Western Europe. 'We want the Republic of Moldova youth to stay in their home country and to work here,' he added. 'Many times they leave because of the system that exists here.'

The political system will change 'essentially and positively,' according to Azizov. She told IPS that the Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova will fight for human rights.

'The political parties will firstly vote for laws necessary to change the political system, to change the economic and social systems. We have very big deficiencies in all these areas. Also, we'll work on the liberalisation of mass media,' she told IPS. 'We will put forward proposals to make significant changes. We will have progress, the truth.'

Diacov said none of these proposals can move forward without a compromise between Moldova's political parties. They will need to work 'with other parties to form a government, to have a clearer message for our neighbours, to assure peace and to assure work and strong development for the Republic of Moldova.'

If a political comprise isn't reached, Communist President Voronin will remain in power until a new parliamentary election in February.

© Inter Press Service (2009) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

Where next?