Tuesday, June 30, 2009

State of Play

Some thoughts about the various political parties active in Moldova. We'll go from right to left:

PL (liberals): Strong liberal credentials, comfortable with their Romanian identity.

PLDM (liberal democrats): The best run party in Moldova. Promotes both liberal and social democratic values and sees themselves as Moldovans.

AMN (our Moldova): The true centre of Moldovan politics; a party capable of appealing to all ethnicities.

PL, PLDM & AMN together: The three parties that deserve the votes of Moldovans and present the best hope for the future. They need to up their work-rate, however, in the face of continuing massive pressure from the communists.

MAE, PNL & PC: Three small liberal parties whose hearts are in the right place but whose egos are getting in the way of an opposition victory. Even if they need to contest the election for technical reasons (i.e. to avoid deregistration), they should ask their supporters to vote for one of the major opposition parties to ensure that votes aren't wasted.

PD (democrats): A small centrist party now taken over by Marian Lupu and his associates. Could serve a useful purpose if it pulls votes away from the communists. Could also form the base for a modern social democratic party. The risks are very high, however, that the PD is just a front for the communists or the Russians. Only vote PD if you can't bring yourself to vote PL, PLDM or AMN.

PPCD (christian democrats): A small communist-allied party now trying to position itself as a mediator and the voice of reason. Remember however that during the early years of communist rule these were the guys screaming "down with communism" and waving Romanian flags around. They have about as much credibility as Bernie Madoff and I'm not sure that their seven leading candidates have started shaving yet. Avoid.

PCRM (communists): A gang of mad & violent totalitarians who wouldn't know what democracy was if it ran over them in a truck. Re-election of the communists will be the final nail in the coffin of Moldovan democracy and human rights, and will condemn another generation to poverty. DO NOT VOTE FOR THEM. NOT NOW. NOT IN THE FUTURE. NEVER.

Ravnopravie, Patrie/Rodina: Two small russophile parties that are even nuttier than the communists.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Omega lies through its teeth

The Omega news agency has an article posted about the OSCE parliamentary assembly that has just started in Vilnius. In the article, Omega makes the claim that the members of the assembly have received a report on the April 5 elections which states (in terrible, subject-confused Romanian) that "the expression of the will was recognised transparently, democratically and which corresponds to all international standards".

The source document is pages 12-14 of the OSCE PA's 'Background report'. This report unfortunately draws on the OSCE ODIHR election observers' much-criticised preliminary report rather than the much more balanced and well-researched final version. Nonetheless, it appears that Omega didn't even think that this wording was fit for publication without a little doctoring.

The phrase 'expression of the will' is nowhere to be found in the OSCE PA background report (although it did appear in the ODIHR preliminary report). The words 'transparent' and 'democratic' do appear, but not in the context quoted by Omega.

Both reports use the phrase 'corresponds to many international standards' in referring to the election process. Not that senior OSCE staff later clarified that 'many' does not even mean 'most', i.e. the April 5 election only corresponded to a minority of international standards. I don't think the phrase was used at all in the final ODIHR report. Amazingly, however, Omega have taken the liberty of replacing 'many' with 'all' in their reporting, giving the impression that the election process was near perfect even though the final report said it was anything but.

By now I expect the "journalists" at Omega to spin their news reports in favour of the communists. I didn't think they would stoop to fabrication, however.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Emergency ordinances

In one of its dying acts, the recently dissolved parliament (legislative branch) gave the government (executive branch) the power to issue emergency ordinances. An emergency ordinance is basically a piece of temporary legislation that has the force of law from the date it is introduced, but which has to be confirmed by Parliament within a certain period.

Article 6 of the Moldovan constitution states quite clearly that legislative, executive and judicial power are separate. The government is not allowed to wield both executive power (its day job) and at the same time wield legislative power (through emergency ordinances). Article 60 (1) states that Parliament is the only legislative authority of the state.

Art 106 (2) seemingly contravenes Articles 6 and 60 by allowing the Government to issue ordinances in domains which are not the subject of organic law. Domains subject to organic law include:

a) the electoral system;
b) organizing and conduct of referendums;
c) organization and functioning of Parliament;
d) organization and functioning of government;
e) organization and functioning of the Constitutional Court, the
Superior Council of Magistracy, the courts, contentious administration;
f) organization of local administration, of the territory and of the regime of local autonomy;
g) organization and functioning of political parties;
h) the establishment of the exclusive economic zone;
i) the general legal status of property and inheritance;
j) general employment relationships, trade unions and
social protection;
k) general education;
l) religious cults;
m) state of emergency, martial law and war;
n) crimes, penalties and the execution thereof;
o) the granting of amnesty and pardon;
p) other areas where the Constitution provides adoption of organic laws;
r) other areas where Parliament decides that organic laws are required

Now, why am I going on about this? The power of emergency ordinance, if unchecked, effectively gives the Grecianai government the power to rule by decree, without reference to Parliament or the People. In particular they will be tempted to enact measures designed to boost the PCRM's chances of winning the election. The opposition, civil society and especially the Constitutional Court need to be vigilant and ensure that, in the lead-up to the election, the government does not abuse its power by issuing ordinances in any of the domains covered by (a) - (r) above. One more item for our pre-election to-do list...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Why respond to falsehood?

The reason I respond to bloggers and twitterers who promote lies is not out of respect for them. I'm reminded of what Jesus said in Matthew 7:6

"Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces"

My interpretation of this is that it doesn't make sense to try and debate people who are unreasonable and who have no intention of listening to your side of the argument. Such people will instead take whatever you say and twist it to their own purposes, often using it against you.

On the other hand, I'm reminded of something Joseph Goebbels once said:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

This is the strategy currently being used by the communists and their fellow travellers in Moldova. They are lying about the opposition's role in the April 7th violence, just as they lied about Romania's. They are lying about the nature and the extent of the police brutality that followed he protests. They are lying about the independence of the press. They are lying about the state of the economy.

They keep repeating these lies and suppressing dissent in the hope that the lies will eventually be accepted as truth.

The truth itself will unravel this strategy, however. If we confront the lies with the truth whenever and wherever they are told, Goebbel's method will fail. As noted above, this doesn't mean getting into debates with the unworthy, just setting the facts straight so that naive readers aren't led astray.

A response to Vlad Socor

Vlad Socor has outdone himself this time. The lies and misinformation are there for all to see. You can read his latest pearls of wisdom at http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=35156.

Here is my response to the Jamestown foundation's principals:

Your banner is entitled "information without political agenda", and yet you continue to allow Vlad Socor to misinform about events in Moldova and pursue his own agenda in relation to that country.

Let me give you some examples from his "Moldova embarks" article of June 22.

1. He classifies the opposition as 'nominally liberal'. On what basis is their liberalism considered 'nominal'? From what I can make out it's very real.

2. Mr Socor describes Moscow's position as 'benevolent neutrality'. It's nothing of the sort - by offering a $500m credit and by appearing together with Voronin at a remembrance day parade, Medvedev is strongly supporting the communist election campaign.

3. Zenaida Grecianai is not 'politically unaffiliated'. She is a member of the communist party and a loyal servant of Voronin.

4. The opposition deputies boycotted the vote because they feared that if they put a ballot paper in a box, the parliamentary election commission (all communists) would falsify the outcome. The only way to avoid this possibility was not to vote at all. Why did Mr Socor fail to mention this and instead invent all his other hypotheses?

5. Mr Socor claims that opposition rhetoric incited the violence. In fact, the weight of hard evidence now available suggests that the violence was incited by Moldovan secret services and the communist-allied PPCD.

6. Mr Socor suggests that the opposition have failed to condemn the violence. In fact, during the April 7th demonstrations V Filat and other opposition leaders made strenuous attempts to calm the crowds. They have subsequently condemned the violence in the context of it being a communist-instigated ruse to permit subsequent human rights violations.

7. The FINAL report of the OSCE election monitoring catalogues very serious breaches of democratic norms and demands a full investigation into allegations of vote rigging that 'appear credible'. The OSCE has never made any statement saying that the elections were 'correct on the whole' or 'reflected voter's choice'. Mr Socor appears to be quoting the OSCE's initial report that was rushed out under dubious pretences hours after the ballots closed.

8. That the EU initially requested the opposition to recognise the results of a fraudulent election is shameful. The European Commission had unfortunately been receiving most of its information about Moldova from the communist government and from its special representative Kalman Miszei, who is known for his pro-Russian, anti-Romanian sympathies and who had a lot personally invested in the communist regime. As good information reached other European leaders the tune changed however, with the European Parliament calling for an investigation into fraud allegations and for the Moldovan government to urgently address many other democratic deficiencies.

9. The opposition's view of any negotiation with the communists as being 'treacherous' is justified by the numerous constitutional and human rights breaches committed by the communist party during their eight years in power and before & after the election. This is a party which is a threat to democracy.

10. The solution to ending the political strife is not the 'emergence of a centrist force', but the immediate re-establishment of democratic norms such that the election is carried out in a truly free and fair manner. If the communists were to win 'fair and square', and were to show utmost respect for democratic principles, opposition supporters would respect the result.

11. In order for the elections to be free and fair, the communists must immediately relinquish their control over Teleradio Moldova, which is currently poisoning the electorate with nightmarish stories about the opposition. They must not use the resources of Government in their campaigning. Voronin and Grecianai need to be clear about when they are speaking as President and PM, and when they are campaigning. All political prisoners must be freed and a full independent investigation into the violence of April launched. The European Union must be invited in to participate deeply in and verify all aspects of Moldovan democracy.

In conclusion, I am stunned that a reputable organisation such as the Jamestown foundation continues to allow Mr Socor to disseminate his propaganda. You should be aware that Mr Socor is often quoted as a 'respected western political analyst' by the pro-government media in Chisinau. His comments give succour to those who are denying basic human freedoms in the republic of Moldova and may contribute to the continuation of totalitarian rule in that country.

If I were you I would remove Mr Socor from the Moldova file and offer it to another, truly independent analyst.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Play Money

Having been turned down by western donors lenders (due to corruption and the PCRM's lax fiscal discipline), we were treated this week to the sight of Voronin and Grecianai heading off to Moscow, cap in hand, to beg the Russians for money.

This is a vitally important issue. It is an open secret that Moldova is bankrupt and will have extreme difficulty paying pensions and government salaries in the lead up to the July 29 election. Remember that pensions were increased just before the April 5th election, exacerbating the country's current financial situation. Remember also that the communists were, until very recently, in denial about the impact that the global recession would have on the Moldovan economy, primarily through decreased remittances from Moldovans working overseas.

The key issue is this: should the PCRM fail to make the July 20 pension payment, a large chunk of their electorate will desert them and it will be all over for the communists.

Apparently its all sorted now though - Voronin and Grecianai have returned from Moscow with a pledge from Medvedev to provide $500m of credit. This has naturally been trumpeted by the state media alongside footage showing Voronin in a position of honour alongside Medvedev at a remembrance day ceremony in Moscow.

Not so fast:

1. Kazakhstan was promised several billion by the Russians some months ago, but hasn't seen a kopek yet. Kyrghyzstan is in a similar situation with respect to the $2bn bribe the Russians used to get them to close the US air-force base at Manas.
2. The Russians need to get their Duma to legislate before the Russian government can send any money. This means that the first tranche of the credit ($150m) won't be received until after the election (and would most likely arrive in December, if it is paid at all)
3. Voronin has breached Moldova's own budget law in accepting the credit. This law states that, in 2009, the national debt is not allowed to exceed $841m. It already stands at around $800m. As parliament is now out of session, this law cannot be changed prior to the election.

So we're not talking about real money here. Rather, we are viewing political theatre intended to reassure the ignorant Moldovan masses about the competence of the PCRM government and the backing it enjoys from big brother Russia.

Let's hope that the Moldovan masses aren't that ignorant and let's do everything in our power to enlighten them.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Legal but not constitutional

In a first for Moldovan democracy, the anticipated elections are to be held on a weekday. This date (April 29th) has been declared a holiday in Moldova to facilitate voting. It is perfectly legal under electoral law for the election to be held on a weekday.

The problem is that it is not a holiday in other parts of the world where Moldovans live and work and from where they send home money to support their families. For these people, voting is already difficult enough, as they have to travel to a city in which there is a Moldovan diplomatic representation (and there aren't many of these).

Now they are supposed to do this mid-week. For many this will be impossible due to commitments to their employers.

This is not an accident. Overseas Moldovans voted overwhelmingly for the opposition on April 5th, and the Communists are now trying to disenfranchise them. That is evident from the fact that the parliament found time to make certain amendments to the electoral code but did not find time for making it easier for overseas Moldovans to vote (e.g. through postal or internet voting or through setting up other polling stations).

Note, however that the constitution demands demands that the vote be 'universal', i.e. that all eligible citizens are able to participate. Through their actions, the communists have undermined this basic constitutional right by denying overseas Moldovans the opportunity to vote. This action should be condemned by the western powers and attacked at the ECHR.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Spot the difference

Iran and Moldova - two countries with remarkably similar contexts:

1. A hardline authoritarian ruling party
2. A fraudulent vote
3. A violent police crackdown on protest
4. A split between young urban liberals and older rural conservatives

What is not similar is the response from the European Union. These have been observed keenly by a blogger at http://tinyurl.com/mnulzx.

The council's statement on Iran (http://tinyurl.com/l46mxt) is tough - "The Iranian authorities must address and investigate...concerns regarding the conduct of the elections".

Contrast this with Benita Ferrero Waldner's response to the fraudulent Moldovan election (http://tinyurl.com/kldga2). "I am pleased that the elections...were conducted in a peaceful and orderly manner and in an overall pluralistic environment. I wish to congratulate the Moldovan people for their active participation in these elections, which confirms their commitment to democracy in their country"

So, given the very similar contexts, why the difference in approach? A charitable observer could suggest that the EU has learned from the Moldovan fiasco and is now being more active in the defence of its values. A less charitable commentator would observe that Iran is not in Russia's sphere of influence and the EU is not getting its information from that country through the filter of Kalman Miszei and his friends in Moscow.

Popular Dictators

I am reading a number of commentaries in the press and the blogosphere which claim that the likes of Voronin and Ahmedinejad are legitimate leaders of their countries because they enjoy the support of a majority of their people.

Consider this however:

1. Any popular support the two leaders have is drawn from a powerbase of conservative rural voters who have, through manipulation of the media, been kept deliberately in the dark about events in their country and in the wider world.

2. Even a popular president is illegitimate if they violate the constitution of their country and abuse the human rights of their citizens. This has happened frequently and severely in both countries.

Notwithstanding the size of their electorate, it is time for both Voronin and Ahmedinejad to go.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A fundamental distinction

At time of writing, it appears that Marian Lupu may head the Democratic Party list going into the anticipated elections. His presence, together with the lowering of the hurdle to 5%, should be enough to get the DP into the next Parliament, possibly holding the balance of power.

The DP is an uncertain commodity. Its leader, Dumitru Diacov, has in the past betrayed his electorate, the most notable example being his support for Voronin's 2005 presidential candidacy. Diacov's lieutenants, Oazu Nantoi & Oleg Serebrian, have somewhat stronger democratic credentials, however doubt still remains about how this party would behave if given the balance of power. They talk a lot about 'mediating' between liberals on the right and communists on the left. Potentially, this means they could be bought off by the Communists.

Here, the Democrats need to draw a distinction between normal political debate and fundamental democratic norms. Normal political debate concerns things such as economic policy, foreign policy etc. Here the DP should feel free to vote with the PCRM if that is what its electorate wants.

Fundamental democratic norms are a different matter. They are not a subject of left-right debate and should be adhered to by all parties. They are codified in both the Moldovan constitution and in the European Parliament's resolution. On these issues the DP needs to be staunch and align itself with the liberals.

Accordingly, the DP should not support the presidential candidacy of any person whose track record on defending democracy is compromised. That basically means the entire PCRM, together with Lupu and Diacov themselves. If the DP wishes to prove its commitment to democracy, it should come out before the elections in support of an Urecheanu candidacy.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Moldova Political Map

Moldova has a complicated political landscape.

As with most countries, there is a left-right economic axis ranging from hardline communism (total state control over economic activity and heavy redistribution) to economic liberalism (the most minimal role possible for the state & no redistribution).

In Moldova, however, there's an even more important axis, which has to do with ethnic identity. It ranges from those who see themselves as part of the slavonic world through various shades of moldovan identity to those who see themselves as Romanians.

In the image, I've attempted to plot the positions of Moldova's political parties on these two axes. These are just my views, so please let me know if I've got anything wrong.

Lupu makes his move

I am no great fan of Marian Lupu, but nonetheless his decision today to leave the PCRM could prove to be a significant turning point in the political crisis.

There is a strong view abroad that he is being sent into the democratic camp as a trojan horse, with the aim of stealing a couple of seats in parliament from the three liberal parties and hence assuring the election of a communist president.

That's very possible, however on the evidence we have it would appear that Lupu has simply fallen out with Voronin, understands that the PCRM is on a downward trajectory and understands that he has no future within that party. His statement today, in particular his reference to the non-fulfilment of the EP's requirements by the PCRM, would indicate that he has definitively turned his back on the communists.

He needs to go further, however, in establishing and confirming his credibility as an opposition politician. Here's what he could do:

1. Hammer away at each line of the EP resolution. Demand the freeing of political prisoners, the independent investigation of of the violence and torture of the week of April 7th, the investigation of election fraud, the freeing of TRM, the cleaning of the electoral roles, the improvement of electoral processes and the reestablishment of friendly relations with Romania.

2. Rather than trying to cobble together a centre-left party from the flotsam and jetsam of the PD, PSD and UCM, Lupu should join AMN and submit to its party discipline. He should place himself at no. 12 on the list so that he would only enter parliament in the event that AMN increases its April 5th vote.

3. Encourage other members of the PCRM's liberal wing to leave and join him at AMN.

4. Commit to not voting for any president proposed by the PCRM.

This list is probably not exculsive - if you have other ideas, please leave a comment.

The Party's Over

You read it here first. By the end of 2009, the PCRM will cease to be a significant force in Moldovan politics.

Why am I being so bold? Primarily because the Americans have turned their face from Voronin and his crew and even the Russians are starting to think twice. Consider the events of the past week:

1. The defeat of Grecianei's presidential nomination by the opposition, which once and for all put paid to the lie that the Moldovan opposition is weak and divided.

2. Obama's diplomatic snub to Voronin (delegating Hillary Clinton to respond to Voronin's letter)

3. Other evidence of a toughening in stance by the US - a demand for a full investigation into the April 5th election fraud, a description of the Moldovan media as being intimdated by the PCRM.

4. Quietness from the Russians, c.f. their earlier belligerence.

5. Most importantly, the decision by the IMF (in which the US is the biggest shareholder) not to extend financing until after the anticipated elections.

6. The decision by Marian Lupu to leave the party and the Communist caucus.

Let's face it, Moldova is bankrupt and the economic situation is getting worse by the day. The Russians do not have money to spare for Moldova, leaving the IMF as the only remaining source of finance. Their decision to withhold funds will mean that the PCRM goes into the elections with its lousy economic management plain for all to see.

The lack of bread on the table in Moldovan households will easily overcome any propaganda spewing out of TRM and other Communist-controlled media outlets. Lupu will take 5% - 10% of the vote away from the PCRM, and they won't be able to falsify the election results to the extent they did in April.

The communists will loss their majority in Parliament and hence their control over the media, the legislative process and the judiciary. Once that happens, it's all over for them. Many of their deputies will be stripped of immunity and put on trial for corruption, human rights abuses and breaches of the constitution. The sins of the last eight years will come out into the open and the Moldovan public (including many sympathisers) will be revolted.

If I were Voronin, I would fuel up the helicopter.

Friday, June 5, 2009

AMN - The Key to Victory

The 'Our Moldova Alliance' ("AMN") is the smallest party in the parliamentary opposition, and, according to some accounts, is in danger of failing to clear the 6% threshold at the anticipated elections.

Yet, of all three opposition parties, AMN is the one with the greatest chance of generating victory over the communists. Here's why:

1. AMN can capture the votes of non-communist rusophones, who currently vote for the likes of Tarlev or Braghis. AMN takes a 'moldovenist' view of the identity question and does not promote reunification with Romania. AMN does not want Moldova to join NATO. Urecheanu strives always to maintain good relations with Russia.

2. AMN can capture the votes of rural pensioners, a group which has voted heavily for the communists in the last 3 elections but has no strong allegiance to them. Of the three opposition parties, AMN is the strongest in the countryside and the most representative of older voters.

Together with a partial reversal of the April 5th fraud, a broadening of AMN's support should be sufficient to win the opposition 51 seats in the upcoming election.

Social democracy must wait

Something remarkable has happened in the Moldovan political scene over the last 12 months. A strong, democratic and upright liberal movement has emerged, meaning that Moldova now has one half of the 'two-party' political system that is the backbone of many of the world's leading democracies.

The other half is still missing, however. Over on the centre-left, where you would normally expect to find a modern social democratic party, you find instead Voronin and his clan of kleptocrats. They're not social, caring very little about the lot of the poor & the disadvantaged. Neither are they democratic.

There are some voices currently promoting to formation of a single social democratic party from a bunch of flotsam and jetsam floating around the centre of the spectrum - Diacov's DP, Tarlev's UCM, Braghis' PSD and the 'democratic' wing of the PCRM under Lupu.. There are two problems with this idea:

1. The time is not right. The anticipated election is not about the political preferences of Moldovans, it is about the death or survival of democracy itself.. In this respect it is of paramount importance that all non-communist votes be focussed on the three parties that have proved themselves capable of standing up to the PCRM.

2. The likely leaders of such a party have all sold out to the PCRM at one point or other in the past. They do not have the integrity required in the current climate. To blunt, each of them would have sold the'golden vote' weeks ago, had they been given the opportunity.

The centre-left needs to sit this one out. The chances for establishing a strong, modern social democrat party will be much better four years from now, when the PCRM is just a painful memory and a new generation of leaders has emerged..

For now, however, centre-left voters will just need to grit their teeth, swallow their pride and vote liberal.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

45 days of extremely hard work

Now that the euphoria of 'keeping hope alive' in Moldova is starting to wear off, we need to think about what is to be done. 'Shto delat?', as a badly transliterated Lenin would have said.

Today's vote was a major victory, but not a decisive one. To rid Moldova of the Communist / Russian threat, the 'reliable' opposition needs to win 51 seats in the anticipated elections, i.e. a simple majority in Parliament. With 51 seats, they can write legislation to free the media and they can democratise Moldova's electoral laws. With those two things done, the PCRM would be sure to lose further ground in any subsequent election and would be prepared to forestall this by voting for an opposition president.

To make this happen, the opposition and their supporters are going to need to work their butts off over the next 45 days. The EU and US also have vital roles to play, not in an opposition victory, but in ensuring an election that is much freer and fairer than the April 5 vote. Here's what needs to be done:

1. Build a unified, but still credible opposition. The three liberal parties should form themselves into a single 'Liberal Alliance', if only for the electoral period. Trusted outsiders (e.g. the Conservatives) should be brought into the list. The one or two percent of the vote they will add could be decisive. One the other hand, the credibility of the opposition shouldn't be undermined by bringing onto the list the likes of Braghis & Diacov, who have aligned with the PCRM in the past and have a fundamentally different vision for Moldova.

2. Get the message out about the April 5 fraud, the April 7 conspiracy and the April 8 terror. The TRM brainwashing needs to be counteracted and the best method of doing this is by word of mouth. Opposition supporters need to talk extensively with their families and friends in the villages where ProTV and the internet do not reach. Written materials need to be produced, printed & distributed widely. Even if all they can do is turn former communist voters into poll 'no-shows', and 'no-shows' into opposition supporters, that will probably be sufficient.

3. The main role of the EU and the US is to enforce on the PCRM the implementation of the European Parliament's resolution, in order (primarily) to (a) liberate TRM and (b) improve the electoral process markedly. I believe they have enough tools in their kitbag to make this happen, but a strong steer could be a signal that a communist victory would not be recognised unless the EP's principles are adhered to throughout the campaign period (i.e. basically from now onwards)

4. As requested by the Liberals in parliament today, the western powers also need to send in credible teams to oversee various aspects of democratic activity during the campaign period. In particular we will need real election observers, note the fakes we had to put up with last time around. These should be professionals from the countries with the strongest democratic traditions and little direct interest in Moldova, i.e. the likes of Finland, Denmark, Canada and New Zealand.

A chimpanzees' tea party

It is pleasing to see the Moldovan Communist party start to go ragged at the edges. Over the last two days we have been treated to (a) Marian Lupu's statements to the effect that the PCRM is 'unreformable', (b) Turcan's admission that he organised the raising of the Romanian flag over parliament and (c) Voronin's rather pathetic attempt at negotiating with the three liberal parties prior to the vote this morning.

The piece de la resistance, however, came during Vlad Filat's blunt and direct statement to Parliament following the vote. At one point the Communist deputies completely lost the plot and started stamping their feet, banging on the tables and randomly playing the melodies on their mobile phones.

Hopefully at the next session on June 10 we will be treated to the sight of them knocking back bananas, scratching their underarms and picking the fleas out of each other's fur.