The prophets of doom are wailing loudly on the internet forums this morning. Marian Lupu has gone to Moscow to see his bosses. Worse still, he's talking about a formal collaboration protocol with Putin's "United Russia" party. It's only a matter of time, say the prophets, before all of Vladimir Voronin's dreams come true and the Democrats leave the AIE and enter into a coalition with the Communists. Just a matter of time before the terror and totalitarianism returns.
Prima facie, they have a case. Russia would be well-served by a DP - PCRM coalition that was pro-Russian whilst being acceptably 'democratic', which paid lip-service to EU entry aspirations whilst doing nothing to achieve that goal.
The pilgrimage to Moscow is indeed demeaning. Moldova's political issues should be resolved in Chisinau, not in a foreign capital. It is also indicative of the instincts of politicians in the centre and on the left; imagine what the communists would have said had Lupu instead gone to Bucuresti for consultations....
The link-up between "United Russia" and the Democrats is also troubling. The Democrats are centre-left, while "United Russia's" policies place it firmly on the centre-right economically. Furthermore, "United Russia" is seen internationally not so much as a political party but as an interest group centred on the person and associates of Vladimir Putin. In that sense its structure and mode of operations is not unlike the undemocratic and illiberal Moldovan Communist Party. Why would the Democrats want to associate themselves with a party which is so obviously totalitarian?
The answer I suspect, is realpolitic. The democrats have an electorate consisting of many people who are sympathetic towards Moscow, and wish to win more such support from the electoral base of the PCRM, hence positioning themselves as the major party of the centre-left and (moderate) rusophile community. Visting Moscow and forming an alliance with "United Russia" are like the CIS - cheap and symbolic. It doesn't cost anything really, but it does position the Democrats well in front of a certain segment of the electorate.
The upshot is that I'm not too worried. I don't see a centre-left coalition forming. For one, this would result in Lupu's political death - noone on the right would ever trust him again. Secondly it would split the Democrat Party. Sensible moderates like Serebrian, Nantoi, Lazar and Popov would walk away. Thirdly, these moderates would vote with the liberals to prevent the election of Lupu as a communist-backed candidate, leading to anticipated elections. In the electoral context created by the abortive establishment of a centre-left coalition, both the communists and the democrats would lose ground to the impressive and (relatively moderate) PLDM.
Lupu is a smart politician. The lesson of democratic politics all over the world is that power is wielded by those who know where the centre is and stay as close to it as possible. Given the current polarised state of Moldovan politics this is not easy, however this is what Lupu is trying to do. He needs to gain Russian support and approval without giving away anything substantive that would be detrimental to Moldova's interests. He needs to play to his electorate whilst remaining true to the commitments made to AIE partners.
It's a tricky dance, but let's hope he can pull it off.